Original Research

Factors related to high levels of ostrich chick mortality from hatching to 90 days of age in an intensive rearing system

S.W.P. Cloete, H. Lambrechts, K. Punt, Z. Brand
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 72, No 4 | a652 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v72i4.652 | © 2001 S.W.P. Cloete, H. Lambrechts, K. Punt, Z. Brand | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 July 2001 | Published: 09 July 2001

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S.W.P. Cloete,
H. Lambrechts,
K. Punt,
Z. Brand,

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Ostrich chick mortality was studied in 2522 chicks that were hatched artificially during the 1999/2000 breeding season. High levels of mortality were observed, with 1978 (78.4 %) of these chicks dying before 90 days after hatching. Atotal of 46.7 %(1177) of these chicks died before 28 days of age, and a further 30.7 %(801) died between 28 and 90 days post-hatching. Chick mortality to 28 days of age could not be conclusively related to sex, day of external pipping or breeder diet. Mortality rates were higher (P < 0.05) at the beginning and end of the breeding season than in the middle months. Differences in mortality levels of chicks incubated in different incubators could be related to the time of the breeding season during which the incubator was mostly used. The regression of chick mortality to 28 days of age on day-old chick mass followed a 2nd-degree polynomial. Chicks with day-old masses below 762.5 g were particularly at risk of dying before 28 days after hatching. Chicks hatching from eggs where excessive water loss to 35 days of incubation (>18 %) was recorded were also at risk of succumbing before 28 days of age. Chick mortality percentages for the period from 28 to 90 days of age exceeded 80 %in chicks weighing an average of 1050 g at 28 days. Mortaliy percentages declined sharply at higher live masses, to between 20 and 30 % in chicks weighing ?1950 g. This 'core' level of mortality remained throughout, even in the heaviest chicks. It was concluded that the high levels of chick mortality could be related to stress in chicks, resulting from an inability to adapt to the rearing environment. The high subsequent mortality percentages of low live mass chicks that survived to 28 days after hatching could probably be attributed to residual setbacks suffered earlier. Abetter understanding of the underlying principles involved in ostrich chick mortality in intensive rearing environments is required for progress in this field, resulting in more predictable survival rates under these conditions.


Chick Quality; Day-Old Chick Mass; Evaporative Water Loss


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doi: 10.1080/00071660600610658