Entertaining big birds put to good use

Anna Milliken mingles with her pet ostriches Myrrtle (left) and Mabel at her Northeast  Valley...
Anna Milliken mingles with her pet ostriches Myrrtle (left) and Mabel at her Northeast Valley home. Photos by Dan Hutchinson.
Anna Milliken's ostrich Myrrtle.
Anna Milliken's ostrich Myrrtle.
Anna Milliken's ostrich Mabel.
Anna Milliken's ostrich Mabel.

Mabel and Myrrtle are two ostriches living the high life in Dunedin City.

Northeast Valley woman Anna Milliken said she found the two hens on an online auction website a couple of years back and bought them for $250 apiece.

''These people were going back to Australia and and couldn't take them. I just needed something to clean up all my grass.''

She has about a hectare of mostly steep hillside and the two ostriches do a pretty good job of tidying up the place.

They consistently lay an egg each every two days. Ms Milliken sells them through organic shop Taste Nature for $10 apiece.

They are just big birds that display normal bird-like behaviour but can be a bit mischievous, she says. Their curiosity and pecking can be disconcerting for visitors.

They love shiny things such as spectacles and car keys and will give strangers a close inspection, to the point where they make good guard dog substitutes.

Their size, kick and potentially lethal toe nails can make them dangerous, so children are not allowed in the pen, but generally they are fun to have around.

''They just make me laugh.''

The cat is not laughing though.

''He stands on top of the woodpile and does his cat growl, arches his back and flattens his ears. They just flap their wings at him,'' Ms Milliken said.

They were not as bright as some birds but were good company when she was gardening and did not eat her flowers, she said.

They can deal with temperatures as low as minus 10degC, but she lets them use the garage well before it gets that cold.

Did you know?

- Ostriches live for up to 50 years.

- They are the fastest animal on two legs - up to 70kmh.

- An ostrich eye is the size of a snooker ball and bigger than its brain.

- Female ostriches weigh 100kg on average and grow to 2m in height. Males weigh 115kg and reach 2.8m.

- Ostriches don't bury their head in the sand - they prefer to run away from predators. They are farmed for meat and feathers in more than 50 countries.

- An ostrich egg equals about 23 chicken eggs.


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