Ostrich farming in Kenya started in 1989 as a response to global demand for ostrich products. Most of the ostrich farms in Kenya are located within a 200 kilometer radius from Nairobi. The largest of the farms is Maasai Ostrich Farm (MOF), which was established in 1991.
In 1993 there were about 62 registered ostrich farms, varying in ostrich population from 4 to 1200 birds and this number decreased such that by the year 2000, there were about 17 ostrich farms in Kenya .
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – The Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is the largest bird within the world. The ostrich cannot fly however has sturdy, long and powerful legs that enable it to run in no time at an approximate speed of 70km/hr. It can maintain this speed for 20-30 minutes.
Its foot has only two toes, with the large toe having a sharp claw which is used for defence. The head is small and has a long naked neck which adds to its defence mechanism. The male ostrich has black plumage with white plumes on the wings and the tail, while the female has greyish plumage.
The Ostrich can withstand extreme weather condition and can survive very well in the ASALs. They are mainly found in the open woodlands or range grasslands. They tend to avoid thick bushes and dense tree covers. The ostrich lays up to 45 eggs and each egg weighs between 1.5 to 2 kg.
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – Benefits
- The demand for ostrich and its meat has increased in the global market thus providing a sustainable source of income for farmers.
- Ostrich meat has lower fat, calories and cholesterol than beef, chicken, turkey or beef.
- Ostrich oil, which is made from ostrich fat, can be used to help treat asthma and other chest ailments.
- The bird’s feathers can be used to make clothing, decorations and stuffing for pillows, duvets, and seats.
- Ostriches also bring farmers a higher and faster return on investment
- Source of revenue through tourism.
- Conservation of genetic resource.
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – Policy Issues
Ostrich farming is under the Kenya Wildlife Service and a permit from them is required. Before issuance of the permit, a game ranger has to inspect the farm.
Ministry of Livestock Development.
Ministry of Tourism.
Ministry of Environment.
Ministry of Forest Services.
Kenya wildlife services.
Maasai Ostrich Farm
Other Ostrich Farmers.
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – Feeding and Watering
The birds drink several gallons of water a day, so you will need an adequate supply. Ostriches feed on crops and grasses and eat smaller amounts than most other livestock.
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – Housing
You need an adequate area to breed them as a male ostrich stands between six and 9 feet, whereas females vary between 5.5 and 6.5 feet tall at maturity. The birds will be exhausting to manage and typically need concerning 2 acres of a well-drained space if they’re an oversized range.
It is advisable to avoid using barbed wire to fence the birds in as they could hurt themselves on it. Build a pen that is separated by hedges to provide more privacy during courtship displays. And create a clean sandpit for the birds to roll around in.
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – Distinguishing the Male and Female Ostrich
A male and female ostrich are usually distinguished by their colours. A male ostrich is black, while a female is grey. In Kenya, we mainly have the Maasai and Somali species, distinguished by a pinkish or bluish hue on their bodies, respectively.
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – Diseases, Parasites and Vices
This is caused by a paramyxovirus and occurs commonly in poultry. There are different strains which vary in their pathogenicity and are classified accordingly into: lentogenic (mild), mesogenic (moderately pathogenic) and velogenic (highly pathogenic) strains. Mortality can vary from a few birds to more than 30% and all age groups are susceptible. However, often the outbreak is limited to one flock or camp.
This is caused by several strains of avipoxvirus and is usually transmitted by mosquitoes. The virus can be isolated in embryonated chicken eggs and produces typical cytoplasmic inclusions visible on histopathology. On the bird it produces small blisters which turn into brown crusty lesions 5 to 10 millimetres in diameter on the eyelids, in the comer of the beak and on other parts of the head.
Reported to have caused mortality in very young ostrich chicks . In the distal small intestine atrophied villi were found, with necrotic cells in the crypts and crypt collapse as well as eosinophilic inclusions in the apical cytoplasm of many enterocytes.
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Crimean-congo haemorrhagic fever:
This is not a disease of ostriches but of man, though ostriches have been found serologically positive for the virus. It is endemic and transmitted by tick-bite. In man it causes severe haemorrhagic fever and is fatal.
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – Breeds & Breeding
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 of 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.
Often, the facility in which the incubation equipment is kept is as critical as the equipment itself. Although there are no strict requirements that will ensure successful incubation, there are several factors that should be considered (Kocan, 2004). Theseinclude:
- Facilities should be capable of being maintained at 15-20°C.
Outside fresh air exchange should be at least 20%.
- Humidity should not exceed 45%
- Traffic and personnel should be maintained at a minimum with as few people as possible entering the facility.
- Floors and walls should be of such a construction as to allow daily cleaning and washing.
- Additional air movement within the room should be supplied by
- portable fans or some similar mechanism.
Ostrich Farming in Kenya – Market
Ostrich meat is in high demand, which has seen it attract high prices. The birds are been exported to countries as far afield as France, Holland, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and China.
An ostrich egg fetches about Sh3,500 due to its rarity and large size; it weighs about 1.3 kilos. A chick that is about a month old is likely to be sold at between Sh30,000 and Sh40,000. A year-old ostrich will set you back between Sh70,000 and Sh90,000.Ostrich meat cost about Sh 3,000 per kilogram.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ostrich Farming in Kenya FAQs
Is raising ostrich profitable?
Today, ostrich farms are considered to be among the most profitable agricultural projects. They are often referred to as “the farms of the future” because of the large variety of possible products and hence their high profit potential. Ostriches are raised commercially for their meat, hide and feathers.
How long does it take an ostrich to mature?
They grow brown feathers after 4 months. Then around 3-4 years, ostriches reach sexual maturity. Males develop a striking black and white plumage while females continue to have a brown plumage. In the wild, ostriches live around 40 years.
How much space does an ostrich need?
Ostriches require between one and three acres of land in order to run and remain healthy. Build a simple shelter to protect the birds from harsh weather, and construct a fence to prevent the ostriches from escaping. Provide a sufficient supply of food and water for the ostrich farm.
How long does it take to boil an ostrich egg?
If you start with the egg in cold water, then it takes around 50 minutes to soft-boil, and around 90 minutes to hard boil an ostrich egg. You can shave 10 minutes off that if you plunge it into a pan of already boiling water.
How many eggs do ostrich lay a year?
An Ostrich Hen can lay 40 – 60 eggs per year, averaging about 45-50 eggs per year.