ABOUT RAISING EMUS

Where can emu be raised?
Emus are amazingly resilient and robust animals that can adapt to their surroundings. In their native Australia emu can be found in areas ranging from deserts to snowy mountains. You can expect to breed as many as 20 pairs of birds per acre. They are successfully raised in the Southern United States and North into Canada.

What kind of fences are needed for emu?
They do require very sturdy 6 foot tall fences to hold them in extreme cases. You will find some folks that manage with four or five foot fences, but, these birds can easily jump a four foot fence, and they can scale a five foot fence if they desire to leave the fenced area. They typically weigh on the order of 90-130 pounds and playfully run at speeds of close to 35 mph, hence the fences must be sturdy enough to withstand animals running into it at those speeds and weights.

What kind of buildings or shelter do they need?
You will need some type of shelter/windbreak for the birds, especially in colder climates. Three sided sheds work well. Just so you can create a "dead air" space (similar to a calf hut) and keep it well bedded during cold weather.

Will the female Emuís sit on a nest to hatch eggs?
The males set the eggs for approximately 52 days and then raise the chicks. The females lay their eggs from October thru April. With our cold Wisconsinwinters, usually the male can hatch out eggs only if he doesn't start setting until toward the end of the laying season. Most emu growers incubate the eggs in a commercial incubator. This way the chicks imprint on the humans instead of the male emu and they are much friendlier and easier to work with.

Would the nesting male need to be separated from the others?
They will need to be separated because after the chicks hatch, the other adults (including the female) will probably try to kill the chicks.

How do you tell an adult female from a male?
The males "grunt" (like a pig) and the females "boom" (like a kettle drum) using a "boom sack" located at the base of their neck. ALL yearlings "grunt". The females will start to change to a boom sometime after they turn a year old.

What is the primary diet/food you feed them?
We feed a complete, pelleted feed that is custom prepared for us at a local feed mill. It consists of corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and other grains that are available in our area along with vitamin and mineral supplements specifically formulated for emus. Most major feed companies have emu feed available if it is purchased in large enough quantities.

Do you need periodic veterinary visits (shots, de-worming etc.)?
Most emu growers do minor medical work themselves. Food grade Diatomaceous Earth is used by many emu growers. It is sprinkled on the feed regularly. Ivomectin is used for deworming, if necessary. EEE vaccinations are given if you are in a high risk area. As an American Emu Association member, you can "ask the vet" questions and receive answers through the AEA .

Are the emus friendly, tame? Will they approach you?
It depends on the bird. Emus are docile birds and will usually not attack. Males are usually more friendly than the females. Females are more stand-offish. Some birds you can put your arms around and give a hug. Others would rather that you just feed them and leave them alone. They are very inquisitive birds and like to peck at shiny objects i.e., buttons, watches, earrings, etc.

How do you handle the birds when you need to catch them?
Emu legs are very strong and well muscled (they can run up to 35 miles an hour). Always work from behind when you need to handle them. When emus try to get away, they will flail those legs and could break a handlers arm or leg if they connect. Also, their claws can rip through clothing (and flesh) easily. Some emus are declawed at hatching to prevent injury to handlers and other birds, though, most birds that are not declawed get along just fine without incidents. You just have to respect the fact that they can protect themselves very well if they have to.

Can more 4 or 5 emus be kept in the same pen?
With most chicks this is not a problem. But,.... as emu mature (around 14 months of age) their hormones start to rage and some of the "teenagers" may start to fight for territorial dominance. Sometimes it appears that these dominant birds don't even like themselves. At this point they have to be separated or it is possible that a bird may be injured. Some birds are driven to be the "top" bird at this time. Most are hardly affected. Some growers successfully use community pens for their breeding birds. Community pens are made up of several females and two males. These work out only if the birds are fairly easy going and there is a "sight block" where the birds can get away from each other, out of sight.

I want to raise emus. Where do I start?
I strongly recommend that you take two steps immediately to get into the emu community:
1.) Subscribe to Emu Today and Tomorrow
2.) Join the American Emu Association
These two steps will put you in touch with serious growers in this industry and will provide you the means to follow industry trends and to learn the business well enough to make your decisions from an informed perspective. There are other sources of information that you will readily uncover as you get more deeply involved, but these two would be my recommendation to you as a starting point.

1.) The Emu Today and Tomorrow (ET&T) magazine is the premier publication for the emu industry. It carries articles that range from rearing birds to product viability, farming methods, new trends and developments, on and on. Not the least of importance is the insight you'll gain through the publication on who is active in the industry and how different developers are operating so you can pick and choose who you'd like to work with. In fact ET&T is the only comprehensive journal for the emu industry. If you are interested in learning more about the emu industry, you should definitely take advantage of this resource. You can subscribe to Emu Today and Tomorrow by calling their subscription services at 580-628-2933, or by visiting their web site at www.emutoday.com This magazine is published monthly at a subscription fee of $25 per year. ET&T also has available the "Emu Farmers Handbooks I & II" by Maria Minnaar. These two books are a "must have" for anyone who own emus. They would answer most of your questions about growing these birds.

2.) You can join the American Emu Association (AEA) by visiting their website at: http://www.aea-emu.org/join.asp Membership in the national American Emu Association (AEA) will enroll you in your home state (or any state affiliate that you prefer) and the regional AEA affiliate. By joining the AEA you will have access to other people that share your interest. I believe you'll find them invaluable as you pursue your quest for information, contacts and methods. I'm sure you'll find your AEA Regional Director a very valuable source of knowledge. The AEA has on-line e-mail forums to communicate with other growers and to learn key skills and techniques for anyone working in this industry. They also conduct conferences that expose us to growers across the country (and in some cases from other countries) that provides solid information and extremely useful motivational information to keep us working together. Every other month, a newsletter is sent to members. The cost of U.S. membership is an initial fee of $100 for the first year and $100 for each succeeding year of renewal. An international membership is available for $350 to join and $150 per year to renew.
The AEA provides the clout needed in congress to get laws and rulings that nurture the industry along, sets standards for emu oil to promote marketing initiatives, etc. Click on this link to go to the American Emu Association (AEA) website to fill-out a membership application form, if you would like to join http://www.aea-emu.org/join.asp State associations hold state meetings throughout the year. The American Emu Association http://www.aea-emu.org holds an annual, three day National Convention each year. These meetings allow an opportunity for members to receive the latest emu industry information, hear updates on emu oil research and network with other emu growers from across the U.S. and around the world.

Another source of information on the care and raising of emus is the Red Oak Farms website www.redoakfarm.com or, more specifically, www.redoakfarm.com/farming_information.htm There are some excellent pages here.