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Farmer takes ostriches for stroll on Greenham Common

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Bill and Ben enjoy a rare day out

Early morning ramblers across Greenham Common may have spotted an unusual sight today – two ostriches.

The birds, native to Australia, are owned by Fred McDonald, a farmer from just outside Newbury and who has had the birds – called Bill and Ben – for three years.

“I’ve always had a fascination with big birds,” said Mr McDonald. “And when I was in Australia I worked on an ostrich farm.

“Ostriches can be very aggressive, but I’ve had these two since they were chicks and they are used to a domestic setting,” he added.

“In the first few years, I would take them to fetes and other public attractions. But over the last year, they’ve only been able to roam around our farm and mess around with the other animals – they haven’t had much human contact.”

The farmer said he was looking forward to taking the birds to public events again, as restrictions ease, and so thought it would be good to get them used to the idea.

“I don’t want them sticking their heads in the sand next time they are near strangers,” he said.

“I took them out very early this morning, hopefully they won’t have startled too many people. I spotted a couple of joggers who did a double take, but generally speaking they just had a good time running around the common."

Ostriches can grow up to 9ft and weigh up to 400lbs. They are very strong, so how does Farmer McDonald control them?

“They’re very good at obeying commands – especially if I speak to them with an Australian accent. They know when it’s time to get back to the truck. I might take them out again this arvo, but they tend to take a long nap at about midday and the moment will have passed.”

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