I now have two emu chicks. It seems that more than one were captured when their parent was killed. Whoever got this second one decided not to keep it so it was brought to me. I was quite glad to get a second chick. The birds are plainly very social, and because I cannot be with Brittany every hour, it is good for her to have a sibling as a companion.
I have named it Eric, of course. I have no idea of its gender though, any more than I do of Brittany’s. They are far too young to have gender roles imposed on them anyway.
Baby emus follow their dad around for up to two years. I am still wondering what that might mean for me and just what I may have gotten myself into. I mentioned before that the female emu has nothing to do with parenting her offspring. That is dad’s job. Once she has laid her eggs she buggers off and leaves the male to sit on the eggs until they hatch. Incubation takes up to ten weeks. Dad won’t leave the eggs in that time and survives on his stored body fat. He is very attentive and turns the eggs several times a day. At least I don’t have to do that. On the other hand, ten weeks surviving on my body fat might be desirable.
My first problem, as I mentioned previously, was what to feed the chicks. Emus are omnivores and like grasshoppers, small arthropods, grasses, leaves, seeds and fruit. I started out feeding my little charges on a mixture of dog food, chicken food and muesli, plus some minced meat, all dampened with water.
While dining on a light lunch of Ramen noodles and canned tuna I had a bit of a brainwave and offered some to the chicks. They were pretty keen on it and I realised the ramen was visually stimulating for them. I suppose it looks a bit wormy. By mixing a sloppy blend of dog food, chicken food, seeds and cooked ramen noodles (without the sauce and stock sachets) I have come up with a hopefully balanced nutritious diet that they seem to like.
The next problem was to teach them to browse. They are not going to spend all their lives in a cage eating from a container. They need to be able to forage and fend for themselves. As soon as they are big enough that the crows won’t take them, I shall allow them to be free – probably with my chickens when they arrive.
As it turned out I had no problems letting them wander around the back yard while I stood guard. They followed me around dutifully as I made “Dook Dook” noises and dropped food for them to find.
I suddenly gained an unexpected ally. Sally the goat, curious as always, came over to see what was going on. She sniffed the birds and the food I was dropping for them. Detecting the scent of meat, she ignored the noodles and started foraging in the grass. The chicks, seeing her eating, transferred their attention to her and followed her around the garden investigating whatever she was interested in. Sally cheerfully tolerated them as they hung around her, even when they got under her ears. She even took care not to step on them.
It was plain the little birds were definitely getting the idea of exploring the grass for tidbits. As they did I seeded the ground nearby with food so their searching would not be in vain.
I need not have worried about the chicks transferring their affection to Sally. As soon as I called them with my ‘dook dook” dad emulation they ran straight to me. looks like they have accepted me. Having only two legs probably helps.
I was very wary of the crows waiting around on the fence. They may have just wanted to collect the bits of food missed by the chicks, but I have no doubt they would carry one of the little birds off if they had the opportunity. Molly the dog and I stayed close by to keep the crows at bay.
Molly was very well behaved. After a single stern warning, she did not try to eat the little emus’ food. She is already perfectly at ease with the chicks and makes no effort to bother them except for a sniff and a lick. I think I am making progress with her training too.