SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. — South Africa is home to the world's biggest bird, the ostrich, but if you travel the backroads of Santa Barbara County you will find an entire flock of ostriches just off Highway 101.
Ostrichland USA is Santa Barbara County's premier big bird sanctuary. On any given day you might find Cody Perry walking the large pens. The self-proclaimed Ostrich wrangler, he has a number of jobs, but his main job is egg collection.
"Yes, the eggs are about 4 pounds and we pick up about 10 to 15 a day,” explained Perry.
The previous owner used to raise the birds for meat. Now the property is a bird sanctuary. Egg collection and sales are one of the main sources of income at Ostrichland.
“The egg will definitely cover your plate. I would say it’s equivalent to 18 to 24 chicken eggs,” said Perry.
Visitors can feed the ostriches behind the safety of a fence, but it’s not safe for visitors inside. Ostriches have long claw-like talons on their feet and they are known to protect their eggs from any animal.
“The talon can get up to 3 inches long and if they kick a lion in the right spot they can kill it,” said Perry.
Ostriches lay eggs in shallow holes in the dirt. Staff at the ostrich farm drive around the ostrich pens in the safety of a pickup truck looking for eggs on the ground. Some eggs are sold at the gift shop while others are put in an incubator to be hatched.
Perry has helped raise many ostriches and often times he is the first thing they see.
“We have three babies right now, but they are 9 months old and they don't look like babies. They grow about a foot a month,” said Perry.
Ostriches are from Africa, but their cousin the Emu is from Australia and they are a much more docile animal. Ostrichland has several Emu’s and unlike the ostrich, Perry can easily reach under the emu while it's nesting to pull out eggs.
"She does not like me right now,” joked Perry as he plucked one from a lying Emu.
Ostrich eggs are white and emu eggs are green. Both birds are flightless and, contrary to common belief, neither put their head in the sand.
"I don't know where that came from. Customers ask me that 10 times a day, 'Do ostriches put their head in the ground?,' and I have to say no."
Not only is Ostrichland a great place to learn about the big bird, but it’s also a great place for a selfie. They are open year-round for your viewing pleasure.
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