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Welcome to the Leicestershire Emu Information Page
 


 
Livestock

General Information
Why Emus?
Breeding
Chicks
Care of Young Emu Chicks
Eggs
Feeding
Fencing
Health
Housing
Licence
Incubation

General Info -top-

Are native to Australia
May live up to 30 years
Are between 4' and 6'6" tall
Weigh between 80 and 120lbs
Are very inquisitive
Are not aggressive
Mature at 2 years
Lay 30 - 40 dark green eggs in the winter
Incubate for about 56 days
Chicks are about 7" when they hatch
Chicks are striped with speckled heads
Are very hardy in all weathers

Ideal for farming in the UK
Products: Meat, eggs, feathers, oil and leather
Emus (native to Australia) belong to the Ratite family, as do ostriches (native to Africa), rheas (native to South America), cassowaries (native to Australia) and kiwis (native to New Zealand). Emus may be kept for pleasure or farming. They are now farmed in many countries worldwide - New Zealand, Canada, USA, Mexico, Japan, Belgium, France, Scandinavia, UK and others. Domestic farming of emus is relatively new, about 12 years in America and more recently in the UK. Ostriches have been the forerunner in the farming of ratites but emus are smaller, hardier, not aggressive and easier to rear successfully from chicks. Emus are very inquisitive; they are also quite nervous and can therefore easily be frightened by sudden movements or noise. They are generally docile birds and not naturally aggressive. They soon get to know who feeds and cares for them and they quickly learn the daily routine. They are hardy in our variable British weather, often choosing to sit out in rain or snow rather than go inside. They don't like days with strong, cold winds and rain. Like most of us, they enjoy the sunshine. On a warm sunny day, they potter happily around their pen eating, drinking or sunbathing. Emus do not need a lot of space; although the more space they have the less likely you are to have squabbling at breeding time. Remember, like all living things, emus are individuals. They vary in their behaviour, appearance and performance.

Why Emus? -top-

Adult Size: 5' - 6'6" tall
Health: Robust and hardy
Adult Weight: Approx 100lbs
Temperament: Friendly, docile, inquisitive
Lifespan: Approx 30 years
Productive Life: 25years.
Eggs: 30 - 40 per year.
Successful Hatch: 70% - 80%

Emus have the potential to become very successfully farmed in this country. They do not require fertile or good quality ground. They are a 'totally useable bird': meat, eggs, leather, feathers and oil. They are already increasingly and successfully being farmed in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Middle East, Africa and parts of Europe and Scandinavia. If you have experience of rearing poultry, then emus are no more difficult. Their needs are very similar to that of chickens although adult management requires much more space. Breeding pairs may be kept in separate pens or a larger number can be kept as a colony, it depends on the area of land available and personal preference. Emu are a source of excellent meat, fine leather, eggs and eggshells, feathers and oil. Meat. The meat is a red meat, very similar to beef in appearance and taste. It has the healthy attributes that will attract anyone who is conscious of the quality of their diet. It is very low in fat and cholesterol but high in protein. It is therefore very high quality meat. The meat is from the rump and the drumstick, there is no breast meat. A large proportion is suitable for use as steak for frying, grilling and of course is ideal for the bar-b-que - high temperature, quick cooking! Some joints are suitable for roasting and others for casseroles. It can be made into burgers and sausages. The emu has the greatest food to muscle conversion rate in the first year. It is generally ready for slaughter at 14 - 16 months old. This is therefore the most economic age to use for meat. A quality bird should produce about 32 -36lbs of meat at this age.

I have been successfully selling meat into local restaurants, direct to the public through Farmer's Markets and from the farm gate. Leather. The skin produces a very fine quality leather that is used for luxury goods. The skins vary in size, about 8 - 10 sq ft per bird. Major tanning companies require large numbers of skins, but there may be a smaller company near you who would accept smaller numbers. Oil. The oil has of course been used for centuries by the aborigines for cosmetic and medical purposes. There is now, in other countries, considerable research into the oil for its cosmetic and pharmaceutical uses. The fat can be processed to produce an oil that is unsaturated and non toxic. It also has properties that enable it to absorb other substances very easily and to penetrate the skin quickly. Feathers. Craft and fashion applications. They also have anti-static properties, which must have some commercial applications! Eggs. If incubation facilities are available, it is most cost effective to hatch the emu chicks. They lay between November to May and incubation varies from 50 - 60 days. Hatching will be from January to June. The young chicks will therefore need to be kept on heat for varying lengths of time. I offer an incubation service for emu, rhea and ostrich eggs. Eggshells are much in demand by craft 'egg decorators'.

