Ostrich chicks are nidifugous – meaning they are able to leave the nest 24 hours after hatching. The chicks are hatched with feathers and have good vision from birth. The term nidifugous is derived from Latin : nidus for nest and fugere for “to flee”.
During the first few days of their lives they survive on the egg-yolk which has been drawn into the abdomen through the naval-opening just prior to hatching. The yolk-sac is connected to the digestive system by means of a short tube through which the yolk is slowly absorbed.
After about four or five days the chicks start pecking at the fresh dung of their parents, as well as fine gravel and any shiny objects. In desert conditions the nest is usually far from natural water and food which means the dung serves as a convenient first source of nutrition. The high moisture content of the dung also slakes the chick’s thirst. Only after two to three weeks is the yolk completely absorbed in the young bird’s bloodstream.