Well-nourished ostrich hens begin laying at approximately 2 years of age and are reported to have a productive life of more than 30 years.
Egg production is variable but can exceed 70 eggs per year. Production begins in early spring and continues into the fall. Healthy hens may lay throughout most of the year--particularly if they are placed on an appropriate lighting program.
The reproductive performance of birds is regulated by the length of daylight per day. Lighting programs generally use a combination of natural daylight and artificial light to stimulate and maintain egg production and fertility in breeder birds.
Time clocks should be used with artificial light sources in order to control day length in a consistent manner.
Juvenile hens and cocks should be reared separately from 1 year of age to sexual maturity. Mature hens and cocks should be separated after the breeding season. This will allow the birds to be more rested and they will begin egg production more readily when placed together for the breeding season.
Eggs are usually infertile during the early part of the breeding season. This is usually caused by infertility in the cock. Breeding cocks should receive 16 hours of light per day beginning 3 to 4 weeks before being penned with their hens.
After being placed together, hens and cocks should receive 16 hours of light per day during the entire breeding season. If the ostrich farm is located in an area of the country which has a natural daylength longer than 16 hours, et the time clock to match the longest natural day length.
After natural sunset, 2-5 footcandles of artificial light intensity at head height should be adequate to stimulate and maintain egg production. Two footcandles is actually very dim light. If you held this document at arm's length under two footcandles of light, you should barely be able to read it.
Daylength must NEVER be shortened and light intensity must NEVER be decreased during the laying cycle. Three of four days of diminished light or shortened daylengths may cause the entire flock to almost completely stop egg production.
The breeding pen for each cock and his two to four hens should be 1 to 3 acres in size and well drained. Birds in larger enclosures are more difficult to manage. Eggs also will be more difficult to find and collect. Ideally, there should be a 6 to 8-foot-wide lane between pens to prevent fighting between cocks. A few trees or shrubs in the pens will provide privacy and help induce mating.
Eggs are normally laid in a shallow scrape. They should be collected twice daily. Reproductively active cocks can be extremely protective and aggressive. Caution should be taken when entering their breeding areas.
Aggressive cocks can be fed and penned in a catch or holding pen while eggs are collected. Keep in mind that an adult cock may stand 8 feet tall and weigh over 350 pounds. The ostrich is a very fast runner with strides of 16 to 23 feet in length.