The eggshells are formed in 3 layers, the outer layer is very dark green (like an avocado), the middle layer is a pale blue/green and the inner layer is white, so pictures can be etched or carved into the surface, as well as the Faberge style decoration. Breeding emus in this country is a very new industry. Consequently there are no ready set up channels for marketing your products although there are an increasing number of enthusiastic emu breeders who are working towards setting up such outlets. At present the birds can be slaughtered on site, so local hotels or restaurants are an excellent outlet for such a high quality meat. The number of processing plants, allowing the sale of the meat throughout the UK, is slowly increasing.

Breeding -top-

Emus are not sexually mature until 2 years old. They usually pair up during their second Autumn, ready for mating and egg laying during their second Winter. Emus pair for life. The minimum space needed for 1 x breeding pair is 1/10th acre. It is better to keep emus in pairs, not trios, but if you have a large area available they could be all right in a group. They need enough room to get out of each others way, with some bushes to hide in if they want to. Distinguishing between the males and females from external features is almost impossible. There are some behavioural differences with the male being very friendly and the female being more nervous. Size and colouration are the same. Vent sexing is unreliable. Blood testing is the only positive way to identify the sexes. This costs about £25 per test.

Chicks -top-

Chicks are about 7" tall at hatch. They have black and cream striped bodies with speckledy heads. They can hatch from January to June, so according to weather conditions will need to be kept on heat for variable lengths of time. Chicks can be fed on ordinary chick crumbs mixed with a plentiful supply of finely chopped carrot, apple, lettuce and cabbage. After about a week the chick crumbs can be gradually replaced with chicken layers pellets or a ratite feed if available. Generally the chicks are strong and have a good survival rate. Problems to watch for are leg weakness at hatch. Mild weakness can be rectified if treated early.

Care of Young Emu Chicks -top-

By 3 days old the emu chicks should be active and able to walk confidently around their area/container. They will still spend quite a bit of the day sleeping but over the next few days will become increasingly active.

The temperature should be around 28°c - 30°c. If they are too warm they will move away from the heat source and if they are too cold they will huddle together trying to push underneath each other. Take note of their behaviour and adjust the heat according to their needs. It is important they do not get chilled but they must not be kept too hot otherwise they will not get up and exercise which is also important. The temperature can be reduced by a couple of degrees each day as they become so much more active. They will still need about 28°c - 30°c at night for 2 - 3 weeks depending on the weather conditions. Check them at bedtime to see how comfortable they are. You will soon see if they need some heat. This can also be reduced gradually over the next 3 - 4 weeks.

At a week old they will need a minimum of 6' x 4' more if you have the room, so they can run...and they do....very fast. They become very active not only running but jumping and rolling about on the floor. This strange behaviour is natural to them and I would be concerned if they did not display these energetic antics. As they get bigger they do a lot of running, so a long narrow pen is better than a square one.

If the weather is suitable - not wet or windy, it is beneficial to allow them some time in the sunshine from about 3 - 4 weeks on. Do give them some shade and water. Do not let them get wet. Unexpected showers are enjoyed by the chicks but they can get chilled as their feathers are not waterproof yet.

Emu chicks are not generally prone to impaction but it is better not to give them any coarse material as a floor covering. For the first 3 - 4 days I use old towels as these are warm to sleep on and easy for them to grip so they can learn to stand and walk confidently without slipping. Once they are steady on their feet, newspaper is cheap and easily changed until you can get them outside.

