It may not look like the plains of Africa, but those are real live ostriches roaming the grounds around Garth and Janice Hansen's Kaysville home.
Garth Hansen got the idea to try breeding the world's largest bird when he read a magazine article on the apparently growing ostrich-farming business in the United States.He tracked down the author to find out more, and after attending an ostrich business conference in Oklahoma in January, he decided to start a ranch.
According to Hansen, every part of the ostrich can be a moneymaker: the feathers, the hide and even the meat.
For Thanksgiving, the Hansens dined on ostrich instead of turkey. They found it not at all like other poultry. The meat is red and tastes more like beef than chicken, but is much lower in fat and cholesterol, which he believes will make the bird attractive fare to Americans interested in lightening their diets.
"Soon the health-conscious and the yuppie-type people will be eating it," he predicted.
Ostrich hides, meantime, are used in some of the finest boots and belts and billfolds.
"I have been told the feathers are used to dust computer chips and to dust new cars before they are painted," Garth Hansen said.
The ranch is not an inexpensive investment: a three-month-old bird costs $3,000, an adult female $15,000 to $25,000, a male around $10,000.
The Hansens have 10 adult ostriches and eight babies. Five of the adult birds are part-owned by investors.
"The rest are ours," Janice Hansen said. "I think of them more as pets. I've really gotten attached to them."
The birds eat from 10 to 12 pounds of grain a day at a cost of about $45 per month per bird.
The 400-pound birds lay their eggs between March and August each year and produce over 30 eggs annually. Their thick-shelled eggs look like they are made of porcelain.
"It is quite an art to hatch them," Garth Hansen said.
The Hansen's have incubators on order so by next spring they can experience firsthand the 42-day hatching process.