Last weekend, we visited the ostrich farm “Zur Klostermühle” in Bengel close to the Moselle river. It was a really cool experience and I learned a lot about ostriches – well which was not that difficult, as I didn’t really know anything about them before. Did you know how big an ostrich egg is or who takes care of incubating the eggs? Have you already heard that an ostrich can kill someone only by kicking him? Could you tell where the thighs of an ostrich are?
Christoph, the owner of the farm, took us on a small tour while feeding the ostriches and thereby introduced us to his new friends. They are not particularly cuddly toys, but he loves them for their meat and the eggs. Proudly he tells us that ostrich eggs contain no cholesterol.
Visit the farm: http://www.zur-klostermuehle.com/
Ostriches are the world’s largest birds and are native to Africa. They live in ‘herds’ of one male ostrich and its harem of two to seven females that is led by a top hen. Ostriches are prevailingly herbivore. On the farm they are mainly fed with hay and maize. In addition, they love green grass so they are a kind of natural lawn mowers.
In the breeding season, every female lays an egg every other day. However, ostriches are very sensitive to weather conditions: if there is going to be inclement weather for a longer period of time, even starting after 2 weeks, they can sense it and will not lay eggs because they would not want to raise their babies in that weather. One egg weighs around 1.2 – 1.9 kg, is 15 cm long and equals around 25 chicken eggs.
In wild nature, the top hen and the male would would share the job to incubate the eggs. The dominant female would sit on the eggs during daytime, while the male will take care of them during the night. This has one simple reason: The drab feathers of the female will make them difficult to detect in the sand, and vice versa the black feathers of the male cannot be seen in the dark. But here on the farm, Christoph will sneak up from behind while the birds are eating and steal their eggs. Otherwise, after 10 – 15 eggs in the nest, the ostriches would stop laying more.
After 40 days in the incubator, the young chicks will hatch. Out of 20 eggs, on average 16 are born alive. Young ostriches grow around 1 cm per day, so that after only 6 months they reach a height of more than 2 meters.
Ostriches are very strong. Their body mainly consists of bones and muscles (no fat!). Therefore better not to get in a fight with them. They can run over 70 km/h or use their long legs as weapons. They will jump up and, in a matter of seconds, kick you with both legs at head height. In this way, they are able to kill potential predators as well as humans. Christoph has experienced such a kick forward himself one time, but could survive.
Another interesting thing I learned from our tour was about the limbs of an ostrich. What you may mistakenly perceive as feet, are actually only the two toes the birds are standing on. Their feet however are pretty long and their heels up in the air. In the same way, you cannot see their thighs, which are rather small and which are hidden under the wings. This formation came from the time when they were still able to fly. In that period, the flying dinosaurs would use their long feet and legs to wedge in between tree branches.
I took some videos during our meeting and joined them in a clip. Want to see ostriches in action? Then you should definitely watch it! (The video may not work on smartphones though…)
Last but not least, I want to thank Christoph for the time he invested in showing us around. We didn’t expect our visit to be such a great and informative experience! Good luck with your farm! 💐