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Guide to Emus in Australia

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Emus, the national bird down under, are not only confined in their native land but now well known in U.S. and Europe. They’re mainly raised as a farm bird, but some privileged individuals got to raise them as pets too. So where does an emu really belong: to the farm or in your backyard?

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Emu Description

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Emus are the second largest bird next to the ostrich. Emu hatchlings can rise up to almost 10 inches and adult emus can grow up to 2 meters high. They have powerful jaw muscles, which make their peck pretty excruciating on your skin, and they also have sharp claws which can hurt people badly.

The Emu Egg

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When you see emu eggs in the wild, it’s not surprising to mistaken the eggs as rocks. Their eggs are green and big laid on a grass nest, which helps conceal the eggs from predators. Emu egg shells are used by decorators, etchers, carvers, painters, etc.—Martha Stewart even featured some artwork made of emu egg shells on her Living Magazine.

Who Can Have Emus

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The big question is can you have emus as pets. For the right—that means moneyed—people, emus can be kept as pets. But for most people, emus are better left to the care of emu farmers. When it comes to pets, emus are a classic example of bigger is NOT better. Keeping emus as pets can be expensive in many respects: shelter, food, veterinary needs, time commitment, etc. To give you a clearer picture about raising emus, here’s a concise emu care sheet.

Emu Pen

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For a pair of emus, the minimum requirement should be at least half an acre of properly fenced pen. Emus will not survive in a small enclosure let alone kept inside a barn or roost all year round. They need wide open space to run, kick, sun bathe, and wallow in the dust. Although the emus are flightless, they can jump over a fence that’s shorter than 7 feet. And the fence should be nothing less than ordinary wood because a single kick from the emu is enough to send a wood plank flying over few meters.

Emus Shelter

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Emus need a roof over their head and walls to protect them during cold season. A pair of emus can be sheltered in 16 feet by 16 feet housing with roof high enough for good ventilation and walls that are good to protect the birds from wind chills. There should be hay or straw to provide cushion and bedding for the emus.

Emus make a pile of mess which should be cleaned every day to keep their shelter from smelling bad. You can’t skip a day without cleaning the shelter if you want clean, healthy emus.

Feeding Emus

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Emus need specialized ratite feeds you can buy from farm supply stores or order online. If you live far from emu or ostrich farms, chances are you can only get ratite feeds by ordering them online. An adult emu can consume 1-2 pounds of ratite feeds a day, so it can be expensive.

For variety and balanced diet, you also need to feed emus with feeder insects, small invertebrates, seeds, nuts, leafy vegetables, etc. Emus even eat macaroni salad, old bread, potato salad, and egg dishes. Besides these alternative foods, you must always keep clean water available to the birds.

Buying Emu Yearlings

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If you’re planning to keep emus as pets, it’s always recommended to get them as yearlings. This way you’ll have ample time to socialize the birds; getting emus as adults result to failure 99% of the time. Buying yearlings are not cheap; the price could start from $500 and could go as high as $1,200 a bird. So make sure you buy only from trusted breeders to ensure the yearlings are healthy.

Caring for Emu Yearlings

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If your emu shelter is just enough to house a pair of emus, it’s best to bring home the yearlings during warmer season. That way you can let the yearlings out on the pen to exercise. Yearlings need their exercise to properly develop their legs.

So if you’re contemplating on having emus as pets, you now have an idea of what to expect.

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