Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Donkeys, goats, ostriches, and birds

January 18, 2012—You just never know what you’ll find in the desert. We found ostriches.

As we were driving out of Tucson this morning, we saw a sign advertising Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Farm, which had donkeys, goats, deer, and rainbow lorikeets as well as several hundred ostriches. A $5 admission charge got us a cup of animal feed and an ounce of nectar (for the lorikeets).

We usually think of petting zoos as being kid-friendly. Well, I guess we were kids at heart, because we had a great time feeding and petting the animals.

First were the donkeys—all sizes and colors. The swarmed near the fence, eager to get a bit of food from our hands. They were gentle; not a one bit us

Next came the deer. We had seen a few deer alongside the Texas highways, especially as we drove at night. These deer were people-friendly. They also wanted to be fed. Some were more aggressive than others and tried to get all the food. Few, however, would allow themselves to be petted after being fed.

The third animal attraction was a penthouse full of goats. Apparently these goats are cousins to the ones that explore high, rocky places in the mountains. They like to be up high. The sign said that when they are let out in the morning, they rush to get to the penthouse, they like it so much. To feed them, we had to put the food in a cup and crank it up a long belt. When the cup reached the top, it emptied into the feeding pan.

We had more goats to feed. These were in a “house” where they looked out of windows. The sign suggested getting “kissed” by a goat. I did. I put a pellet in my mouth and let a goat “kiss” me for it. Fun!

Finally we came to the ostriches. They can bite! I was daring, however, and let a few of them eat out of my hand. They nipped a bit harder than our geese do. After being nipped a couple of times, I decided it was better to pour the feed into their cups and let them eat for themselves.

I had hoped the farm would have some ostrich meat for sale; unfortunately, all they had were eggs. Did you know that one ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 chicken eggs? We passed on buying one for $20. It would take a party to eat that omelet!

Our final stop at the petting zoo was the lorikeet aviary. The young woman who sold us the feed told us to keep the nectar in our pocket, hidden from view, until we were ready, especially if we wanted to take pictures. She said the birds would flock to us and would actually pry the lid off the plastic container.

She was right! As soon as I took the nectar container out of my pocket, the birds were all over me—on my arms, shoulders, and even my head. I had to restrain them from taking the lid off, until Jim was ready with the camera. (And no, they did not poop on either of us, thank goodness.)

A sign in the aviary said that lorikeets, which are related to parakeets, are beautiful, inquisitive, and active birds, but they do not make good pets--for two reasons: They require a specialized diet (the nectar), which is difficult and expensive to prepare. And, they eat a lot. Their daily calorie requirements are equivalent to a 150 pound person needing to eat 476 cheeseburgers each day! Good thing those little birds are so active, otherwise they would weigh a ton!

I don’t know if I would want to stop at the ostrich farm again—unless, perhaps, some of my grandkids were with me. But we did have a great time, a nice side trip on our way to Quartzsite.

I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

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