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Red Oak Farm
3040 Big Buck Road
Trezevant, TN 38258
Copyright © 1998 -2012
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Red Oak Farm
Revised: almost weekly
What Age Should I Buy
There are two groups of traits you should consider when
choosing livestock. Genetic and
Environmental. Sometimes it is difficult to separate genetic and
include rate of weight gain, body weight, egg weight, sexual maturity rate, temperament,
egg production, chick endurance (will it survive), color of feathers, and
whether or not the bird will have red toenails. (just joking, if you see
an emu with red toenails, she's been to the beauty shop).
traits are those traits which can be affected by the environment in which the
bird is raised, such as egg production, fertility, chick endurance (whether it
will survive), etc.
Emu’s need a good balanced ration that is formulated to meet their
needs. Birds that are raised
on a good ration will reach their genetic potential.
A chick that is raised on a diet of cracked corn will not.
I have had people call me up wanting to know why
their 2 or 3 year old emus that they bought at a flea market and raised
on cracked corn are not laying. Because
animals that are starving to death don’t reproduce.
Do I sound harsh? Good.
Age Should I Buy?
stock, visit several farms, look
at the birds, ask questions. Do
not be in a hurry.
One decision you
will have to make is what age bird to purchase.
Incubate, no way to tell if fertile, transportation problems
up to 3 months
with the birds, pen & feed only, easy transportation
in 2 – 3 years
to 11 months
with the birds,
and feed only, economical buy
in 2 – 3 years, may or may not be insurable
with the birds, insurable,
in 1 – 2 years
– 26 months)
costs, hatching compatibility?
pairs (2 years or older that have produced offspring at least one season)
Lay immediately, compatible
incubation & hatching
Legs should be
straight, not bowed. In older birds the backs of the legs should be
rough. A sign of inbreeding is smooth legs.
not curved or twisted into unnatural positions
straight. A hump-backed bird has difficulty breeding, dresses out to
less meat and is undesirable in the genetic pool
Toes normal and
straight. (please note - many farmers are now clipping the two outside toes at
hatch. This is so when the birds reach slaughter weight the hides are not
Eyes clear and
bright (note: a bird with a healed eye injury can still breed, but one
with cataracts will be adding that tendency to the gene pool. Question
the farmer as to why the blindness occurred.
Alert: (note: during breeding season some adult males will
"freeze" when being handled and can even be mistaken for being
- read up on inbreeding and out-crossing to find out why this is often
*If you are purchasing straight run chicks they
are not tagged or sexed. While the
parents may be unrelated, you will have no way of knowing that the chicks you
eventually pair up are unrelated. In
other words, you may be pairing up brothers and sisters.
While straight run chicks are cheaper, it would be a good idea to
purchase whatever chicks you pair with them from a different, unaffiliated farm.
There are not many free birds left as the market demand is increasing.
If you have the opportunity to acquire free birds, consider this:
- Why is the farmer giving these away?
1. He didn't research the market and does not want to sell farm to fork.
2. Illness or death in family, unable to continue farming operations
3. Got them at a flea market or free, does not know what to do with
- Have the birds been fed a diet that enabled them to reach their genetic
- What will I do with these birds if they are sterile? Am I prepared
to have them slaughtered in order to market the products?
- If these are being taken as slaughter birds, what kind of money will I
spend in getting them up to slaughter weight?
As we said on our Farming Information page, emu farming is currently a farm
to fork operation. This is not for everyone. Unfortunately, some
people get into emu farming without researching the market.
Consequently, when they finally do learn the facts they decide it is not for
them. If they
are unable to sell their birds, they may slaughter them or give them away.
Occasionally an irresponsible person comes along and turns the birds loose on
the public. This is the same sort of mentality that dumps puppies and
kittens in the country to be killed by predators or to starve to death. If
you have the capital to invest in bringing free birds up to slaughter weight,
processing and turning them into product, you can make some money. If the
birds have been well cared for and are known to be good layers, it would
probably be worth your while to take them as breeding stock. Just research carefully and
don't get in over your head.
Sources for free birds: The American Emu
Association is made up of state associations. Most state
associations have "bird rescue programs" to (1) help place birds
belonging to members who, through illness or deaths in the family, need to
reduce flocks and (2) work with local police forces to capture any loose birds
that are creating traffic hazards or are nuisances. Contact your local
state association for information in your state.
Back to Farming Information
On to Birds that Fight