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Emu Facts

Emu (pronounced either ee-mew or ee-moo) is native to Australia. Emu are the second largest members of the flightless bird family called ratites (pronounced ra-tight). There are several other members of the family of ratites. Native to Africa is the largest ratite the Ostrich, which has large wings. Native to South America is the Rhea, which has large wings but is smaller than the Emu. Native to New Guinea and some parts of Australia is the ornately plumed Cassowary. The smallest of the living ratites is the Kiwi, which is native to New Zealand.

 

Initially, Emu were imported to the United States prior to 1950 as exotic zoo and private collection stock. In 1960, the Emu was designated Australia's national bird and shortly thereafter an official Australian Governmental ban was placed upon the exportation of the indigenous Emu. The ban is now over 30 years old and continues to this day.

 

The bloodlines of Emu available to the United States are limited to those bloodlines available worldwide in zoos and private zoological collections.

 

Emu began to be commercially bred in the United States in the 1980's. Well-matched Emu proved to be highly prolific (produced lots of offspring) and were relatively easy to commercially raise in most American climates from the northern and cooler states of Minnesota and Maine to the arid states of Texas and Oklahoma.

 

Emu are generally very docile. Emu tend to be intensely curious creatures. Emu chicks hatch from eggs ranging in size from 400 to 900 grams in weight, with the average being near 550 grams or about 1.25 pounds. Upon hatching, the chicks will stand nearly 10 inches tall and they will have a yellowish-white and black striping used to camouflage them in the wild. At three months, the chicks have grown to 24 inches and transition through a black head and then black body stage as their feathers grow in. Within 6 months the chick is 4 1/2 feet tall and has attained the black, tan and brown feather coloring of the adult and they begin to fill out in weight. As adults they possess a soft downy feathering [since no vein runs through the center of each double-feathered quill]. Often parts of the head, neck and beak can display a radiant blue coloring.

 

Emu adapt well to climates from the outback of Australia where 120 Fahrenheit degrees is not uncommon to the -60 below zero Fahrenheit climate during northern Minnesota's winters. That's a known tolerance of over 180 degrees.

 

The mature Emu is 5 to 6 1/2 feet tall and can stretch to over 7 feet. At 14 to 18 months of age they will weigh between 80 and 120 pounds. Many female Emu can lay eggs before they are 2 years old, whereas males attain sexually maturity between 3 and 4 years of age. At 4 years old, the well cared for Emu will weigh between 120 and 150 pounds.

 

The Emu can reach running speeds of 40 mph in very few steps, with strides often covering over 9 feet. In a single step an Emu can duck and weave with a finesse that would put a National Football League running back to shame.

 

Emu require copious good water, often consuming in excess of 3 gallons daily per bird. Emu also love to play and splash in pools of water and mud. They are excellent swimmers, if permitted the opportunity. [The appearance resembles the pictures shown of the Loch Ness monster--a mound with a tall periscope like head towering out of the water].

 

Emu eat grains, berries, bugs, snakes, frogs and similar fare. Commercially raised Emu requires a prepared feed with a vitamin and mineral pack specially designed for the very short digestive tract of the Emu. Pelletized feeds provide full nutrition in each morsel they eat. Several feed manufacturers have performed years of study to prepare effective Emu Feeds.

 

Adult Emu are known to produce offspring well past the age of 35 years old. Emu generally lay between 20 and 30 eggs per season, which occurs during our winter. Occasionally, a hen will produced 40 to 50 eggs in a year. Breeding normally begins in the fall with eggs being laid from late October through June. A typical hen will lay an egg every 3 to 5 days for about 3 months.

Emu eggs are naturally an avocado green color with the texture varying from hen to hen. Emu eggs are the longest incubating eggs at 50 days.

 

You might say Emu are the original surrogate mother. The female lays the egg, but it's the male that sits on the egg until it hatches. He also cares for the chicks for their first 18 months of life in the wild.

In courting the female Emu will resonate a tympani like sound from her air sac, and she will fill the air sac with air as though she were sticking out her chest. The male makes a grunting sound similar to a wild boar. The chicks make a quiet peeping sound.

 

Commercial incubation time is 49-52 days and the percentage of eggs hatch is usually between 70 to 80% if normal sanitation and handling care is taken. Once hatched, chick survival rates are excellent. Once an Emu chick absorbs the yolk sac at about 10 days after hatch, these birds are very hardy and only require normal livestock hygiene and maintenance. The Emu must be hardy, their existence on Earth is believed to exceed 80 million years.

 

In most climates chicks will need shelter despite their rapid growth. Harsher climates place different housing requirements on commercial growers. But in all cases, overcrowding should be avoided.

A mature Emu will yield 4 to 5 liters of raw Emu oil at time of harvest. They also provide 20 to 30 pounds of Iron Rich Red Meat, which is low in fat and cholesterol.

 

 


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