Birds – Ostrich Farming

As a matter of fact, probably few if any wild Ostriches are now killed for their feathers since it has been discovered that they can be domesticated and a superior quality of plumes produced. The first attempts at domesticating the Ostrich were made in South Africa about 1864, but these were not entirely successful until several years later, or about 1867. Within less than twenty years the industry had grown to such proportions that $40,000,000 of capital was employed, and the annual income exceeded $5,000,000. In 1891 a rather careful census showed the presence in South Africa of 154,880 tame birds, which number had risen in 1904 to 357,970. In the early days large fortunes were made in the industry when feathers were worth $500 per pound and the plumes of a single bird sometimes brought $100, though the present average annual income in Africa is only about $18 per bird. Ostrich farming was first inaugurated in the United States in 1882, when twenty-two birds were successfully imported from Cape Town to New York and shipped overland to California. During the next four years other parties ventured in the field of Ostrich farming, and from an importation of forty-four birds, made about 1890, fully eighty per cent of the approximately three thousand Ostriches in America have descended, the last importation — that of twelve Nubians — having been made in 1901. The industry is now successfully prosecuted in California, Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Florida, with the prospect of its enormous ex-tension in the near future. The following account of the industry is taken from Dutcher : “A breeding pair of Ostriches will produce from ten to twenty chicks a year, which are worth, when six months old, $100 each; at one year, $150; at two years, $200; at three years, $300 to $350. They commence to breed when four years old, when, if prolific, they are valued at from $700 to $1000 per pair. Exceptionally fine birds sometimes bring as much as $1000 each. Good birds will produce from $35 to $50 worth of feathers each year, and exceptional ones from $75 to $90 annually. Plucking is done by putting the Ostrich in a V-shaped corral just large enough to admit its body, with room for the workmen. A hood, shaped like a stocking, is placed over the head of the Ostrich, when it becomes perfectly docile. The workman then raises the wings and clips the feathers that are fully ripe. Great care is exercised at this time, as a premature cutting of the feathers deteriorates the succeeding feather growth. There is no possibility of inflicting pain in plucking an Ostrich; not a drop of blood is drawn, nor a nerve touched. The large feathers are cut off, and in two months’ time, when the quill is dried up, it is pulled out. By taking the feathers in this way it causes the bird absolutely no pain at all. An Ostrich is first plucked when it is nine months old, the third plucking being the full crop, which will weigh about one pound. Ostriches mate at four years of age and remain paired for life. The nest, which is simply a hole in the ground scooped out by the breast-bone of the bird, is about one foot deep by three and four feet in diameter. Eggs are laid every other day until about twelve or fourteen are deposited, each of which weighs from three to four pounds. The eggs are turned daily in the nest by the birds, and are incubated forty-two days, the male taking the nest at five in the afternoon, where he remains on duty until nine the following morning, when the female goes on duty. The chicks, when hatched, are about the size of a domestic hen and present a mottled appearance. They grow about one foot in height every month, until they attain full growth, about seven to eight feet, when they will weigh from three to four hundred pounds. When fourteen months old the plumage generally changes, the female taking on a dull gray and the male a glossy black, both growing long white wing-feathers.”