How Ostriches Cope with Stress

Fernella Inskip of Bald Knob, Arkansas asks:

What do stressed-out ostriches do when there’s no sand for them to bury their heads in? There are people around here who raise ostriches (for laughs, I guess?) and they run around on grass or at best, mud. The soil just isn’t very sandy in these parts.

Fernella,

You’re working from old information. Ostriches in a state of nature, in vast sandy places, might not have any other way to get away from life’s little nuisances. But civilized ostriches who live on farms, have other coping mechanisms available.

  • Simple MP3 players have gotten so inexpensive that many birds can listen to soothing music when the world is too much. They don’t have fingers to work the controls, but fortunately they have short memories, so they don’t mind hearing the same half-dozen songs over and over.
  • ostrich wearing headset

    Calming music is actually preferable to head-burial as a way of dealing with harsh realities.

    The explosion of niche publishing markets means that ostrich-targeted “chick lit” is easy to find (e.g. from Savanna Press). Mostly audiobooks, because ostriches tend to be far-sighted and have no ears to hang glasses on.

  • Small but growing professions of ostrich masseurs, beak buffers and pedicurists are ready to give them a little spa vacation right at home. Current economic conditions have driven prices for these services down to quite reasonable levels.
  • At the better farms, poolside drinks are available. Mostly water, of course. Ostriches have no head for spirits, and little head for anything else.

Of course, compared to their primitive brethren, farm ostriches have what you might call “first world problems.” There are no leopards and hyenas or men with spears around, so they spend their time worrying about what other ostriches think of them, whether their feathers have that youthful sheen, and what happened to Ralphie after the farmer led him away.

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