BLACK BEARS sybils den
Welcome to Sybil's Den.  This site is meant for information purposes  on raising  pet exotics animals based on my experience.  There are care sheets for black bears, foxes, raccoons, emus, farm animals and domestic animals.   Also please find a very informative message board with a lot of great members.

For some of the species of animals I have or had information on, You will find their photo gallery.

Home Page
Care Sheets
Fox Breeders
Fox Q&A
Message Board
Pet Poems
Pet Steer
State Regulations
Lite A Candle
Vet Listings




What are Emus?

The emu is a member of the ratite family,  as are ostriches, rheas, kiwi and cassowary.

An Emu's characteristics are, small wings and a breastbone with no keel.  They are generally originated from all continents south of the equator, except for Antarctic. Emu's  do not get as big as an ostrich.  They grow to about 5 - 6 feet tall from their head.  They are very gentle birds and some are friendly, depending on how they are raised.
However, they do have sharp claws that could really hurt a person if you try to catch one that is not friendly or sick.

Some farmers  use emus for their meat, the meat is very lean and has a taste similar to beef.
The emu's oil if a highly penetrating, hypo-allegenic  oil with cosmetic and medical applications.

The Emu is a native of Australia and was originally imported to the United States from 1930-1950 as exotic zoo stock.
The average adult weights between 110 and 140 pounds..  Their height is about 5-1/2 feet tall.

The female emu can lay eggs for about 20 years. She begins to lay about the age of two or three years.   The female emu can lay 20-50 eggs per year. Their eggs are editable and taste like chicken eggs if scrambled.

The emu's life span is suppose to be about 25-35 years.
Emus can generally adapt to most climates and may be raised anywhere in the U.S.
Emu's should have some type of shelter for cold winters and shade for summer.

Emu's are generally pretty hardy, can develop intestine worms. It is a good practice to give your emu "Ivomec" or similar several times a year. It can be bought in a paste form.  There are other preventative that can be bought in a powder form to put in their water.

Generally Emu's can be put with livestock with no problem.  However, a introductory should be done first.

The Emu is the second largest bird in the world and is very docile. They enjoy the companionship of people and can be curious, playful and friendly.  Emu's can have their own personalities. 

What type of shelter/Fence does an Emu Need?

Fences should be tall enough to prevent the emus from escaping over the top.  If an emu gets spooked for some odd reason, they will attempt to jump the fence.  The minimum height should be about 6 foot.rocky the emu

Use fencing that is safe so the emu won't get his/her head stuck or tear its feathers or hide..  
Fencing such as chain link or cattle link can be used.  If using china link, sure to use double knuckled wire. The emu could cut their neck and die using the type that is barbed.  Place the fence post on the outside of the fence.

The larger you can afford to make the pen, the better.  The pen can also be long and narrow.
Emu's generally walk the fence line.  This is normal behavior for emus.

Emu's require some type of shade.  They should also have a some type of shelter, even if it is only three sided.  However, emu's can withstand pretty cold temperatures.  But, if the temperature reaches 10 or less,
it would be a good idea to walk them into their house.  I use to do this with mine.  Once they got there, they stayed there.  Also, put some straw in their shelter.
 Emus Nutrition
Emu's are generally hardy and disease resistant.  They have survived for thousands of years in their Australia, at time with little or no food.  The adults consume large quantities of green vegetation, fruits, berries and vegetables and insects and lizards.
Digestive Systems
All animals are considered in three basic categories, which depends on the type of digestive tract and food sources:

1.  Herbivorous (Ostrich and rhea)
Animals that graze and have larger, more complex digestive system.  Grass is made largely of cellulose and has carbohydrates and these are broken down by a process called "fermentation to derive substance levels of nutrients.   Beneficial microorganisms perform the fermentation or digestion through this extensive breakdown of plant material. 
2.  Omnivorous  ( Emu and Poultry)
Omnivorous consume both plants and animals.  The fermentation process is less important because lower amounts at structural carbohydrates are typically consumed.  The digestive tract is less complex than that of the herbivores.
3.  Carnivorous (Dogs, Cats and Man)
The digestive tract of a carnivores is fairly simple because its diet is mostly  meat or meat products.

The emu is very very similar to chickens and turkeys.  They all eat plants and small animals, so this would classify the emu in the "omnivorous category.
1. Short gut length in relation to body size
2. Diet deficiency symptoms and abnormalities
3. Same natural food sources such as: grubs, insects, seeds, vegetation, crustaceans.

Emu's have fairly efficient gut function.  The feed passes through the digestive tract in approximately 6-8 hours; as opposed to the ostrich which takes approximately 48 hours.  Because of the shorter time spent in the gut, the higher quality food should be ingested with nutrients that are readily available for absorption. Therefore, the utilization of feeds high in crude fiber is better than originally thought.

