Monday, 24 November 2014

And I'm too sexy for my hat, too sexy for my hat....whatd'ya think about that?**

Staff Portrait by Patricia Hopwood-Wade, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 2011

After 4 or 5 days the emu chicks are eating, drinking and fully feathered and mobile, however still sleeping most of the time as they grow rapidly. The older ones are moved to lower shelves to acclimatise to the lower temperatures that they will experience when moved to the chick house.

insulated room with 4' x 6' pens and doors to outside

Their chick house area is 4’ x 6’ and will accommodate 12-14 chicks. Initially they are held in a smaller enclosure made of cardboard. This area contains food and water and is heated with a heat lamp. Thermometers monitor the conditions and the rounded sides prevent crowding and potential suffocation.

 In a couple of days the emu chicks will get the run of the whole area however they will not be outside until the weather warms up. On nice days the door is opened so they can get some sun and exercise. They will be closed in at night for warmth and protection against predators. The cement floor is covered with non slip woven belting that we acquired from a local pulp and paper mill and cut into manageable 4’ x 3’ mats. The belting is strong and allows for quick cleaning with a shovel. On top of the mats we have spread absorbent pine horse shavings. The manure will eventually find a home with the roses as it doesn't need to be composted and can go directly in it's raw state on the garden.

Eventually the chicks will have full access to the outdoors day and night. The outside runs are 4’ x 20’. The substrate is covered again with larger belting mats over gravel for drainage and there is partial shade cloth on the top to shelter from the direct sun.

At 2-2.5 months the chicks will have outgrown their chick house runs and not require enclosed housing. It’s time to move them and hopefully next year that will be made easier with adjoining fenced pathways. The trick to carrying an emu chick is to hold it securely under it's body and allow the legs to be free to thrash around and not strike you while avoiding any defecation that might occur.  If they have been handled a lot during their short life emu chicks are very trusting and not hard to catch.


Their new accommodation is a pen 30’ x 80’, grass covered and treed for sun shelter. For the first few days we hang privacy cloth on the fences so that they recognize the boundaries of the pen. When they are running at top speed it helps them to know when to apply the brakes. The shelter in this pen is only there to keep the food dry as the chicks will prefer to be outside rain or shine.  They love eating grass and munching on the leaves of the apple trees.

And finally one last move will take place when the birds are around 4 months old. Their new growout pen is 80’ x 100’ and surrounded with six foot fencing. Shade cloth is again temporarily hung on adjoining fences to prevent any pecking and injuries from the older birds next door. The pen can accommodate 50 emus as they grow to maturity around 18 months old.

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