- Maasai Ostrich (S.camelus massaicus). It is Pink Necked with more quills. It’s the largest and can lay up to 40 eggs in one laying season.
- Somali Ostrich (S. camelus molybdophanes). It is Blue Necked with fewer quills that are far apart. Lays fewer eggs in two seasons/ March & August about 30 eggs. The have smaller carcass.
- Black necked Ostrich (S. camelus camelus.) Smaller in size and mainly found in temperate regions in Europe & South Africa.
- Crosses of Maasai & Somali Ostrich. Have a faster growth rate, higher mature weight, better quill spacing than the Somali ostrich.
- Arabian Ostrich (S.camelus syriacus).
- Southern Ostrich (S. camelus australus). This is the black necked ostrich. Found mainly in temperate regions especially South Africa.
Sources breeding stock
Currently the main suppliers in Kenya are:
- Maasai Ostrich Resort Farm in Kitengela.
- Kenya Wildlife services
- Ostri Farm in Naivasha.
- Ostriches become sexually mature when they are 2 to 3 years old; with hens maturing about six months earlier than cocks. Egg numbers increase with successive years.
- Ostriches only breed during particulars seasons of the year as per the breed. The Maasai ostrich have one breeding season, while the Somali ostrich have two seasons per year
- The birds exhibit a characteristic mating behaviors .Cock will typically use hisses and other sounds to fight for hens. The cock will attract hens by performing with his wings, alternating wing beats, until he attract a mate. The hen opens her wings, bends the neck with circular head movements and kneels down ready to be mated. The hens crouches on the ground and is mounted from behind by the male.
- Mating takes place on a daily basis mainly early in the morning and late in the evening.The cock prepares the nest on the ground where the hens will lay her eggs.
- Eggs are laid on alternate days for up to 90 days.
- The mating ratio should be ideally 1one male (cock) to three females (hens) .
- To synchronize brooding the males are withdrawn to stop the hens from laying any more eggs.
The Ostrich Eggs
Ostriches are oviparous. The hens will lay their fertilized eggs in a nest. The first female to lay her eggs will be the dominant female. The hen will lay between 15-45 eggs per season depending on the species. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs (and by extension, the yolk is the largest single cell though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the bird. which are, on average, 15 centimeters (5.9 in) long, 13 centimeters (5.1 in) wide, and weigh 1.4-2 kilograms. They are glossy and cream in color, with thick shells marked by small pits.
Handling of Eggs
- Eggs are collected twice daily, early in the morning and late in the evening.
- Caution should be taken by driving the birds to a safe distance while they are picked. This done to avoid reprisals from the female bird. Preferably two persons should be involved such that one person distracts the birds while the other person collects the eggs.
- The collector should put on hand gloves because contact between the handler’s body and the eggs may lead to embryo mortality due to contamination.
- Dirty eggs should be cleaned with damp warm cloth.
- The eggs should be fumigated for 30 minutes with formalin and potassium permanganate.
- Store eggs in a cold room at 15 degrees Celsius for not more than10 days.
- The top side should be marked with a pencil and then the eggs should be turned twice daily so that the yolk remains at the centre.
- Place eggs at room temperature before incubating to regulate the temperature gradually.