Monday, 30 March 2015

Follow our Emu Chick Hatch-a-long

Introducing Mt. Sicker Family Farm 2015 Emu Chick Hatch

All is ready! The hatcher was turned on a week ago to make sure that it is working properly. Good air exchange and constant temperature and humidity are necessary for the chicks as they will be working very hard to break through their 7 layer shell. Looking good.

Hatcher at 96 deg RH 50%

March 29: Five eggs are moved to the hatcher.

March 30: First emu chick breaks the shell and second egg is rocking. The chick is responding to my whistles. A radio is turned on in the hatch room so that they become accustomed to human noise.

 March 31: First chick has hatched through the night. With sides on the hatcher drawers he is quite safe and there is time for him to dry his feathers before being moved to the brooder. His awkward movements and whistling encourage the other chicks still in their shells and this mimics how it would be in the nest.

  • Yesterday the brooder box was brought up to temperature.

  • The red hue is from the heat lamp which keeps the temperature at 90 degrees. The chick's navel has been disinfected with Betadine and what he needs most now is sleep and more chicks for company. Water will be introduced today and food not until day 3. He is nourished from the egg yolk that was fully absorbed during his struggle to get out of the shell.

  • The following video was taken at 7:30 am. By 10:00 am the chick on the right has hatched (moved to brooder) and the inactive one at the back has broken the shell. Long wait during incubation but when the hatch starts it goes quickly.

April 1: Five chicks in the brooder and five eggs in the hatcher with all but one broken through the shell. Half way through Hatch #1.

  • Notice the beak on the left has an egg tooth to allow the chick to pip through the membrane to the air sac. Breaking the shell will require more power and the chick uses the strength of its back bone and feet as well.

  • After drying for a couple of hours in the hatcher the chick is checked closely for health. Betadine is applied to its navel area where the egg yolk has been absorbed for a food supply for the next couple of days while it learns to get mobile.

  • This little guy's navel opening was not completely closed so he was placed in the brooder with paper towel under him to protect against germs from the other chicks. As soon as he gets mobile the navel will have closed and the toweling can be removed.

  • Chicks thrive on company and will learn the way of the world from the stronger ones.

  • The water reservoir is available right away with room temperature water and a pinch of electrovite changed daily. 

  • You will start to see liquidy secretions on the brooder matting. This is a normal bodily function as the digestive plug is expelled. As everything with emu is green this liquid is no exception.

  • The egg shell collection is mounting up as the hatcher is cleaned of debris. The membrane is discarded and a remarkably clean shell remains. Not surprisingly there has been some research as to the dietary health benefits of crushed emu shell.

April 2: Daily human contact is essential for monitoring the health of the chick. Emus by nature are cautious so building a trusting relationship with each chick will pay dividends to the farmer when the emu grows to be 6 ft tall and 100 lbs.

  • Its day 52 of incubation for the rest of the eggs so the remaining 11 have been moved to the hatcher. They will be tapped and whistled to, poked and prodded during the upcoming days to encourage chicks to appear. We do however expect some of the eggs will be infertile as this is the first hatch of the season and we also have some new breeding pairs.

April 3: All the chicks are very alert and mobile, friendly and inquisitive. It is time to introduce food. It starts by anchoring a small dish of starter crumble (26% Poultry non-medicated) to the side of the brooder and tapping it to encourage the chicks to explore.

  •  They will have exhausted most of their internalized egg yolk and will be very excited about this new find. According to 'Brief Visit', a south western Australian who contributes to the emu forum on Back Yard Chickens, "a natural hatch [in the wild] happens over about four days. The early chicks just tough it out until their siblings emerge and then they hoof it to water" and "in the wild I have seen a chick an hour old cover a half a mile before dark. And in their first week, they may travel four miles a day through breast-high wet foliage" with dad in search of food.

April 4: It is important to tag the lineage of each of the chicks. We use small expandable leg bands (size 2009 to start). As emu grow very rapidly in the first year we won't bother as this point to give them an individual number, that will come later as part of our traceability programme. Our main concern now is to easily recognize which breeder pair they came from. If any health issues come up we will number that bird. We also want to identify male/female. We use the vent sexing method and will periodically check as they age to see if we called it right. So the leg band is placed on the left leg for male and right leg for female. 

Our first hatch is almost complete. We have four more to go which will take us up to early June. There will be further updates in subsequent blogs as we increase our emu chick mob. We hope you have enjoyed following along.


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