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|"BIG BIRD" COMES TO
By Marshall McClung
The ultimate "Big Bird" or rather "Birds" arrived in Graham County recently. John McRae of the Atoah Community has acquired two ostriches that weigh between 300-400 pounds apiece and are capable of running at speeds up to 50 mph. John's wife Marcella and his daughters Carrie and Sarah have named the pair "Bill" and "Hillary".
John and Marcella drove to San Antonio, Texas and hauled the birds back in a horse trailer. John says the better grade of ostriches are registered with papers and pedigrees much like prime livestock such as cattle and horses. John's two birds were of the "Champion Hatch" at the 1994 Houston, Texas Stock Show. The birds are now about one year old and stand nearly eight feet high. The female during laying season will lay an egg about every other day. The eggs are about the size of a grapefruit and weigh between four and five pounds each. The birds lay their eggs on the ground and seem to prefer sand.
John says he feeds the birds a pellet type food similar to what chickens and other domestic fowl would eat. Each ostrich eats about two pounds of the food per day and drinks three or four gallons of water per day.
Ostrich eggs cost between $300-$500 apiece and ostriches average somewhere between $3,000-$5,000 apiece. Younger ostriches are less expensive, but the mortality rate is greater. The sale of ostriches is limited to those at least three months old, and no insurance is available on ostriches under one year of age.
John says the ostriches are curious birds and are attracted to bright, shiny, or colorful objects. They go after women's jewelry, especially ear rings. The birds are not very aggressive unless they have eggs in the nest, but will peck you out of curiosity.
Ostriches are raised for meat, their oil, which is used in cosmetics, and skin which is used as a type of leather used for boots and pocketbooks. Their feathers are used for dusters for new automobile finishes in the auto industry and for dusting computer parts.
John's ostriches will be capable of producing offspring by late December or January. A pair of ostriches can produce about 30 offspring per year. The eggs take 42 days to hatch. Ostriches generally produce offspring for 30-40 years and may live as long as 70 years.
John plans to increase his flock to about six pairs of ostriches. A pair of ostriches needs a piece of ground 50 feet by 200feet as compared to an acre for a cow and calf.
John says ostrich meat tastes like beef, but is much lower in fat and cholesterol. A lot of the meat is shipped to Europe. Markets for the ostrich trade have been established with the nearest ones being in North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. Videos on the ostrich trade including those of birds for sale are shown regularly on satellite television programs which is.. where John first saw the ones he purchased.
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This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina