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Down on the (Ostrich) Farm


While on a California road trip last Spring, I noticed signs advertising the Gilroy Ostrich Farm, and it was not far off my (mostly unplanned) route, and I decided to make it a stop. I was curious about commercial ostrich farming anyway, and also ostriches belong to one of the most important groups of living creatures: Silly-looking animals.


I mean, let's face it: Who can look an alpaca, in fleece or shorn, and not laugh? How can you look at a capybara and not giggle at the Giant Hamster? And who can look an ostrich in the face without a grin?


All that is by way of acknowledging the fact that learning anything about animal husbandry, much less ostrich husbandry, is just not going to happen at the Gilroy Ostrich Farm, but it's still worth a stop for the giggles and other cute animals, especially if you are traveling with small kids.


At the entrance building, which doubles as a gift shop selling more cutesy things (and snacks) than you could imagine existed unless you've been to other gift shops at zoos and the like, you pay your admission fee, and are equipped with a dustpan and plastic bucket.


The bucket is filled with hay to feed to the ostriches (or any other animals you care to); the dustpan is to keep a little distance between your hand and the food while hungry animals are going for it. If you're not careful, they'll take the dustpan...and the bucket...right out of your hands. Small children who were visiting while I was found this hilarious; their parents less so.


Out back is a large series of shacks and pens for the animals, of whom ostriches are a small minority, despite the name. It has a disconcertingly temporary and unkempt look about it, but the impression fades when you get to the animals. In a brilliant move, the first you encounter are bunnies.


This one chose to look up while I looked down, creating one of those cute moments that remind you that whatever their place in the food chain, when they are set up for visitors, they are 'bunnies,' not 'rabbits.' For cuddling, not cuisine.


Then the chickens, in all their feathered variety; they had no interest in any visitors or any visitors' hay buckets. While they are probably technically 'free range' chickens, they seemed to prefer the range right around that blue feeder. Except for a rooster who provided a living tableau atop another feeder.


Goats don't really belong to the 'silly animal' category, but they do keep trying for it.


But since they were penned next-door to the alpacas, it was a lost cause...


Even the sheep couldn't compete with that, no matter what sort of bad haircut they may have gotten...


At the back of the field, we come to the stars (or at least headliners) of the show, lined up like the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. At least for a moment. The decorum slipped as soon as they spotted my bucket and dustpan. At one point, one of them gripped the bucket in its jaws and tried to pull it through the opening in the fence.


When the bucket was empty, they gave me a real good stink-eye... and then stalked off to wait for another bearer of buckets.


Heading back, I passed a pig and some more goats and sheep...


Some were trying for cute, and some were just trying too hard...


Sometimes, whether you're reading on-line or just tired after a long day's drive, an over-the-top animal attraction is just what you need, and this was it. And besides, as the sign says...



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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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