How to start emu farming

Emu belongs to the ratite group and has high economic value for their meat, oily skin and the feathers.

These birds are adaptable to varied climatic conditions.

Emu and ostrich have gained much importance in many countries.

Although the birds are not ramped in Nigeria.

Ratite birds have poorly developed wings and include emu, ostrich, rhea and many more.

Emu and Ostrich are reared commercially in many parts of the world for their meat and oily, skin and feathers, which are high economic value.

The anatomical and physiological features of these birds appear to be suitable for temperate and tropical climatic conditions. These birds can be well maintained on extensive and semi-intensive rearing systems with reasonably high fibrous diets.

United state, Australia and China are leading in emu farming.

Features of Emu birds

Emu has a long neck, relatively small naked head, three toes, and body covered with feathers birds initially have longitudinal stripes on body 0-3 months of age then gradually turn to brown by 4-12 months. Mature birds have bare blue neck and mottle body feathers. Adult birds height is about 6ft with a weight of 45-60kg. Legs are long covered with scaly skin adaptable to hardy and dry soil.

Natural food of emu is insects, tender leaves of plants and forages. It also eats different kinds of vegetables and fruits like carrot, cucumber, papaya and many more.

Female is the larger of the two, especially during breeding season when the male may fast. The female is the dominant member of the pair. Emu lives for about 30 years. It may produce eggs for more than 16 years. The birds can be maintained as a flock or pair.

Now let’s see the birds management

Emu chicks weigh about 370 to 450 g (about 67% of egg weight) depending on the size of the egg. First 48-72 hours, emu chicks are restricted to an incubator for quick absorption of the yolk and proper drying. Clean and disinfect brooding shed thoroughly and well in advance of receiving chicks, spread litter (paddy husk) and cover new gunny bags or burlap over the litter. Arrange a set of brooder for about 25-40 chicks giving 4 set per chick for first 3 weeks. Provide a brooding temperature of 900F at first 10 days and 850F till 3-4 weeks. Proper temperature makes the brood successful. Provide sufficient water mugs of a liter capacity and the equal number of feeder troughs under the brooder. A chick guard must be 2.5 feet height to avoid jumping and straying of chicks. A 40-watt bulb should burn in the brooder shed throughout the day for every 100 ft area. After 3 weeks of age, slowly extend the brooder area by widening the chick guard circle and later remove it by the time chicks attain 6 weeks. Feed starter mash for the first 14 weeks or till attaining standard body weight of 10 kg. Ensure proper floor space for the birds housed, as these birds require run space for their healthy life. 30 ft run space is required; hence floor space of 40ft x 30ft is required for about 40 chicks if outdoor space is provided. The floor must be easily drained and free from dampness.

special advice

  • Never overcrowd the pen
  • For the first few days, provide sanitized water and anti-stress agents
  • Clean the waters daily, otherwise, automatic waters are preferable
  • Monitor the birds daily for their comfort, feed intake, water intake, litter condition etc for making immediate corrections if any.
  • Ensure proper mineral and vitamins in the feed for healthy growth of chicks and to avoid leg deformities.
  • Practice all- in -all-out rearing to maintain better biosecurity
  • Never handle the birds during hot hours.
  • Birds easily excite. Hence, the calm and quiet environment in the pen is required
  • Birds easily grab any item, so avoid certain objects like nails, pebbles etc in the vicinity of birds
  • Avoid unauthorized persons, material into the farm. Proper biosecurity must be ensured
  • Never keep the birds on smooth and paddy husk spread surface, as the young chicks easily excite, run and break their legs due to slipperiness.

