How Do Ostriches Care For Their Young Ones? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Humans love to care for their young ones and we see that in the ways parents are attentive to their little ones.

However, humans are not the only ones who care for their young ones. 

Ostriches which are the largest birds are excellent fathers and mothers.

They care for their young ones, feed them and keep them safe from predators till they can stand on their own two feet. 

This post will explore how ostriches care for their young ones, the rate of survival, how they feed the baby ostriches, what baby ostriches eat and whether ostriches are cruel to their young ones. 

How Do Ostriches Care For Their Young Ones?

  • Incubating The Eggs

Once ostrich eggs are laid, both the male and the female of the species take turns sitting on the eggs.

They ensure the eggs are kept warm and safe from predators. 

Ostriches have a communal mode of egg laying with the dominant hen in the group sitting on all the eggs. 

  • Providing Food

Ostrich eggs hatch after 40 days and the chicks are able to walk and defend themselves. Over the course of a week they follow their parents around and learn how to eat. 

The parents take them to locations where food is available. The chicks then learn to copy their parents. 

  • Protecting Them From Predators

Ostriches are quite keen on keeping their young ones safe from predators. They are ready to defend the chicks from their natural predators such as cheetahs and hyenas. 

  • Forming Creches For The Babies

In an ostrich settlement, the adults often form a creche with a brood of sometimes 40 chicks at once.

These creches serve to protect the chicks and keep them safe. They are often supervised by one or two adult ostriches. 

They always go about in this group and ensure there are no stragglers. Chicks that get lost from the group can become predator meat or die from the harsh environment. 

  • Shield Them From The Elements

Ostriches also protect their babies from rain or sun. They can often be seen covering the young ones with their feathers when the weather is harsh.

It is a great sacrifice for them as ostriches feathers do not protect them from rain unlike those of other birds. 

Here is an article I wrote on how do ostriches communicate?

How Do Baby Ostriches Survive?

Baby ostriches survive in the wild through the care of their parents.

The moment they are hatched, they learn to walk, run and other behaviors that will keep them safe from predators.

Ostriches to an extent make great parents and take care of their young ones. 

Ostrich chicks stay with their parents for around two months before becoming independent and remaining with the same flock until they’re about a year old.

Ostrich chicks have been recorded keeping contact with their parents for up to a year.

Ostrich chicks will spend part of the day with their parents, but they will also create communal creches of 20 to 40 newborn birds that are fiercely guarded adult ostriches.

The adult supervisors defend the chicks from predators and are frequently seen with their large wings shielding them from the sun. 

By 18 months a baby ostrich is fully matured and can no longer need to remain in the creche. And this is how the babies survive in the wild. 

Do Ostriches Neglect Their Young?

Ostriches do not neglect their young ones. Male ostriches often make good fathers as they are ones who take the babies around and show them the ropes.

Ostriches start caring for their young ones right from the egg laying stage.

Once the eggs have been laid, both the male and the female parents incubate them. They sit on the eggs and cover them with their feathers to keep them warm.

Because the hatchlings consume their egg yoke, they do not need to be fed for close to a week.

In between that period, the young ones learn to walk, move around and also to eat. Ostriches do not feed their babies but teach them how to eat.

Several ostriches can also raise a group of young ones. This happens because there are usually several females in one ostrich group and they all lay their eggs together. 

Ostriches are quite good parents, especially the males of the species. 

Also check out this article I wrote on are ostriches dangerous?

Do Ostrich Feed Their Babies?

Ostriches care a lot for their babies however they do not feed the food. It is not a strange sight to see animals, especially birds feeding their young ones from their mouths.

This is not the case with ostriches. 

What they do is they guide their young ones to where there is food.

The babies often learn from watching their parents eating activities.

For the first week of living, baby ostriches do not have to worry about food as they are filled with yolk from their egg yolk sac.

This fills them for a week and helps them to survive before they learn the various survival habits. 

Fortunately for ostriches, their chicks are able to start walking and moving around a few days after hatching.

They follow their parents around observing their behavior and copying it. 

Ostrich chicks create communal creches of 40 or more birds, which are cared for by one or two adult ostriches who act as parents to the entire creche.

What Do Baby Ostriches Eat?

Baby ostriches consume a large amount of yolk from its egg’s yolk sac, which keeps them nourished for up to a week.

They will learn to walk during this time and will start to follow their mother, father or any other mature ostriches who will lead them to food and forage. 

No one feeds the newborn ostriches; they feed themselves naturally.

Ostriches are omnivorous birds that eat a broad variety of plant and animal food, including arthropods and insects, small rodents, lizards, snakes, and most other healthy things found in their harsh surroundings. 

Baby ostriches follow their parents’ lead, pecking at viable food and vocalizing to encourage their chicks to eat.

Ostrich chicks learn to eat and survive by imitation. They mimic what their parents do either they are eating or they are learning to stay alive.

The fathers are great parents as they are often the ones who guide the chicks to where food is present so they can feed. 

Are Ostriches Cruel To Their Young?

Ostriches are not cruel to their young, however they do exhibit erratic behavior at times which has over the years led to this belief in various circles.

To understand ostrich behavior, one has to fully understand their reproduction system.

One male ostrich usually has about three to four hens who breed together. There is always a dominant hen who lays her eggs first and gets her eggs in the best spot in the nest.

The other hens keep laying eggs and when the nest is full, they lay them all around the edges. This often leads to a scattered egg laying nest.

This can result in a jumble with the ostriches going back and forth. Sometimes the eggs are trampled on and the male ostrich might end up abandoning the nest in disgust.

The erratic behavior of ostriches such as their mad sprints can also affect hatched chicks.

There was the case of an ostrich who was running across a field and lost almost all her chicks and she herself was never found again.

These kinds of events can give rise to the myth that ostriches are cruel. They are great parents most of the time. 


The worlds’ largest birds are apparently some of the best parents out there. Ostriches care for their young ones right from the period they lay eggs.

Ostrich chicks are precocial which means they are born able to walk and defend themselves. 

Despite this the ostriches form creches to keep the chicks safe from predators. The chicks also learn to eat by imitation as ostriches do not feed their children food.

Baby ostriches often feed on grass and other nutrients supplied by their parents. 

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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