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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    On The Road Again: The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm

    Daniel Burkart
    Daniel Burkart / The Daily Wildcat The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch which opened to the public in 1999 is just a half hour North of Tucson, and is home to ostriches, goats, ducks, priarie dogs, and deer.

    Each week, a staff member of the arts & life desk ventures out to a hideaway haunt in and around Tucson to report their adventures. Patrick O’Connor and Daniel Burkart travel up north to visit an empire of giant, feathered birds.

    If you’ve driven south on Interstate 10, then you are bound to have noticed what might constitute the greatest roadside attraction known to mankind. With animals from nearly every continent, this zoological marvel is a world-class experience with a distinctly western charm. Next time you are going north, mosey on down to the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch where the people don’t bite, but the animals might.

    Just like learning a second language and being a better person, visiting the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch is something that I have been promising myself I would do one day, but had not gotten around to. The best part about the ranch is its interactive nature. When you first enter, you are immediately greeted by the braying of miniature donkeys. They will eat right out of your hand, and you can pet their cute, smiling faces.

    “[The ranch] is heaven for an animal lover,” said Daniel Burkart, my road trip companion for this adventure. “I never knew I was missing out, I feel like I should have been doing this my entire life, but I never had the opportunity.”

    The main attraction of the ranch is tucked in the back behind a large fence. Picacho Peak is like a quiet sentinel watching over the immense territory governed by these flightless birds, and when you approach with food, it can be an intimidating sight. The fence has troughs that you can feed the ostriches through, but you must be courageous, as they will peck the food right out of your hands.

    “[The ostriches] are like any kind of animal: You learn how to handle and work with them,” said Danna Cogburn-Barrett, a second-generation ostrich farmer at the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch.
    Next to the ostriches is an expansive prairie dog habitat that features tiny condominiums and tunnels for each of its residents. Burkart throws some peanuts into the waiting arms of an anxious prairie dog.

    Across from the prairie dogs are the two other feathered attractions at the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. The ducks of Quackville, USA, are the most talkative animals around, and the Rainbow Lorikeet Forest is an incredible experience. Armed with only a cup of nectar, we entered the forest, and a flock of hungry lorikeets swarmed us. They were polite enough to take the lids off our nectar cups as they walked on our shoulders and arms.

    “I finally understand what the pirates were fighting for,” Burkart said as a second lorikeet landed on his shoulders.

    Picacho sits halfway between Tucson and Eloy, Ariz. on the I-10. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Picacho is an unincorporated community with just about 500 residents. The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch and its nearly 500 ostriches has become an important part of the small community, and guarantees that the ostrich-to-citizen ratio stays higher than the national average. Picacho’s post office was founded in 1881, around the same time that Danna Cogburn-Barrett’s great, great uncle Rooster Cogburn roamed the Great Plains as an outlaw. The clan moved to Picacho in 1993 for the health of their ostriches, and in 1999, the ranch opened to the public.

    “We literally only had a folding table,” Cogburn-Barrett said, “and that’s how [the ranch] started.”

    The family has built an ostrich empire atop that simple folding table. The ranch is entirely family owned and employs three generations of Cogburns. The ranch is a fun experience for the whole family and everyone will find something they love there.

    “There’s not a whole lot of things to do with your little kids and your grown kids and grandma and grandpa, so that’s what we are about,” Cogburn-Barrett said. “It’s about families coming out and having fun.”

    The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday through Monday. Happy travels.

    —Follow Patrick O’Connor @tachyzotte

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