Looking for emu gender and enclosure info

Discussion in 'Ostriches, Emu, Rheas' started by gardenfairy, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. gardenfairy

    gardenfairy In the Brooder

    Oct 15, 2012
    I'm not planning on getting emus for a couple of years, but am currently working on designing the run fencing and housing. I've read all the books and documents I can find on them, which has been great for general husbandry and such, but has mostly been commercial information and I'm strictly interested in pets so now I'm looking for some firsthand info from more pet-minded folks.

    In particular, I'm wondering what alternatives to keeping a breeding pair folks have found to work best - i.e. an individual male or an individual female (I work out of my house and am in and out of the field all day, everyday) or two males or two females. Also, what do the personality/behavior differences between the genders (if any) tend to be and how accurate is emus sexing?

    Additionally, I'm wondering about other random emu likes that the commercial info might have left out - if they want a shallow pond for bathing (and if so, what depth you've found to work best) or if they prefer a sandy pit for dust baths (or both). If they don't like the rain and would like a large covered area to hang out under during the day in addition to the barn or if they don't mind getting wet. I live in western Washington so we get a lot of cool rain - my ducks and geese think it's the best thing ever, but if it's so much as sprinkling my goats won't come out from under their covered play areas.

    Any other suggestions for additions to pen / enclosures / barns or anything you've found that emus just seem to love or hate, would be highly appreciated. Thanks so much!
  2. Hi, Gardenfairy!

    Lone emu? I’m a hard case; I like the idea that there be at least a pair – but that’s just me. (Got lots of space? Note that space is pivotal; give them all the space you can – did I mention space?)

    I’ll let some one else comment on significantly different behaviours in the sexes. DNA emu-sexing is bullet-proof accurate. Otherwise, yes, it’s hard to tell them apart: they really don’t start vocalising differently until they’re nearly adult.

    Emus love water. They swim well. Emus are seriously waterproof, and pet owners (I have tame emus) report that shelters are assiduously ignored.

    Gardenfairy, emus have a marked habit of grabbing and swallowing shiny objects. You will save yourself heartache if you ensure – and I mean on your knees yard by yard – that the enclosure is free of nails and glass and anything else sharp or shiny.

    Fences are the big big big bugbear. Consensus is that highest and strongest is bestest. Moreover, it’s wise to ensure that the fence has no chunks of wire sticking out, or spots where foolish birds can injure themselves, for example, by getting their leg locked into mesh. It’s been the source of heartache for a number of us.

    I would like to see you and all other captive-bird owners put shrubs and the like in the enclosures. This gives a bird a chance to be out of line-of-sight of its pen-mates, which should help defuse squabbles.

    [Lots of good info at : http://nswfmpa.org/Husbandry%20Manuals/Published%20Manuals/Aves/Emu.pdf and there is another similar on this site somewhere.]

    It would also be an interesting experiment to seed the enclosure with something that the birds like that will grow ‘wild.’ Something like clover, perhaps.

    Supreme Emu
  3. gardenfairy

    gardenfairy In the Brooder

    Oct 15, 2012
    Hey Supreme Emu!

    Thank you so very much for the fantastic info. With indoor exotic birds I’ve found some more than happy with a human companionship while others just really need their own kind and I want happy emus so if they prefer a partner that’s great by me. I have acerage so space isn’t a problem – it’s more the economics of fencing that’s the restrictor so I don’t feel as if I’d be able to adequately fence an area for more than two birds.

    My only concern is that I’ve run into aggression problems with keeping two of some other species even in large flight situations and I don’t want to run into a case where I’m having to build separate housing for two emus that just can’t get along if two living together is socially awkward for the species.

    Some of the sources I’ve read have made the females sound more dominate and say that females will be more apt to fight, but they’ve been vague about how well males do or don’t tend to get along. I’m assuming that most breeders vent sex chicks, or is DNA sexing common for emus?

    Perfect! That’s exactly what I needed to know. Like I said, my goats – first rain drop and they migrate to one of the covered areas, but I’ve talked to sheep owners who have said that sheep won’t even notice covered areas and I wasn’t sure where emus fell on the spectrum. And I can definitely put in water for bathing.

    Thank you for mentioning the interest in shiny objects as well – the ducks and geese are the same way so I’m neurotic about checking for them and will be sure to do the same for the emus.

    Excellent on the fencing as well – I’m looking at no climb horse fence, which I used for my goats and it’s worked really well. The tallest that’s available locally here is 6’. I can get deer fencing up to 8’, but it’s a much weaker fence so I was thinking about doing the 6’ with angled extenders mounted on top to prevent jumping.

    That’s a very good note on the shrubs. The area I’m looking at would include at least one tree, but if they like vegetation, the area of the field I was going to fence off for them borders woods and I could extend the fencing into the woods so they could run around under the trees and in the shrubs, too.

