So the girls and I have been to numerous zoos, normal or petting, but rarely do they ever intersect. Tigers and bears stay in regular zoos, while horses and goats are usually reserved for petting zoos. So the girls were very surprised to learn that there is an Ostrich Ranch right outside of Tucson and that you could actually feed them (they regularly see them from a distance at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson). While initially a little reserved (their mother has a surprising fear of ostriches), they eventually gave in and ended up having a great time feeding (and sometimes petting) miniature donkeys, fallow deer, rabbits, and yes, even the ostriches.
We have been to our share of petting zoos, but nothing this big or with this variety of animals. We were all kind of shocked with the amount of food that we received for our entry fee, including regular feed, parakeet seed sticks, coins for smaller animal feed, and a cup of nectar for the rainbow lorikeets. And of course, Dad had to carry it all. While it certainly did not help with the load, the first time we visited a couple was nice enough to hand off their excess feed to the girls as they exited.
The first encounter was the parakeet enclosure, which left Elaina and Gabriella completely baffled on how to get them the animal feed. I handed them the parakeet seed sticks and they quickly deduced what to do. And they seemed to giggle every time a bird landed on the stick to eat.
Pretty simple, and the stick only lasted about two minutes, but it was a pretty good start for the girls. Better to ease them into the experience than to lead with the main event and scare the heck out of them for the rest of the day.
The first of the larger animals were the miniature donkeys (did not mean that as a joke, but it is still bad) and these are some of Gabriella’s favorite animals. They do not push others aside, they do not bite, and are very open to being pet. All good traits for a place like this.
We could stay here for a while, but there are many more animals to see and feed and we have not even gotten to the main event yet.
The next critters up were the fallow deer. Of all the animals on the ranch, these were probably the nicest. They did not bite, did not swarm, and did not knock over their buddies just to get some food. They were very cute and gentle, almost reserved in approaching people.
While it seems to take more and more to impress Elaina these days, these are some of Gabriella’s favorite animals at the ranch. She is not the least bit scared of them, as they do not bite or make any sudden movements, and they always let her pet them without hassle. Both times that we have been, she has always taken a liking to them. Interesting transition to the next animal though, who will literally bite the hand that feeds them if an extra morsel of food is to be had.
Next up are the goats, of which their are two varieties: Boer and Nigerian Dwarf goats. While the Nigerian dwarf goats are cute and relatively gentle, the Boer goats are just mean. They are the pushing and shoving variety that will just not stop eating. The girls have only had a few negative encounters at the “goat wall,” but mostly because they came too close and got a little scared.
Even though it seems like a waste of good feed, the girls both love the Goat Penthouse attraction. It is simply a pen of Boer goats that is lifted about fifty feet in the air, but that you have to turn a wheel so that the conveyer belt of food will reach them. The girls are always trying to race to get their feed to the top first, which usually just leads to one of them being upset.
Feeding the Nigerian dwarf goats was much less intimidating. They are not only a lot smaller, but they tend to not lunge out at anything that resembles food. We generally spend more time with them that their bigger and more aggressive cousins.
After going through some of the warm-up animals, we finally get to the big attraction, the ostriches. And they did not disappoint. At least not in enjoyability or awe, because the first one definitely bit my finger as I was showing the girls the right way to feed them (to this day, Elaina still stands by that she watched the video at the entrance on the right way to do it, and that Dad was definitely doing something else… we will call it a draw).
It took the girls a while to get up the courage to approach the fence, which I do not blame them at all given that the birds swarm the fence pecking for food.
Because let us just be honest for a moment: A dozen or so seven foot tall birds are going to make you a little hesitant.
While I may be a little adventurous and willing to feed them right out of my hand, the girls were not even going to attempt that (and I was certainly not going to push them to).
Thankfully, there are feeding tubes in the fence that the girls could use.
After seeing big sister feed them, even Gabriella got in on the fun.
Even Carmen, the girls’ great-grandmother who was visiting for the week, briefly got in on the action.
Eventually, Gabriella tried a different approach, going to the raised platform so that she could be eye-to-eye with the birds.
This immediately backfired, as she realized that the fence was no longer there to protect her. She resorted to either throwing the food into their feed pans or asking me to distract them for a moment. Even though they are kind of intimidating, the girls and I really enjoy feeding the ostriches, and thankfully, I have not gotten bit since our first encounter (and the girls have never gotten bit).
After the ostriches, the chickens are kind of a let down. The girls also learned very quickly that a peck to the hand can really hurt. Next animal please!
While the St. Croix sheep are beautiful creatures, they are essential just all-white goats to my girls. Next!
The bunnies are some of the girls’ favorite animals at the petting zoo. They are soft, adorable, and are not likely to ever scare them (until I pull out my copy of Bunnicula, of course). The problem with the bunnies is that the wall for the enclosure is a little too high for Gabriella, so I have to hold her while she leans over the side. They are also very hit or miss on if they are hungry or not, which if they are not, you are not going to get to pet them and just wasted a feed token.
The Pekin ducks may be beautiful, but those things are mean. Even using the right technique (putting the food on your palm and making a very loose fist), I still got bit a few times. The girls just found it better to have them eat directly out of their cups.
Carmen learned not to let them eat out of your palm after two ducks snapped at her. Like I said, ducks are mean. We can cross them off of the “Farm animals I may one day like to have” list.
While this attraction is billed as an Ostrich Farm and they are obviously the big draw, I personally think the rainbow lorikeet enclosure is the better exhibit. The girls and I certainly have more fun there (which means they really saved the best for last).
As part of your feed haul, you get a small capped container of nectar specifically for the rainbow lorikeets. All you do then is hold it out away from your body, then the birds do the rest (including taking the cap off).
It is literally as easy as holding your hand out with the nectar, although I would strongly encourage long sleeves or a coat, especially for little ones; sometimes their claws can dig a little into your skin. This is truly an experience that is fun for all ages and we generally stay here longer than anywhere else.
So the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch is a good time for all. They also have Cownose stingrays and a shooting gallery, but the girls were scared of the former and Dad was too busy helping the girls aim to take pictures of the latter. Either way, it is some good old fashioned family fun that will not break the bank. And I am assuming the girls love it, since they now want to go every time we are west of Tucson.
Thanks again for checking in on us. With my new job and Elaina being in kindergarten, writing has been a little… sporadic. I assure you that we are still having our adventures, but writing about them has taken a back seat to meal-prepping, helping Elaina with her homework (which right now mostly consists of me reading to her), and helping them both with soccer. Being a parent, single or otherwise, never ends, and you can never stop trying to get better. While writing about these experiences certainly helps me reflect on what it means to be a parent, it is never a substitute for the real thing (which is certainly much harder).