Like any other exotic pet, keeping an emu as a pet should be given careful consideration. Although the chicks are fuzzy and cute and much smaller than their adult counterparts, they will one day grow up and that's when problems tend to occur. Like baby chickens bought at Easter, emu chicks are not as much fun or as cute when they become adults, and they grow much larger than chickens.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Things you need
- Enough space for full-grown emu
- Appropriate fencing and shelter
- Emu or ratite feed
- Basic care instructions
Research emus thoroughly prior to deciding whether or not to keep one as a pet. Read magazines like "Emu Today & Tomorrow" and visit websites that offer specific information about these large, flightless birds from birth to adulthood, including all of the shelter, pen and feeding requirements.
Buy your pet emu when it is still a young chick. Trying to convert an adult emu into a pet is next to impossible, unless it has been raised as someone's pet to begin with. Like other animals, however, raising it almost from birth will encourage it to bond with you and your family.
Pet and handle your pet emu as much as possible. This will let it get used to being touched by humans. As a chick, handling your emu doesn't pose much danger, but as the bird gets older, it may not like being handled as much, especially when it matures enough to mate. Some emus will also revert to their wild instincts, won't allow any kind of petting and may even become aggressive.
Be prepared for when it grows up. This will require a large pen and shelter for the bird, greater quantities of food and patience as it develops its distinct personality. You will also have to monitor your pet to see if it's reverting to any wild tendencies.
Keep in mind that emus are very strong, have razor sharp claws on each of their three toes and can peck really hard. If they become aggressive, they won't hesitate to use their natural weapons against you, even if they were once gentle. If they feel cornered or threatened in any way, they are even more likely to lash out.
Realize that in the end, when the emu is full grown, the safest way to keep them as a pet is to keep them in a pen and to pet them outside the pen. Never go inside with the bird, especially if it has shown aggressiveness in the past. There are some exceptions to this rule for birds that were handled a great deal from birth and have never shown any signs of becoming dangerous, but remember the potential is always there.
Tips and warnings
- Don't wear shiny jewelry when playing your emu. They are attracted to shiny objects and dangling jewelry, especially earrings, are a big temptation for them to peck at. Plus, if they swallow a piece jewelry that's too large for their digestive tract, it could be fatal.
- Remember that emus pose more danger if you're standing in front or just off to the side of them; because of their knee structure, they kick forward, not back.
- Only buy emu chicks from a reputable emu farmer who practices safe and sanitary procedures to ensure the chick is healthy and free from disease when you get it.
- A full-grown emu can reach 6 feet in height. When you purchase a chick that fits in the palm of your hand, remember that one day, it could be taller than you and possibly even outweigh you.
- Emus are not completely domesticated animals. The claws that only made small scratches when they were chicks will one day be large enough to kill a person.
- If you've ever been inside a chicken coop, you know how much chickens can stink; an emu is at least five times bigger than a chicken.
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