Ostriches are huge, and their eggs are equally so. But how often do ostriches lay eggs? Can you eat these eggs? Let’s find out!
Ostriches are the largest birds on land, and accordingly, these flightless birds lay eggs that are larger than any living bird.
In this article, we will talk about ostrich eggs, how they reproduce, how to breed ostriches, how many eggs they lay, and many more unique and interesting things about them.
Read on to discover all about ostrich eggs.
When Do Ostrich Lay Eggs?
Ostriches are seasonal breeders; they breed when the day is long, and the temperatures are hot and humid. Therefore, they breed in the late winter, spring, and summer months.
Their breeding starts in June or July and continues till late January in some cases. However, domesticated ostriches tend to continue laying till the end of February.
During the season, they lay one egg every almost every second day. After that, they continue to lay eggs until they have laid as many as an adult ostrich can suitably cover with their wings and bodies.
Once done, they sit on them and wait for them to hatch.
How Many Eggs Do They Lay?
How many eggs an ostrich lays depends a lot upon whether it is living in the wild or on a farm. An ostrich in the wild would typically lay 12 to 20 eggs per year.
On the other hand, an ostrich raised on a farm is likely to lay 10 to 20 eggs in the first year itself, and subsequently, the eggs may go up to 40 to 60 on average, and even 130 in some cases.
South Africa is home to the largest number of ostrich farms, followed by the US, Canada, Brazil, and Chile.
But South Africa is the champion in growing eggs, and it is estimated that they outdo others by as much as 35% per ostrich.
If you are wondering how they do it, well, obviously, it has to do a lot with breeding techniques, but in part, the hot and humid climate in South Africa is very suited to ostrich breeding.
Do All Ostrich Lay Similar Number of Eggs?
No, all ostriches do not lay a similar number of eggs. A healthy ostrich is likely to apply 40 to 60 eggs annually. A female that has recently attained sexual maturity may also not lay as many eggs.
When Do Their Eggs Hatch?
Ostrich eggs hatch within a period of 35 to 45 days of laying. How does this compare to other birds? Well, chickens usually hatch in 21 days.
Considering the size of the eggs, 35-45 days is pretty fast. Ostrich eggs have adapted to hatch quickly because there are many natural predators like hyenas, wild dogs, and even lions who are just waiting to gobble them up at the slightest chance.
In the wild, the mother ostrich sits on her eggs during the day. As the night sets in, the father ostrich takes up the responsibility of looking after the eggs.
Apparently, their darker color makes it harder for predators to see them, which is why they get the night duty.
In this sense, ostrich papas are uniquely wonderful parents, unlike most other wild animals and birds.
By sharing the load, they help raise the chances of survival of the baby by about 20%! If only more human dads could take a leaf out of their ostrich counterparts.
On a farm, the chances of survival are obviously higher. Breeders collect the eggs as soon as they are laid and take them to a safe place.
They are put in cleaned, disinfected, and tested incubators. The breeder adjusts the incubator’s humidity and temperature to the optimum level, and they also keep turning the eggs on their sides.
How Big Are Their Eggs?
Ostriches are the heaviest and largest living bird. Ostrich eggs, by extension, are obviously the biggest as well. A giant ostrich egg is the equivalent of almost 24 chicken eggs!
An ostrich egg weighs about 3 pounds (1500gm) and measures about 6 inches in length and 5 inches in breadth (15cmx13 cm).
At What Age Do They Start Laying Eggs?
While wild ostriches take 4-to 5 years to become sexually mature, farmed female ostriches can start laying eggs at the tender age of two years.
They begin to produce eggs as soon as they mate with a male. Eggs are produced after five to ten days of the first mating. Once they attain sexual maturity, they continue to lay eggs for as many as 40 years.
How Do They Reproduce?
Some ostriches are polygamous, while others are monogamous, depending on whether or not they live in groups. Territorial male ostriches use their black and white colored feathers to attract female ostriches.
The male sits on the ground and then shakes his feathers in a sort of dance, first on one side and then on the other. Simultaneously, he will also move his tail up and down.
After this dance, he runs towards the female, stamping his feet and holding his wings upfront in an apparent effort to show his strength. Females test males on their athleticism and speed.
As if this was not enough, the poor male ostrich also needs to give one last performance to impress the female.
It sits down and hits its head on alternate sides of the back while simultaneously making a thumping sound to lure the female. If the female approves, they mate.
Here’s a fascinating video of the ostrich mating rituals. Enjoy how the female puts the male through several trials before finally accepting its proposal.
After mating, all females lay their eggs in a communal nest dug by the territorial male. Dug in the ground, this typical nest houses around 30 eggs at a time and is taken care of by the male ostrich and the dominant female in the community.
Why Do They Lay Unfertilized Eggs Sometimes?
The ovary in the female body produces eggs, just like in humans. This egg then journeys out of the ovary and may or may not get fertilized by a male sperm.
If there is no male around or the female hasn’t mated, the egg remains unfertilized.
Either way, this egg then travels through more stages which causes it to gain the outer shell covering. Finally, the female lays these eggs and incubates them.
Are Unfertilized Eggs Rare?
Yes, unfertilized eggs are rare, but they do happen. The first eggs laid by female ostriches who have reached sexual maturity are most likely unfertilized.
However, because male ostriches are polygamous and end up mating with many females, it is unlikely that an egg in the wild goes unfertilized.
Laying eggs requires a lot of nutrition from the mother ostrich’s body, making the entire process of laying an unfertilized egg a taxing one for the poor female. She prefers to mate as soon as possible because otherwise, these eggs are just a waste for her.
How Can You Tell Fertilized Eggs from Unfertilized Ones?
The test is pretty simple and quick; all you need is a dark room and a source of light, even a flashlight. Take the egg there and turn on the light source.
Bring it near the egg such that the light shines through. If you can find black spots within the eggs, it is indicative of the embryo. If no such thing is visible, it means the egg is unfertilized.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does an ostrich lay an egg every day?
Once the breeding season begins, ostriches will lay one egg every second day until they have laid enough eggs to cover with their bodies. They then start to incubate them.
How much is an ostrich egg worth?
What is the lifespan of an ostrich?
How many hearts does an ostrich have?
In the End
Ostriches are seasonal breeders and lay eggs only during the season time. Their breeding season goes on up to around July each year.
Adult female ostriches that are healthy may lay one egg every second day during this season. Their mating rituals are unique and fascinating, and the way they protect their eggs is exemplary in the animal kingdom.