By the 3rd day they should be showing interest in their surroundings and pecking at anything around them. They should start drinking and feeding. They may need a few 'lessons'. They can be fed on chicken chick crumbs for about the first 7 days. Mix this with a plentiful supply of finely chopped carrot, apple, lettuce and cabbage. The bright colours attract them and encourage pecking. After 7 days gradually mix in some chicken layers pellets and reduce the crumbs. It is better to continue with a lower protein feed, so that they do not grow too rapidly. If you can obtain a ratite feed locally that can also be used but chicken feed is usually easily available. They drink quite a lot of water which should of course always be available.

Do not creep up on the chicks and make them jump. They are quite nervous by nature and may become distressed by loud sounds or sudden noises. Talk to them as you approach so they know someone is coming before they see you. They will soon recognise your voice.

Eggs -top-

These are laid from about November to May. She will lay one egg approximately every third day. The male incubates them in the wild, but if you keep removing them she will lay more. About a dozen the first season, increasing up to around 30 in the second. Average number of eggs from a mature pair is 30 - 40 per year. Incubation takes 50-60 days. In this country the eggs have been shown to hatch well with a good survival rate for chicks. Any infertile eggs are welcomed by craft people who carve them as well as decorate them in various styles. They have a dark green shell that resembles an avocado pear but bigger, under the dark green layer is a blue/green layer and under that is the usual creamy white colour. The eggs can be eaten and used for cooking. They weigh around 500g - 600g and are equivalent to about 10 hens eggs.

Feeding -top-

Emus are omnivores, like chickens. They range on grass, weeds, leaves, seeds, fruit, insects and other small living things (even small mammals I'm told). If you do not have a feed producer near to you who makes a ratite feed then poultry layers pellets are acceptable. About 1 - 1.5lbs each, per day, this ensures basic nutrients. They also like rolled peas and rolled wheat. They like chopped carrots, cabbages, lettuce or other greens when available. Apples chopped or crushed underfoot (otherwise they will swallow them whole).

Fencing -top-

The fencing needs to be strong and secure. Emus are not natural escapees but if they are frightened they will run into fencing and they can jump very high. My fencing is 5' heigh. It can be weldmesh or chainlink but I use two runs of sheep netting, one above the other costs a lot less. Do not have any sharp edges or wires sticking out and definitely do not use barbed wire. Make sure that there are no objects like water containers or straw bales near the fence as they will jump up onto them and then over the fence. They jump 3' - 4' without any effort. Other criteria, like the proximity of public highways and neighbours may well vary the type of fencing required. Do not leave a gap at the bottom as you do for Ostriches. The Emus will push under it.

Health -top-

As birds, they are susceptible to any of the usual bird infections. These can be transmitted by wild birds, other birds that you may also rear and by people visiting. If you keep other poultry you will be familiar with such diseases and the importance of hygiene and the symptoms of common ailments. Having said this, emus are very hardy and therefore healthy providing the usual sensible routines are followed.

Housing -top-

Emus do not need to be shut in at night, except when very young. Once they are big enough not to be taken by the fox they just need a 3 x sided shelter so they can choose to go in if they wish. I have not found the foxes to be any problem with adults. I suspect the Emus would see them off quite quickly. Young emus will huddle together to keep warm and the adults sleep in small groups outside against a shelter or under bushes rather than inside. They do need somewhere to shelter in very bad weather or hot sunshine.

Licence -top-

Emus no longer require a Dangerous Wild Animal Licence.  It was removed from the Schedule in October 2007.

Incubation -top-

It is the male Emu that incubates the eggs in the wild. He sits on the eggs for 52 – 60 days and then cares for the chicks when they hatch. In captivity they will sit successfully and raise chicks. They make very good fathers.


If the eggs are removed from the nest on a regular daily basis, the female will lay more eggs than if you leave them for him to incubate. They need careful handling and attention if you plan to use an incubator. For further details of my incubation service for Emu, Ostrich and Rhea eggs please contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Contact: Leicestershire Emus and Rheas, 31 Newbold Road, Kirkby Mallory, Leicestershire LE9 7QG
Tel: 01455 823344   Fax: 01455 828273   email: email@leicestershireemus.com