by Blake Herzog
The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch at the foot of Picacho Peak has been entertaining visitors from near and far, far away for more than 20 years, earning segments on many “roadside attractions” TV shows and websites.
While its thousand-strong herd of really big, strong birds is the marquee attraction, the petting zoo where visitors can feed and connect with a menagerie encompassing stingrays, sheep, and many other creatures is where you can make friends that keep you coming back.
The collection is so varied the ranch bills it as “A Tour Around the World All in One Place.”
“Official greeters” Smiley the Donkey and Sherbet the Goat are featured in the biggest sponsorship packages of the ranch’s new Adopt-A-Critter program. Rainbow lorikeets land on visitors’ shoulders and eat out of the cups in their hands in a colorful aviary.
St. Croix sheep, parakeets, miniature donkeys, Pekin ducks, dwarf goats, and bushels of bunnies await feeding time from ranch “hands” as well as their adoring fans.
You can watch diving ducks descend to the bottom of a tank to reach their food, race to feed Boer goats through special holes in the wall (the “Goat Kissing Booth”), or crank food up a chute to reach them in their “penthouse.” Gentle fallow deer offer a safe feeding experience for all ages, but they do enjoy licking hands for crumbs!
The tank of cownose rays is among the newest additions to the ranch and one of the most popular. Feeding takes place all day at “Stingray Bay,” so it’s a reliable source of fun to fit in between the feeding schedules of other animals. They love their food, but they’re generally shy creatures so they’re polite and attentive to guests.
The ostriches are here, too, of course, but they can be up to 9 feet tall and tend to be a little more intimidating than your average bunny or goat. These “living dinosaurs,” as Rooster and his crew call them, can be seen and fed through or over a fence, depending on what the birds have in mind.
They do bite on occasion, so visitors need to be careful around them. You can also feed them through a chute if arm’s length isn’t far enough away for you or your little ones. But looking these incredible animals in the eye, on the largest privately-owned ostrich ranch outside of their native Africa, is an unforgettable experience.
ROOSTER COGBURN OSTRICH RANCH
17599 E. Peak Lane, Picacho — About a half-hour southeast of Casa Grande. Take exit No. 219 off Interstate 10 and take the southeast-bound frontage road until it dead-ends at the ranch.
Admission: $12 for ages 6 and older, including feed for all animals except stingrays (for $15 stingray food is included). Ages 5 and younger are free, but an optional kids’ feed package is $6. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.
Hours (subject to weather closures):
- Nov. 16-April 30; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
- May-September; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday through Monday
- October-Nov. 15; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
- Contact: www.roostercogburn.com or 520-466-3658.