Keeping an Emu as a Pet

Emu Overview

Emu are often thought to be dangerous and aggressive creatures, but I have found that mostly untrue . They are very inquisitive and social creatures that just happen to look like a dinosaur and react on instinct like most prey animals. Not saying those three big toes that hold very sharp claws are not dangerous, but Emu in general do not go slashing feet around without reason. Emu use those claws as protection and will stomp or kick out at anything they see as a threat, but their beak seems more the business end when dealing with a pet Emu. The only time I find my Emu dangerous is when trying to grab them and hold them still or load them into a trailer. Their instinct is to run away, and if held down they are likely to kick out and put up a fight trying to get away.

An Emu’s beak has a hardened tip with almost serrated edges carved at an angle on the inside edges. They use these as teeth in a sense, for tearing and holding grasses, small reptiles and the occasional shiny object they confiscate from the distracted visitor. Emu also use their beaks to investigate things. They can be very careful and softly pick up ……peck at an object or they can be very strong and quickly grab something then lock on. It is after all, the only way to pick up things if you don’t have arms……..

The eyes of the Emu are big ,brown an expressive. They are sight animals and extend their long necks upward to view things at a good distance. Their long eyelashes help keep out dirt and debris and shade their eyes from the sun. You can tell a lot about an Emu’s attitude and mood by their eyes.

For pet purposes or livestock guardians I highly suggest you get an Emu chick under a month old. This will make socializing your Emu much easier.

How to raise your Emu

Pet Emu are often raised like chickens, just with a lot more space. As chicks a brooder such as a big plastic bin purchased from your local store, the biggest you can get, a heat lamp and a layer of newspaper covered with non skid liner works well. You want your Emu chick to get good traction and room to move those legs so it does not develop leg issues such as splayed leg etc. Medicated Chick Starter is typically fed to Emu chicks up until they are old enough to graze on grasses and pick at insects, then they are often switched to a Emu chow. Ask your feed dealer if they can order it for you. My Emu however decided they did not care for the specialized Emu chow and so they get fed a mix of sweet feed, dog food, catfish chow,wild bird seeds and chicken feed. They also enjoy some veggies such as broccoli and some fruits, but each Emu is an individual and have different tastes.

Walking is very important for a Emu chicks development. The more space you can give them growing up, the better developed physically and mentally they will be. Expose your baby to everything you can, people, animals, sites and sounds. I also rub a Emu chick all over and pay special attention to their legs. Emu often do not like their legs touched, as it is their only means of escape. The more you touch their legs as chicks, the easier it will be as adults. Just remember,the more things your Emu is exposed to as a chick, will result in a more socialized and better natured Emu.

Emu and other Animals

I take my Emu chicks out with me to feed up all the other animals. This helped form a relationship between the farm animals and the Emu and then the farm animals became “their flock” which is very important to teach an Emu. You want your Emu to help guard your farm and all the animals on it, you do not want your Emu to see any of your animals as a threat. This will help teach the Emu friend from intruder. I always keep any new animals with in sight of my Emu, but not with them, until the Emu know they belong there and are now part of “the flock”. Otherwise introducing a new animal to their area could end up horribly. My Emu are out with everything from the smallest breeds of chickens,turkey, peafowl, goats, sheep, mini horses, mini zebu, horses, llama and alpaca. They also team up with our Great Pyrenees dogs. I use Emu now to also guard the livestock, as they will protect their flock and stomp , bite and kick any stray dog or animal that comes in their space. They are also good for keeping people out of your yard, as most people are terrified of a 5ft bird that looks like a dinosaur.

I also suggest teaching your emu to accept a harness. I use a small two loop dog harness. Believe me, when an Emu gets older this can be a life saver. MOVING AN EMU AROUND IS PRETTY EASY AS A CHICK, BUT NOT SO EASY AS AN ADULT. Training them to respect a harness and be led is very helpful, especially if your Emu gets loose. When they out grow a harness and need to be led, the best way is to stand behind them and grab each “arm” and steer them from behind. An Emu can kick forward and sideways, so stay clear of those areas. Emu will also thrash their legs if they fall over and get scared. Be very careful approaching a downed Emu.

Emu can be very good jumpers, but I know many people that keep them contained in a 4 ft fence. Higher is better, especially if you live near a busy road. They often will not challenge a fence unless scared or overly excited and flip over the barrier, but once they do they can run very very fast. I have seen our two male Emu fight through corral panels and almost scale over them in the process. Hot wire is not affective fencing with an Emu as the feathers often isolate them from the shock, and even when they get shocked it takes them longer for it to register, but hot tape may act as a visual barrier but should never be used by itself. Again, Emu are not the smartest creature and forget things quickly, LOL.

See Emu as Pets for more information.

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