Note: This is an updated repeat of a blog post from 2011.
I once spent a recent afternoon hanging out with ugly chicks. Really ugly chicks!
Now, before you start calling me an insensitive jerk, and telling me that beauty is only skin deep, or asking if I have looked in a mirror lately, I have to tell you that these were really, really ugly chicks! How ugly were they? Just take a look!
If you have never been to the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch, which is located a few miles north of Tucson in the shadow of historic Picacho Peak, you really should stop the next time you’re driving by on Interstate 10. It’s quite an experience.
We had driven past this unique attraction for years before we finally stopped a few years ago, and were fascinated by these huge birds that nobody could ever call handsome. The place is a family operation, and the patriarch’s name really is Rooster Cogburn. The family operated a commercial ostrich ranch for years in Oklahoma, before relocating to Arizona, where the climate is much better for their birds.
In case you are not familiar with ostrich ranching, the meat of the ostrich is delicious, low in cholesterol, and served every way, from steaks to burgers to jerky. Ostrich eggs make wonderful, fluffy omelets, and one of their large eggs is equivalent to two dozen chicken eggs.
The Ostrich Ranch is a great place to take kids. In addition to ostriches, they also have miniature deer, a herd of goats who make up the Hole in the Wall Gang and poke their heads through openings to beg for treats, and miniature donkeys. Visitors receive a cup of dried food, which the ostriches, deer, goats, and a collection of miniature donkeys eagerly consume.
There is also a walk-in aviary, where you can feed a flock of colorful lorikeets. Native to Australia, these beautiful parrots will swarm on anybody holding a cup of the nectar they feed on.
Here is our friend Jan White holding five lorikeets.
But the main attraction is the ostriches, and they line up at the fence, waiting to be fed.
There are two ways to feed an ostrich, either by putting the food into the shallow pans provided, or by allowing them to eat the food right from your hand. Yes, ostriches bite, and even though they have no teeth, you will know it when one gets hold of your fingers.
After we had fed all the critters, we took the Monster Truck tour, climbing aboard a huge truck driven by Rooster’s daughter, Danna. The tour took us out through the back side of the ranch, where we saw ostriches breeding, learned more about the birds, and stopped to admire this saguaro cactus nicknamed the Three Amigos.
Danna passed around ostrich eggs for everybody to examine, as well as an ostrich feather duster, and this dead rattlesnake, to show us some of the local wildlife.
I could have gone a long time without getting that close to a rattler! If there is anything I fear more than driving over high bridges, it’s snakes! Danna told us that if we encounter a rattlesnake in the wild, to stop and freeze until we spot it, and then slowly back away. Apparently my technique of screaming like a girl and retreating with my arms flying is not the correct procedure.
Danna said that snakes are just as afraid of us as we are of them, but I don’t believe that, because if they did, they’d carry guns, too! I have spent a lot of time hiking, hunting, and photographing in the desert, and I have come across more than my fair share of rattlers, but not one of them has ever peed its pants. So much for them being more afraid than I am!
At the end of our tour, we went ostrich fishing, using wooden poles with chunks of grapefruit on the end. Danna said if we caught one, we could keep it, so I was just as glad there were no hooks on the end of our lines!
This was our second visit to the Ostrich Ranch, and we had just as much fun, if not more, than we did the first time around. This is an entertaining place for kids of all ages. So the next time you pass that special place you’ve been promising yourself you’ll stop at some day, make today the day. We’re sure glad we did!
Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch is located at Exit 219 on Interstate 10, on the eastbound frontage road. The parking lot can accommodate any size RV. Admission is $10 for anyone age five or older, and includes feed for the ostrich and deer, as well as nectar to feed the lorikeets. A small gift shop sells ostrich eggs, egg shells, feather dusters, ostrich oil, and souvenirs of your visit.
The Ostrich Ranch is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. November 16th through April 30th; and Friday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., May 1st through November 15, weather permitting. For more information call (520) 466-3658, or visit their website at www.roostercogburn.com
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Thought For The Day – One of the great things about getting older is that I realize I am not as smart as I once thought I was.