Rearing Ostrich Chicks in Pakistan

I recently joined the bandwagon and decided to start an Ostrich Farm for myself. The numbers looked promising on paper, a 100% projected return and the Punjab Government also offering a subsidy of Rs. 10,000/bird. So why not jump in.

I started with a flock of 50 chicks which I bought from Pakistan Ostrich Company @ Rs. 13,500/chick. I have to mention I booked in late April and had to wait for 3 months plus for the chicks to arrive as the ostrich chick hatching season was off. I got a piece of land for rent in Chak Shehzad (Islamabad) for around 25k per month. I had to build a shelter of around 15x50 feet to house the chicks. The shelter was open from one long side and the floor was of soil to keep it soft for the chicks. I did not put in any sand as I thought they could eat it and die.

The chicks arrived early morning on a Saturday in a small Suzuki pickup. The driver charged us Rs 14,000. Very exorbitant by the going rate but all our fault as we had not decided with him beforehand. We quickly housed the chicks in pre-prepared apartments (made out of cloth separators). We gave them food and water in tin containers and all was good to go.

All went cool and well at the start. We had no mortality the first 5 days. But then we started noticing the chicks going slack and lazy. Their faeces turned green and watery. We sure were worried but didn’t think it was to serious. Then on the 6th day our first chick died. Nothing too worrying, one or two mortalities were expected. I talked to a couple of experts and they said this was expected. Some chicks die the fist week due to accumulation of yolk in their digestive system. They also asked us to open up the chick for post-mortem and see what was wrong. We opened up the chick but found no peculiarities.

OK, no worries. Lets proceed. Then suddenly, another 2 deaths the next day, 3 the next. We were losing chicks fast. All the others were lethargic. Same symptoms. We talked to another farmer. He asked us to consult a veterinary doctor in Rawalpindi who was well versed in Ostriches. We talked on phone and he asked me to bring along a dead body for examination. I obliged and we met next morning. A quick operation in his lab revealed a stomach congestion. We were not looking at the right place. You have to cut between the legs and a little towards the beak to locate the affected stomach. The congestion was caused by green fodder (lucern or alfalfa) we had been feeding to the birds on the supplier’s directives. It seems we had been feeding too much and that too without mincing it. For best results it is good to give them dried leaves minced to crumbs. That makes them more digestible. Green leaves are not easily digestible. OK. Problem diagnosed. Now what.

We immediately stopped feeding them leaves and gave them a shot of paraffin twice each day for three days. We supplemented that with a shot of 5% lactose and ringers solution (thrice daily) to improve their general condition. The idea was to let the clogging from previous eating clear out. We also immediately installed a bedding sheet to stop them from eating anything foul. The situation started to improve immediately. The lathargy was gone. The chicks were visibly eating more. The deaths however continued for the next few days. Post mortems revealed the same problem. We lost a total of 20 chicks.

We have 30 chicks left now. We have now reared them for 25 days. Some are 3kgs in weight. Some merely a kilo. More on that in the next post. For now keep clear of feeding young chicks too much green fodder. Dried hay is the way to go.

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