Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I Whistle A Happy Tune.............so no one will suspect I’m afraid **

So...the emu eggs have been in the incubator for 48 days. You have checked every day that all the mechanics are working right: eggs turning 160-180 degrees every 2-3 hours, humidity holding in a range of 25-35%, your germicidal lights in the incubator (if you have them) still glowing, fresh air coming into the room and carbon dioxide being expelled and hopefully you didn’t need that generator that you have been keeping close in case of a power failure. Now the moment of truth as you check each egg for whistling sounds inside the shell. 


This should be done frequently so that when you hear that the chick has pipped through the inner membrane into the air sac and starts talking to the world, you can remove that egg from the incubator so that it is not subjected to any more turning. Some eggs will incubate for 50, 52 and even 54 days before you hear the chick. After pipping has started the eggs are moved to a hatcher where the temperature is about one degree less ie 96.5. 

Some people raise the humidity in the hatcher however if you think about hatching in nature the male emu doesn’t have this capability. You on the other hand might choose to do this if a chick is having a hard time breaking the shell. It would require another hatcher to adjust the humidity and you would also need to ask yourself if the difficulty getting out of the shell is a sign of a weak chick. Breaking out can take a few hours or more and the chick can be left in the hatcher if it pips through during the night as it will need time and heat to dry its feathers. The chicks can then be moved to a brooder. 

The red hue is reflection from the heat lamp above

We use plastic see-through storage containers from Walmart. They are easy to move and clean and soft sided. A heat lamp is used to keep the chicks warm at 90 deg initially and gradually adjusted down to 80 deg. A digital thermometer is hung inside the brooder so that close monitoring of the temperature can be done. Each chick has iodine applied to its navel with a Qtip and is leg banded to track its parentage. The chicks stay in the brooder for 4-5 days in groups of 6 until they can walk around the brooder and eat and drink.

Water is introduced the first day which includes a vitamin electrolyte powder and non medicated turkey starter can be held off until day three to ensure that the egg sack is totally absorbed. Early hatchers are usually early to the feed and water bowls and set an example for the rest.


As important as water and later food is to the chicks the composition of the floor of the brooder is critical to the safe development of leg tendons. We use plastic kitchen drawer liners because they are non slip and porous so that the liquid from the feces can somewhat drain away. They are also easily washed for reuse. Mortality in chicks is frequently related to splay leg and can simply be prevented by careful handling, good feed (for the breeder pairs as well as the new chicks) that supplies the necessary protein levels for quick growing heavy bodies and the use of a non slip substrate until they can get out on dirt and grass and exercise those tendons (very important as they are a running machine). We will talk more about emu feed in a future blog.



  1. Great read!!! i enjoyed it. Like your idea of the Walmart see thru totes.

  2. Thanks JoAnna. Coming from someone with two decades of experience in raising emu I am more than pleased.