Grower Management

Emu chicks grow, they require bigger size waterers and feeders and increased floor space. Identify sexes and rear them separately. If necessary, place sufficient paddy husk in the pen to manage the litter in good and dry condition. Feed the birds on grower mash till birds attain 34 weeks age or 25 kg body weight. Offer greens to about 10% of diet particularly different kinds of leaf meals for making the birds adapt to fibrous diets. Provide clean water all the time and offer feed as much as they want. Ensure dry litter condition throughout the grower stage. If necessary, add the required quantity of paddy husk to the pen.    Provide 40ft x 100 ft space for 40 birds if outdoor space is considered. The floor must be easily drained and avoid dampness. Restrain the younger birds by securing the body by sideways and hold the body firmly. Sub-adults and adults can be secured by holding the wing by side way and by grabbing both the wings and place by dragging closely to handling a person’s legs. Never allow the bird to kick. The bird can kick sideways and front ways. Hence, better securing and firm holding is necessary to avoid harming the bird as well as the person.

  • Monitor flock at least once daily for the alertness of birds, feeding and watering troughs
  • Notice leg deformities and droppings. Identify and isolate ailing birds
  • Practice all- in –all- out the system. Never keep in the vicinity of the adult birds
  • Never keep sharp objects, pebbles in the vicinity of the birds. Birds are mischievous and grab anything that comes in their vicinity.
  • Never handle or disturb the birds for restraining or vaccination during the hot weather conditions.
  • Provide cool and clean water throughout the day.

Breeder management

Emu birds attain sexual maturity by 18- 24 months ago. Keep the sex ratio of male to female as 1:1. In the case of pen mating, pairing should be done based on the compatibility. During mating, offer floor space of about 2500 ft (100 x 25) per pair. Trees and shrubs may be provided for privacy and to induce mating. Offer breeder diet well in advance i.e 3- 4 weeks prior to breeding programme, and fortify with minerals and vitamins to ensure better fertility and hatchability in birds. Normally, adult bird consumes 1 kg feed /day. But during the breeding season, feed intake will be drastically reduced. Hence intake of nutrients must be ensured.

The first egg is laid at around two and a half years of age. Eggs will be laid during October to February, particularly cooler days of the year. The time of egg laying is around 5.30 to 7.00 PM. Eggs can be collected twice daily to avoid damage in the pen. Normally, a hen lays about 15 eggs during the first-year cycle, In subsequent years, the egg production increases till it can reach about 30-40 eggs. On an average, a hen lays 25 eggs per year. Egg weighs about 475-650 g with an average egg weight of 560 g in a year. The egg appears greenish and looks like tough marble. The intensity of color varies from light, medium to dark green. The surface varies from rough to smooth. Majority of eggs (42%) are medium green with the rough surface.

Feed the breeder ration with sufficient calcium (2.7%) for ensuring proper calcification of egg with strength. Feeding excess calcium to the breeding bird before laying will upset the egg production and also impairs the male fertility. Provide extra calcium in the form of grit or calcite powder, by placing in a separate trough.

Collect eggs frequently from the pen. If eggs are soiled, clean with sandpaper and mop up with cotton. Store the eggs in a cooler room providing 600F. Never store eggs for more than 10 days to ensure better hatchability. Eggs stored at room temperature can be set every 3 to 4 days for good hatchability.

Incubation and Hatching

Image result for emu eggs

Set the fertile eggs after adjusting to room temperature. Place in a horizontal or in slant arranged row-wise in a tray. Keep the egg incubator ready by cleaning and disinfecting them thoroughly. Switch on the machine for setting the correct incubating temperature i.e dry bulb temperature of about 96-970F and wet bulb temperature of about 78-800F (about 30-40% RH). Place carefully the egg tray in a setter, once the incubator is ready with the set temperature and relative humidity and place identification slip for the date of set and pedigree, if required. Fumigate the incubator with 20g potassium permanganate + 40 ml formalin for every 100 ft of incubator space. Turn the eggs every one hour till the 48th day of incubation. From 49th day onwards, stop turning the eggs and watch for pipping. By 52nd day, the incubation period ends. The chicks need drying. Hold the chicks for at least 24 to 72 hours in the hatcher compartment, for reducing the down and to become healthy chicks. Normally hatchability will be 70% or more. There are many reasons for low hatchability. Proper breeder nutrition ensures healthy chicks.