    Thank you for the excellent link! I don’t think I’ve read that one yet. And if they like clover, I could definitely seed the area with more clover. I keep honey bees so any chance to sneak in more clover works fabulously for everyone here.

    Thank you again for the info!
  4. chickenzoo

    chickenzoo Emu Hugger

    I have found.them to do best in pairs if raised up together. Adult Emu can be very picky about mates...but if grown up together they seem to do fine. I have.had males together that were fine until breeding season...then one became aggressive to the other. Two females that have grown up together may be fine...but u are like people and have different personalities. But if you are wanting pets...males are the friendless so a pair may be your best bet.
    Fencing height differs depending on wash situation.... If you.get a young pair and raise them up...then a.five.foot fence mY be fine. If you get adults already set intheir ways id go 6ft. Problems arise.when you have more than a pair and they start bulling each other. My one male Merlin hates any other Emu besides his girl. He will jump the.fence just to go after them. He will chase Henry.across five.acres not stop... More Emu equal more.fence problems.
    Most Emu don't use a.barn..but I find some.of mine laying with the other animals in there. A small lean to that blocks cold wind in a.corner may be used. Emu like corners to lay in.
    Water....they love it...love to swim in ponds and kiddie pools or be sprayed with the hose.
    They also are dirt eaters.you will see th consume a lot of dirt.
    I like to think of an Emu as a cross.between a horse and a chicken. They are big fight or flight animals that need a lot of space...good fencing...and are.curious as all get out. They also get.horse shots once or twice yearly. And worming.
    You will be surprised how affectionate they can be.
  5. gardenfairy

    gardenfairy In the Brooder

    Oct 15, 2012
    Excellent! I was hoping it might be the case that two little guys raised together would be more likely to get along. And so it is still the males that have breeding season aggression, but more outgoing – that’s exactly what I was wondering.

    And thank you for the fencing info – I was already going six foot, but was concerned that wasn’t high enough so that’s good to hear. I always have fencing paranoia. It sounds as if poor Henry definitely gets his exercise in.

    Good to know that they like corners, too, and that sounds absolutely adorable with them playing in the water. I’ve never met a bird of any species I haven’t adored and these fellows indeed sound like the ultimate bird.

    Thanks so much for all the wonderful info!
  6. Hey Gardenfairy:
    I don't have anything to add. I agree with everything that you have been told. I use 6' fencing, as much to keep the birds in as well as keep any predators out. Sexing by observation can be very challenging. I have one two year old bird that I'm still not sure if it is a male or a female and I'm not sure that it knows either!!! I also have two males that were nest mates and had always been inseparable and when the breeding season started this year, the larger one turned on the smaller (but taller) one and I'm not sure what the outcome would have been if I had not separated them. And the most important thing of all, you cannot have too big of pen!
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
  7. Alexis39

    Alexis39 Hatching

    Oct 25, 2012
    Emu's are fun to have. I have a female that has a wonderful personality. She is almost 17 years old now. Her mate died about 9 years ago but loves being around our horses, donkeys and cattle. She has her own pen that we put her into every evening before it gets dark. In summer she has a fan to keep her cool and winter and heating lamp. Yes, she is spoilt. She eats out of my hand and I can go into her pen and sit down and talk to her, when I do that, she sits down in front of me, she does not feel threatened in any way and she seems to understand everything we say to her. In summertime, she loves to sit by the water tub and be hosed down, we do have a small water hole but she does not really go in there and lay in the water.

    The females make a drumming sound and they sound just like a drum being beat.

    They can live up to 35 years or more if taken care of but they are so much fun to have around, not to mention you will never find a snake on your property.
  8. Alexis, how long have you had that bird? I mean, have you had her most of 17 years? That would be interresting to hear about.

    Supeme E
  9. mamaluvschick

    mamaluvschick In the Brooder

    Feb 26, 2012
    Kersey Colorado, USA
    Thank-you so much for all this info. We were given a male emu today. Never thought of having one, but this family lost their home and needed a home for him. We have him in a pen with our goats and guineas, but am wondering if I could just put him in with our horses? The fence is about 5-6ft. high. Do they crawl through small spaces like goats? I have chicken feed for him is that good enough? I am so glad that I can get help from people who raise emus and love them. I would appreciate all the info I can get.
  10. Congratulatins, mamaluvschick!

    Others will advise on fence-creeping under.

    Ordinary stuff? Talk to [name of emu here] all the time. Move quietly and smoothly at all times. Get him used to some sound – my birds all know the sound of tapping on the bottom of a tin plate (containing wheat). If you ever need to calm your bird, or lure it out of somewhere, sit and talk quietly while tapping on its dish.
    Expensive treats seem almost superfluous. Emus luuurrrv lots of cheap-ish treats like sultanas.

    And if you feel like it, learn something about emus. They are not only goofy and loveable pets, they are a life-form with a fascinating and singular evolutionary history. Then you can casually say, 'Yes, this is our dinosaur.'

    Supreme Emu

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