Easter sunday is coming up and eggs are everywhere around us. No matter if big or small in size, white or colorful .. and of course those made from chocolate and filled with all kind of sweets
Of any animals living today, hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs and ostriches the largest eggs. Ostrich eggs weigh almost two kilograms which equals about 24 chicken eggs.
To get in the mood for Easter, I once again decided to visit our nearby ostrich farm (Mhou), because there is a just hatching time.
In the breeding house are many clumps under red light and all around freshly hatched chicks pecking grains. The mini-ostriches are in different stages of growth and in a bit further distance, of course, there are also adult animals to see, walking majestically through their enclosure.
Between March and September, a hen lays an egg every 48 hours, which puts a considerable weight on the scale: 1200-1600 g.
But heavier eggs are not uncommon. All hens lay their eggs in the same nest. The main (males favorite) hen puts her eggs in the middle, the eggs of the adjacent hens are grouped around it. Each hen recognizes its egg by the characteristic pore structure for each egg. When the nest is full, the brood begins. It lasts 42 days. Usually the cock broods at night, the hens in the daytime.
Nowadays, on most farms the eggs are removed and artificially hatched/ incubated. Only in this way economic farming is possible. Sometimes at the end of the laying period in midsummer also natural broods occur.
During the laying period, the shinbones in front of the legs of the cock turn intensely red. From now on caution is required! The cock stubbornly defends its progeny against intruders. An adult ostrich can even kill a predator by kicking.
Ostriches live in groups. If a chick is seperated from the others, the stress factor may get so strong that it can even die from it. For this reason, the animals always live together in groups of up to 10 animals.
Since the 19th century, ostriches are bred on breeding-farms almost worldwide. They are true climate adaptation artists; originally the ratite comes from Asia.
Ostriches can no longer fly. In the course of evolution 20 million years ago, they have simply forgotten it as lack of need.
In contrast to other birds with 3-4 toes each, ostriches have only two razor-sharp toes (with partly 10 cm long claws). Therefore they can run fast without losing much energy.
With up to 150 kg and up to 2.70 of height, the ostrich is also the heaviest bird. However, due to it’s muscular legs it can jump up to 1.5 meters from a standing position.
Especially on short distance the species can speed up to 70 km /hour; in addition the “Ferrari” among the ratites shows a safe cornering. Once a predator approaches the nest, the ostrich father starts running away from it in a wild zigzag maneuver for distraction.
Ostriches like to live in groups, however, a hierarchy applies, which is strongly demanded particularly during the mating time. The strongest cock gets the alpha hen or lives in a small harem of 2-4 females; the weakest possibly finds no partner. At the mating season the shins of the males turn red. The plumage of the cock is black, the hen’s gray-brown.
At the mating season, the cock is quite a gentlemen and builds several nests for his sweetheart to choose from. Sometimes they also breed “cuckoo children”, and the nest may contain 8-12 eggs. Ostrich chicken hatch after about six weeks and are nest-breeders. From the third day on, the little ones set off. After only three months they turn into youngsters and have a proper plumage; they are already fully grown after one year.
Noticeable is the small head with its big eyes (diameter 5 cm), but only a mini brain in the size of a walnut: eating, fleeing, propagating, that’s all.
They are vegetarians (intestine length is 14 metres) and like to eat grass, hay and as supplementary food kind of cereal mixture. They have to pick about 4,000 times per meal. “Their digestive trick”: to shred the food in the gizzard faster, even small stones and sand are eaten. With good nutrition, ratites can live up to 30 years.
While the fluffy ostrich feathers served as fans for the Egyptian pharaoh alreadys, ostrich products in Germany/ Europe only became popular at the beginning of the 19th century. As of today, they are usually used as ostrich boa and duster. But also as purse or handbag, because the leather with the characteristic “goose bumps” is ideal for any craft. Apart from cosmetics since about 1990 more and more meat and sausage products appeared on the table (low in cholesterol). The taste is similar to poultry, with a somewhat firmer consistency similar to a pork loin.
Delicious for Easter-brunch, but hard to get: a scrambled ostrich-egg for 10-12 people. Since the egg flavor is somewhat less characteristic than a chicken egg, so I would serve it with fried onions and a few filleted tomatoes (cooking time for a boiled egg: three hours!).
By the way, the “ostrich-method” of sticking the head in the sand is a myth. Sticking the head in the sand is a “misunderstanding” because dangerous situations they simply solve by running away. When they obviously stick their heads into the sand, they rummage for food in the ground and literally lay their heads on the ground. With their long, thin necks, they are superb contortionist.
In this sense, I want to wish all of you a HAPPY EASTER Season – be it calmly, with the family or with friends.
This time, of course, I chosed a decoration with ostrich eggs, as I had once bought three pieces while traveling in (South)-Africa; namely a natural version as well as an engraved egg and one decorated with the red-brown soil of Kenia – all three a wonder of nature.