The basic principles of animal husbandry and aviary management, including an “all-in/all-out” system of management, biosecurity of the flock and facility, and a stress-free environment, are inherent to successful ratite production. Generally, the level of identifiable infectious or contagious disease among chicks is low, and most clinical signs are produced by stress factors such as poor ventilation, overcrowding, excessively high ambient temperatures, overuse of antibiotics, improper incubation or hatching procedures, improper nutrition, and other management-related disease. When considering the sick chick, it is important to evaluate the population at risk and take appropriate steps to prevent the other chicks from developing the problem. This often means elimination of clinically ill chicks by appropriate quarantine or euthanasia. If an infectious disease is involved, treating the individual chick in its environment places the other chicks at risk.
Chicks do well on a wide range of substrates (including sand, grass, alfalfa, or native pasture) if they are introduced to the substrate at hatch and have adequate space, ventilation, and sufficient feeders and waterers. Ostrich chicks up to 3 mo old grow best and have the fewest management-related diseases (eg, proventricular impaction, leg problems, and feather picking) if they have 100–133 sq ft of pen space per bird. Ostrich chicks do not do well when confined to concrete floored housing. Adequate exercise is an important consideration for normal leg growth and digestive function.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Karen Hicks-Alldredge, DVM