Around the Farmyard
Our first encounter
with emus was through a rescue we
later named Chaka. Watching this
outlandish bird approach our farm
was an intimidating experience. At
the time we were raising Dexter cattle
and I’ll never forget their response.
We use rotational grazing so the emu
went in the front pasture that was
adjacent to where the cows were. The
minute they saw this unique creature
they ran to the back of the field like
They slowly moved for ward, but whenever the bird made a sudden movement
they froze in motion; the looks on their
faces were priceless. Eventually, they
realized fear wasn’t necessary, and Chaka
was moved in with our sheep where he
felt at home.
It was the craziest thing to watch him
graze with our sheep, but they adored
one another! We used him as a guard
animal because few realize that emus are
terrific for protecting small livestock.
An emu itself is rather frightful;
now imagine one chasing an un-
welcomed sky or ground predator.
They can sprint up to 31 mph and
their feet have large claws that
can be quite destructive if used in
defense. They also express their
dislike with a hissing noise that
sometimes even makes the
There was a period when
Chaka had to pasture alone.
He seemed content, but we
often thought he needed a few companions. We decided to add a couple emu
chicks a few summers ago and everything changed when they arrived.
We skipped the hatching process and
purchased off Craigslist.com from a
nearby breeder. They were a month old,
very active, and acted like misbehaving
children. The chick stage was entertaining and not much different from
any other bird we’ve had on the farm;
they were just larger. During the day we
placed them outdoors in protective runs.
By the time they were six weeks old they
were messy and needed additional space
Chaka was excited
about the young emus
we brought him because
the adult males raise their
young. Once we were able
to take the chicks outside and
place them in that protected run he
quickly introduced himself. This set up
was to keep them safe from sky predators
and allow Chaka to interact through the
chicken wire. He would come right up to
the runs and walk that perimeter during
the daylight hours.
At night we brought the young ones back
indoors and placed them together in a
large trough lined with hay, much like a
brooder. This was a daily routine until
they were fully feathered. Emus sleep at
night so they would huddle up and rest
comfortably after settling down.
We waited to introduce the three because
that was recommended by the breeder.
When the young emus were feathered at
about four months old we placed them
all in the pasture. This was a neat day; the
three of them became a new source of
If you decide to raise emus from birth,
you should keep them in a brooder twenty-four hours a day for at least a month
with a heat light. If you decide to pasture
raise and let the adults raise them, you
should stand back and watch nature take
By Carole West