Give them room
Radio interview source: Linda Wilson, owner, Wilson's Feathered Friends
One of my daughter Caroline's favorite books as a child was about Edwin the Emu. He meets Edwina the Emu at the end of the book. Caroline thought they were cute, but to me, these ancient, flightless birds have a face only their mother could love, with big beaks and piercing eyes. But some people see raising emus as a real marketing opportunity.
Linda Wilson raises emus on about two acres, and says they grow up to 6 feet tall and average 150 pounds. This means emus need sturdy housing. They're generally fenced in, but need room to roam.
"The biggest thing is they are fence walkers," Wilson says. "At the very least you need a long pen so if you don't have room for width to a pen, at least get the length in. A lot of our pens are 12 feet wide by about 100 to 150 feet long. That gives them room to stretch out."
With their nine-foot stride, they reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. To raise them strong and healthy, use a special feed designed for emus. It's possible to mix your own, but first talk with your veterinarian.
Watch out for the claw
The tough emu is a three-toed bird with a long claw on each toe, and that's their weapon of choice.
"If they attack, or if they kick at you, it can do a lot of damage," Wilson says. "So for a predator, if you've got two or three of them ganging up on even one dog, they will kill the dog."
Emus aren't usually the best choice of creature to raise if you don't have any experience with livestock. But, the market for their meat is growing, as is the demand for emu oil for medicinal purposes, so there are more producers to turn to now for help. You can buy a two-month-old chick for about $75, or purchase a couple of breeders starting at $500 apiece.
If you want to raise a couple as pets, expect to have them a while. Emus can live 30 years or more!
Raising emus and ostriches: This USDA fact sheet offers guidelines for caring for the birds.
American Emu Association: Read more about raising emus, and marketing emu products.
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