A ratite is the family of flightless birds and includes ostriches, emus and rheas. The ostrich has been bred commercially for over 100 years. Newly hatched chicks usually weigh about 0.9 kg (two pounds) and are about 25 cm (10 inches) tall. Young ratites must be sheltered in a warm place for their first weeks of life. Adolescent and adult birds are allowed to roam freely in fenced pastures or pens. Ratites need daily exercise to avoid leg and digestive problems. The closely woven wire fences must be high because ratites can leap over a five-foot fence. Ratites are fed on grain and hay or pasture.
Quick ostrich, emu and rhea facts:
Did you know…?
- Ostrich are native to South Africa
- Emus are native to Australia
- Rheas are native to South America
- An ostrich has two toes. All other birds have three or four toes.
- The Ratite industry in Canada is relatively small. Meat supply is currently not filling demand, although it is not as well-known in Canada as in other parts of the world.
- There is one tannery in Canada for ratite skins, although several small tanneries will do custom processing.
- Oils are commonly used in the skin care industry, but are in some cases used in the natural health industry.
- Feathers, egg shells and toe nails are commonly used for crafts. Feathers can also be used for dusting.
Learn more about ratite farming by visiting the farm profiled on this site.
Meet Don and Deb. They bought this farm about 12 years ago and began raising ostrich, as a hobby, about ten years ago. Ostrich farming is now a full time business. At certain times of the year, they'll have a maximum of about 150 birds on their farm. In the video section, we’ll also introduce you to Mary, an Ontario farmer who raises rheas on her farm.