How To Care For Emus
A pre-purchase examination by a qualified veterinarian can ensure the purchase of a healthy animal. A good client-veterinarian relationship is helpful if future veterinary treatment or consultation is needed.
Chick mortality in the emu does not appear to be as great as in the ostrich. The incidence of impaction and ingestion of foreign objects is also low, possibly because of anatomic differences in the digestive tracts and feeding habits of emus and ostriches. Impaction usually is the result of birds ingesting long, fibrous material (small sticks, grass, fabric). Both non-surgical (mineral oil/laxative) and surgical treatments have been successful; assistance by a qualified veterinarian is recommended.
Both internal and external parasites affect emus. Ivermectin given at 1-month intervals beginning at 1 month of age is used to prevent nematode infestations. Carbaryl dust (5 percent powder) has been used by the USDA at 14-day intervals to treat tick infestations in ratites.
Health problems peculiar to the emu include: Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEE) infection (which can cause a severe bloody diarrhea); parasitic migration in the brain by Chandlurella quiscali, a nematode parasite of grackles which is carried by biting insects; and scoliosis (a deviation of the neck and spinal cord), which may be of parasitic, hereditary or nutritional origin.
General preventive care includes vaccination (EEE and sometimes avian pox) and treatment or prevention of parasitic infestations.
Identification is important for record keeping and protection against theft. Microchip identification systems are commonly used. At hatch, microchips are inserted in the pipping muscle just behind the head with an implant gun and needle.
The code in the microchip is read by a device called a microchip reader, which costs $1,000 to $1,250. Each brand of microchip requires its own reader. The chips cost about $8.50 each and come in packs of 50. Numbered leg bands, available in a variety of colors, are used for identification and usually are placed around the ankle. Tattooing as a means of permanent identification also has been used successfully, but does require a certain skill.
INCUBATION AND HATCHING
The incubation period for emu eggs is 46 to 56 days with an average of 50 days. Length of incubation is greatly influenced by temperature. Optimal tempera-tures, 96.5 to 97.5 degrees F, should result in an incubation of 49 to 52 days. Humidity settings should range from 24 to 35 percent. Successful incubation of eggs in vertical, air-cell- up or horizontal positions has been reported. Turn eggs four to six times per day. As in the ostrich, egg weight loss is important and 15 percent is the ideal.
A weekly system of egg weighing and good record keeping are essential. Emu eggs are opaque, so a method called tapping replaced the candling procedure. Tapping the egg with a small cylindrical metal rod produces particular sounds that can be used to identify an egg that has internally pipped and needs to be moved to the hatcher.
Hatcher temperatures are usually the same at the incubator or one degree less. Percent hatchability in emu chicks has been reported as 50 to 80 percent. It is important to keep good records because specific problems with hatchability are often associated with embryonic death at various points in incubation. Common problems include infertile eggs, bacterial infection of eggs and malpositioning.
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