Since the common ostrich is the largest living bird in the world, it’s fitting that its eggs are also the biggest in the animal kingdom. Indeed, a single egg from this flightless bird can weigh up to 2,000 grams (just under 4.5 pounds), enough to make a gargantuan breakfast! In comparison, an average chicken egg barely exceeds 50 grams. But how often do ostriches lay eggs? And how many eggs do they lay on average?

In its natural habitat, an ostrich lays 12 to 18 eggs annually. Under rearing conditions, females can produce 10 to 20 eggs in the first year and 40 to 130 eggs per year in subsequent years. Perfect amount to cook enough omelets to feed an army!

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Do Ostriches Lay the Same Number of Eggs Regardless of Their Habitat?

The answer is a resounding no. First off, know that South Africa is the world leader in ostrich farming. Indeed, there are approximately one million ostriches bred in nearly a thousand farms in this country. However, America is not left behind as many producers raise ostriches in captivity in the United States and Canada, as well as in Brazil and Chile. Moreover, there are also breeding farms in Europe and Asia.

But why is South Africa a champion in ostrich farming? Mainly thanks to its optimal climatic conditions. Indeed, thanks to the hot and dry climate of the African lands, the ostriches reared in this country lay up to 35% more eggs than in Europe.

Image Credit: K. Sweet, Shutterstock

At What Age Do Ostriches Become Sexually Mature?

The sexual maturity of female ostriches is relatively early. Indeed, the female under human care begins to lay eggs around the age of 2 to 3 years and remains fertile for about forty years. They reach their peak of egg production between 7 and 11 years old. During the fertile period, the annual egg production varies from 20 to 70 eggs. On the other hand, the male usually reaches sexual maturity a year later, around the age of 3 years.

How Do Ostriches Reproduce?

Ostriches are monogamous or polygamous, depending on whether they live in groups or not. During courtship, the male performs circular movements around his partner and shows off his plumage. All females lay their eggs in a common nest made in the ground; this nest can accommodate up to 30 eggs. Incubation can last from 42 to 46 days and is taken care of by the male or the dominant female. In the wild, young ostriches are reared by adults for a year, but the mortality rate is very high.

Somali Ostrich
Image Credit: Papa Bravo, Shutterstock

What Is the Average Weight of an Ostrich Egg?

The average weight of an ostrich egg is around 2.5-4.5 pounds, which is equivalent to almost 30 chicken eggs!

Here are other interesting facts about ostrich eggs:
  • The shell is about 2 millimeters thick and is covered with an anti-bacterial layer, the cuticle. The shell is mainly made up of calcium carbonate, which is the source of calcium for the embryo.
  • The vitellus (egg yolk) occupies about 1/3 of the volume of the egg; it provides energy and most nutrients for embryo development.
  • The albumen provides water, vitamins, proteins, and trace elements. Albumen also has a bactericidal action due to its high pH and the action of lysozymes.
  • The vitamin and mineral levels of the ostrich egg depend on the diet of the parents.


Final Thoughts

Ostriches are huge, fascinating birds. They also lay eggs of impressive size, although the number of eggs laid by wild versus captive-bred ostriches varies significantly. Indeed, wild ostriches lay an average of 12 to 18 eggs per year, while farmed ostriches can lay up to 130 eggs annually (although the average quantity is 40 to 60 eggs). Obviously, the quality of care, environment, and climate greatly influence the laying capacity of these gigantic birds.

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Featured Image Credit:  LionMountain, Pixabay