Fact or Fiction - Ostriches Bury Their Heads
Fact Or Fiction?

The American Ostrich Association is pleased to present "Fact or Fiction" - a section where we talk about the truths and fallacies of ostrich. Here you can find many questions and their answers that we get asked.

Fact or Fiction?

Click Each Question To Find The Answer

  • OSTRICHES BURY THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND

  • OSTRICHES ARE MEAN

  • OSTRICHES KICK FORWARD, NOT BACK LIKE HORSES

  • AN OSTRICH BRAIN IS THE SAME SIZE AS HIS EYE BALL

  • OSTRICH EGGS WEIGH 3 TO 5 POUNDS AND HENS CAN LAY EVERY OTHER DAY

  • OSTRICHES ARE RELATED TO DINOSAURS

  • OSTRICH ARE ONLY FOUND IN AFRICA


    OSTRICHES BURY THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND

    Fiction! Ostriches do NOT bury their heads in the sand.

    This tale originates from the fact that the male ostrich will dig a large hole (up to 6 to 8 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep) in the sand for the nest / eggs. Predators cannot see the eggs across the countryside which gives the nest a bit of protection. The hen as well as the rooster takes turns setting on the eggs and because of the indention in the ground, usually just blend into the horizon. All birds turn their eggs (with their beak) several times a day during the incubation period. From a distance it appears as though the bird has his/her head in the sand.

    An ostrich's first response to fear is to run. Not only do they not stay to protect the eggs, they attempt to detract a predator to follow them. Due to the fact that they can run sustained speeds of about forty miles per hour, most predators are quickly lost and the eggs are safe.

    The photo at the top of this page was set-up by placing food in a hole.


    OSTRICHES ARE MEAN

    Fiction! The Not So Mean Ol' Ostrich by Carol Garnett-Carolinda Ranch

    After raising ostrich for quite a while now, one of the most frequently asked questions by people interested in the ostrich business has been, "Aren't ostriches real mean?" My response is always, "No, all ostriches are not mean."

    What is true is that ostriches are territorial and sometimes unpredictable like any other animal. They usually give you warning signals before they do anything that might harm you. At times they can be aggressive and are capable of hurting you, but most injuries are very minor. A few ostriches are certainly mean, just like a few dogs and cats are mean. But are all ostriches mean? Most definitely not!!

    An ostrich is a large, powerful animal that commands the respect that you would give any large animal, particularly one who is bigger than you, taller than you and faster than you. Would you turn your back on a Brahman bull, if he is snorting and pawing the ground? Would you walk closely behind a horse who has his ears back and is swishing his tail and acting annoyed? Would you try to pet a dog who is barking, growing and bearing his teeth? Of course not! Animals give these warning signs for a reason. It is prudent for you to heed them.

    The ostrich is no exception. As a warning sign, an ostrich may hiss, stamp his feet, flare his wings, charge the fence, kick, etc. He is guarding his territory, and in his mind you and anyone you have with you, especially a dog, is an intruder. Heed this warning! Stay away, or if it is absolutely necessary for you to make contact with that bird's turf, use utmost caution. Keep an eye on the bird at all times. Have an escape route or a decoy to distract him. Build your pens efficiently so that you do not have to enter his pen to do normal maintenance activities such as feeding and watering. Have a safe way to catch and restrain the bird should you need to handle him for routine procedures such as sexing, micro chipping, or medical treatment.

    Most human injuries that occur with ostriches are accidental. Because ostriches are large and klutzy, they manage to step on your feet if you are standing very close. They may bump into you if they are trying to turn around and you are near them in close quarters. One thing that is rather exclusive to ratites is their investigative pecking. Gloves, hats, rings, watches anything shiny is fair game. When a bird wants to investigate your earring and accidentally pecks your ear instead, this is a big OUCH!

    After many experiences handling ostrich, emu and rhea, I have found that an ostrich is far easier to handle than the other ratites and in my mind less dangerous. Because of the ostrich's size, you can usually do what you need to do to him while he is in a standing position. You do not have to flip the bird over as you do with smaller ratites. Hooding an ostrich often makes him quite passive while you work with him. Ostriches are very easy to distract so that often , they do not even realize that they have been given a shot, or that you have adjusted their leg band, etc.

    If you have never been around an animal larger than a poodle, then the size of any adult bird is very intimidating. For people who are experienced with large animals, especially cattle or horses, then ostrich are not nearly as scary.

    Do not assume that in ratites "bigger is badder" and that ostriches may be less desirable to raise because they are more dangerous than emu or rhea. In ratites, bigger only means more meat, feathers, and hide, the very things that are most valued in our increasing commercial market. Good management practices and common sense are the primary tools you will need to effectively deal with that "not so mean ol' ostrich."


    OSTRICHES KICK FORWARD, NOT BACK LIKE HORSES

    Fact! Ostriches DO kick forward - it's the direction their legs bend.

    AN OSTRICH BRAIN IS THE SIZE OF HIS EYE BALL

    Fact! Ostrich have very very small brains.

    OSTRICH EGGS WEIGH 3 TO 5 POUNDS AND HENS CAN LAY EVERY OTHER DAY

    Fact! Ostrich eggs can weigh 3-5 pounds each. And yes, hens will lay as often as every other day until they lay a clutch.

    OSTRICHES ARE RELATED TO DINOSAURS

    Fact! Ostrich tissue is very similar to that found in a T-Rex (Dinosaur)

    Now here's a chick story - featuring a fearsome female not even a certain California governor would dare mess with. Three months ago, paleontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University stunned the world by announcing she'd found soft tissue inside the thigh bone of "T. rex," a 68-million-year-old tyrannosaurus skeleton unearthed in eastern Montana in 2003.

    Didn't anyone tell her that was impossible? Marrow, veins, cells - all that squishy stuff - is supposed to be mineralized away after 100,000 years or so. Dinosaur fossils are supposed to be nothing but rocks, right?

    So much for that theory. Under a microscope, the vessels inside the thigh looked identical to those of an ostrich, which puts both ostriches and T. rex in a whole new light.


    OSTRICHES ARE ONLY FOUND IN AFRICA

    Fiction! Ostrich production in the US is second only to South Africa. But another Fact! is that ostrich is now being raised worldwide in countries such as South Africa, United States, China, Viet Nam, Korea, Taiwan, India, Israel, England, France, Iran, Iraq, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, etc...

  • Please feel free to contact the AOA with any questions you might have.





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