The cecum found at the beginning of the large intestine is the organ which breaks down food is broken by microbial action (fermentation).  The more indigestible the fiber, the longer it takes to complete this process.  A diet high in fiber will slow down the rate at which feed is digested.

Feeding an Emu Chick
For the first few days, the egg yoke nourishes the chick.  Water should be given to the chick on the second day.  Vitamin B and electrolytes can be added to their water to prevent possible deficiencies. This should be used for a minimum of two weeks.

By the 4th day, you can offer the emu chick some chopped greens and vegetables in addition to the starter crumbles from your farm store.  The feed should NOT be over 16% protein and should be well fortified with vitamins/minerals.  Do not get the feed that has the medication in it. 

Feed chicks twice a day.  Do not place the feed under the heat lamp as, it could destroy valuable vitamins and other nutrients. 

When changing feed type, always do this gradually.  in other words, if when the chicks are ready for a different type of feed, slowing add it into the current feed.

If supplementation of calcium is necessary, utilize a mineral containing both calcium and phosphorus.  NEVER GIVE SHELL TO GROWING BIRDS.

Emu chicks require plenty of fresh water. This is important, because it carries all the nutrients to every part of the body in addition to cooling and detoxifing  the body.
Feeding Adult Emus

Emus will eat a feed called "Ratite feed". However, you must be careful when buying feed for emus or any other ratites, especially at a young age.  Make sure the feed is fresh and in-date.

Once you purchase the feed, stick to the same brand. This is very important mostly at a young age. If you have  young emus (under 6 months) You should feed them ratite grower. If you cannot find the ratite feed, then you can use the turkey/game finisher. DO NOT USE TURKEY STARTER.

Turkey/game finisher is cheaper and seems to agree with these birds.  As a snack, they love apples sliced thin, grapes, and other fruits.

Alfalfa pellets is can also be fed to emus.  This is "free choice" and is a safe feed and is high in fiber.
Other food choices are greens, such as kale, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, carrots, fruits that are high in fiber. Hand feeding these treats is a great way to tame your emu.

If you can grow rye grass in their pen, that would be good for your emu also.

Emus must have  fresh  daily. vitamins and electrolytes should be added to the emus water once a week during the summer.
Emu's Breeding/Eggs
At the beginning of breeding season, which generally begins in  the summer months,  (July or August)
But the actual laying season, which generally begins around October and could last until May. 

The female will begin to force air in and out of a a special air sac that will make a very distinctive booming noise.  The male does not have an air sac.  He makes grunting noise  similar to a pig.   The male emu struts with his feathers fluffed out.

About one month before breeding season begins, the breeder birds should have a 20% to 22% protein feed and remain continue on this feed until the laying season is completed. 

When the female emu is going to lay, you will notice her pacing the fence line several hours before dark.
Make sure she is not disturbed.

After the egg is is laid, the male will sometimes try to cover the egg with hay/straw/dirt/leaves, or whatever he can find.  He you plan on using a incubator, the egg should be collected as soon as possible to avoid soiled, stepped on, or broken. 

The female emu will lay their egg about every four days.  However, that is not "written in stone".
Generally, if the female lays every four days, she most likely will continue to lay every four days.
The time between egg laying could vary.

Female emus generally lay their eggs at dark.

The most important factors in the incubation hatching period are:
1. Temperature
2. Humidity
3. Fresh Air Flow
4. Egg Rotation
5. Rotation
The following are the Most commonly used Indicators:
Room Temperature 70-80F
Incubation Temperature 96-98F
Hatcher Temperature 97-98F
Relative Humidity 25-60%
Wet Bulb Temperature 72-85F
Incubation Period 47-53 days
(It will be necessary to make adjustments as your climate dictates).

The first one or two eggs which are laid each year may prove to be infertile or may be smaller than normal.
It eggs in the incubator are not developing and become rotten, they will have  an offensive odor.
A rotten egg can explode and contaminate the incubator.
If you find an egg that is sweating, remove it.

An infertile egg may go full term without having a visual effect.  The infertile egg will feel loose and slush at some point during incubation.  As you handle the eggs every three to four days, you should notice this situation.,
Open the incubator once a day to check for odors.

Health Issues in Emus

A emu chick with a navel that has not drawn in properly is susceptible to contaminations of the yolk sac or an infected navel.   Check the newborn check often and check for smelly fluids leaking from the navel. If this is present, this is a sign of infection. The emu chick will then require antibiotics or surgery to save the chick.

Even if there is no fluids leaking from the navel, a lethargic, run down chick may be experiencing yolk sac problems.

