OstrichLand U.S.A. is located in Solvang, California and is operated by Blake Fowler. Fowler is in charge of 80 ostriches, 20 emu and a small agritourism destination.
Tourists come from all over to visit the rare poultry. Ostrich and emu eggs are novelty items that many tourists enjoy. Ostrich eggs are off white in color and roughly the size of a cantaloupe whereas emu eggs are approximately 1/3 the size and are dark green.
“One ostrich egg equals 20 – 24 chicken eggs and the egg can be prepared similar to that of a confetti egg,” says Fowler. “People just get a kick out of cracking open a giant egg.”
Emus, natives of Australia, are the second largest bird in the world and can reach speeds of 30 mph. Ostriches are the largest bird in the world and are native to Africa. Both the birds’ size and behavior interest visitors. Since so many tourists come to OstrichLand, Fowler’s family decided to turn the enterprise into a zoo.
“We’ve renovated the back so that people can walk the path, take pictures, and feed the birds,” Fowler says.
Selling eggs and operating as a feeding zoo are OstrichLand’s primary incomes.
OstrichLand sells 1,600 eggs annually, prompting them to focus on breeding more ostrich and emu for the production of eggs.
During January and February males begin to court the females. Males get on their knees, flap their wings and make unique vocal sounds, all with the hope of attracting a female. During courting, one male is placed in a pen with three females, where they will form a group of eggs called a clutch. During the 42 day incubation process, the male ostrich will sit on the eggs during the night and the females will protect the eggs throughout the day.
During the courting season and while protecting the eggs, the ostriches get extremely protective and combative.
“I think of them as goofy most of the time but during January and February, they start to go head to head,” says Fowler. “It’s intimidating,” Once a young adult raised his wings, started hissing and began to charge Fowler.
“I ran along the fence line – there was no way of getting away,” Fowler says.
Fowler ended up jumping into the fence as the bird passed, giving him enough time to exit through the gate.
The only person Fowler has ever heard of being gored by an ostrich or emu was Johnny Cash. Luckily, the bird struck Cash’s belt buckle, which prevented possible death.
Cal Poly Professor of poultry science, Dr. Robert Spiller, also had a run-in with the large birds. Several years ago, a dentist wanted to donate five ostriches to Cal Poly. Spiller and a young technician were invited out to the Santa Margarita area to observe the birds. As soon as the arrive, Mr. Chips, a nine-foot-tall ostrich, stormed the fence of his corral.
“I thought the technician was going to wet his pants,” says Spiller.
“These can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous birds because of the claws on their feet they have the capability to tear someone open,” Spiller says.
After the encounter with Mr. Chips, Spiller determined that adding ostriches to the Cal Poly campus would not be the best idea.
“I wouldn’t want a student pulling a Swiss Family Robinson and ride the ostrich,” said Spiller. “It would be nice to have the birds on campus, but the educational value is not worth the potential for injury.”
For those who don’t want to get up close and personal with the birds, OstrichLand offers other items on site such as decorated eggs and feathers in various colors, as well as ostrich steaks and hamburger.
“Ostrich meat is not white meat,” Folwer says. “It is red meat like beef and it is 98% fat free.”
OstrichLand also sells Emu Oil, which is imported from Australia. The oil is starting to gain recognition as a effective skin treatment.
“Burn victims have shown me their 3rd degree burns and you can’t see much of a scar,” Fowler says.
With the variety of things to see and buy at OstrichLand, people come from near and far to see the ranch.
“We thought this would be fun and something my boys would remember for a long time,” said Sue Taylor a vistor Thousand Oaks.
“We came to feed the birds. It was fun, scary at first. You had to hold onto the pan tight,” said Steve, age 10.
Chuckling, Fowler adds, “If there is one thing I want people to remember – ostrich do not bury their heads in the sand! You’d be surprised how many people are shocked to find that out.”
OstrichLand is located in Solvang, Calif. For more information, call 805.686.9696 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.