If the chick don't pass a dark green stool within five days after hatching is not using the yolk sac and will probably further problems resulting in death if no treated.  If after five to seven days your chick makes no effort to eat or drink and has a large swollen stomach that feels hard to touch, there is reason to believe that the yolk sac is not being utilized properly or may possibly be infected. The chick will probably not grow at a normal weight and will seem slow and lethargic as the problem manifest itself.

if an emu is discovered laying down more than a few days, it should be checked for illness or injury.
An emu that walks around with its head hung low and eyes closed most of the time is cause for a concern.
Possible causes could be: Impaction or internal or external injury.

If the emu makes several attempts to defecate with no success and its tail or rump seems to remain up in the air,
this sign could be impaction.  Tube feeding with Metamucil or Mineral oil could bring relief to the emu.
You could also try using a syringe to get the treatment in the emu.

Emus have been known to swallow wire, nails or sticks that have gotten hung up in the guy and do not ever pass.
If this is the case, the emu will probably go off its feed and eventually go down or possibly continue to east but, lose weight.

If is important to check the emu's pen often  for any foreign objects that could be dangerous to him/her.

Egg Bound
If a hen is overdue to lay an egg and has become egg bound, she will act much like a emu that is impacted.  She will squat and get up several  times attempting to lay the egg.  You may want to give her a day or two to lay the egg on her own. 

After that you should catch the bird and insert your finger into the cloaca to feel for the egg.  If she is egg bound, you should feel a smooth, hard surface at about the depth of your finger.

If the weather is extremely cold, try to keep her warm.  If the weather is not the problem, then you can fill a large feeding syringe with a soft rubber catheter tube attached with warm K-Y jelly.   Insert the catheter tube into the cloaca about 6" -8" attempting to get the tip of the tube up beside the egg and push the warm K-Y up into the oviduct.  Then leave the emu to lay the egg on her own for another day

It this did not work, you can try  again or call your vet.

Injury in emus
If the emu has an external injury, clean the would wound yourself or call the vet, depending on the extent of the injury.  If you treat the wound, gently scrub with warm water. Then apply an antibiotic ointment or Neosporin.
In the warm months, you have to make sure the wound is kept clean and ointment is applied a couple times a day.
You have to watch out for maggots.  You can also try spraying "blue-kote" this helps seal the wound and keep dirt and flies off the wound.  The wound should be checked several times a day.

Parasites in Emus
Emus are susceptible to several internal worms. Preventative wormer should be given to the emu about once a month, especially in the fall season.  There is one internal parasite that I know of that is deadly, if the emu is not treated regularly.   This worm works its way through their nervous system, then slowly paralyzes the emu. This is something you don't want to every have to witness. It is  very heartbreaking to see your emu suffer in this manner. If the emu is infected with this parasite, the emu will have have a slow and painful death.  Generally, once this parasite reaches the nervous system, there is not much that can be done.

To prevent worms in your emu, treat them with "Ivomectin" This comes in a paste form and is generally pretty easy to administer, assuming your emu is friendly. The push tube usually is marked for the weight.   An emu usually weighs between 110-140 pounds. You can also give the injectable if the emu looks like a very beginning of an intestinal worm problem.(but, this is not guaranteed to work)  
It is also OK to give the "injectable" Ivomectin orally rather than through an injection. This could be use in lieu of the Ivomectin paste.

Panacur/safeguard/fenbendazole isnt very effective on anything other then some intestinal worms and some tapeworms.

What are Rheas?
Rheas almost look like ostriches. They are in the Ostrich family also. They do not get quite as big as the Emus do.  They grow to about 4-5 feet from their head... Rheas come in several different colors.

We had the all white with blue eyes and the grey Rhea's.. The male rheas get very protective of  any female rheas.  Most of the male rhea's get very nasty.  They bite very hard. Ozzie the white rhea bit my thumb one time, and literally took a chunk out of it. Sorry to say, but we  butchered him.

The meat is like a very lean beef.. Now the female's are not mean at all. They are friendly and will come to you and peck at your hand, but in a more curious of way.  They don't really hurt you.  However, they do seem to peck a little harder than the emu does.
I DON'T  recommend rheas as pets. The Emus have a much better disposition and personality.

General Information on Rhea's and Emu's

Emu's and Rhea's can run up to 40 miles an hour. They are excellent swimmers, however, Rocky our emu has access to our pond anytime he wants, but I have never seen him go in the pond. but I have heard in the wild they will swim..

These type of birds are very interesting to watch. They  don't eat much. Overall they are pretty easy to care for.
Except for the parasites. As long as you treat the emu with ivomec  accordingly.

Please see message board for more information on emus.

Emus also get along fine with most other animals. Emu's are easy going ratites. But most emus prefer a companion.
PLEASE NOTE: This above information is NOT to be use in place of a vet. The information is based on my experience and research I have done.