Emu chicks hatch at about 1 pound. They will grow very fast and will be able to look over a 4' piece of plywood at 3 months of age. They will need a heat lamp to freely go under and leave when they wish for the first 2-3 months (depending on the weather) since they cannot regulate their body temperature until they lose their stripes and grow out "real" body feathers. They are social and are lonely if there is only one though they might fight after 14 months of age.
As the chicks get older, you would need a 6 foot tall fence made out of chain link or 2"x4" woven wire fence for your pens and a building with several inches of bedding (we use chopped straw) and where they can get out of the cold rains and high winds. Our breeder pens happen to be 18' wide and 125' long to allow them to run when they want to exercise.
If you would like to process your emus, the ideal time to do this is around 16 months of age for the optimum amount of meat and fat with the minimum amount of feed expense.
Adult emus can be a handful to handle unless you know how. They must be caught from behind so that they do not kick while trying to get away.
They will need a quality feed formulated for emus with a low fiber content (less than 7%, preferably under 5%). An adult emu will eat an average of 1 1/2 pounds of ground or pelleted feed per day. They will eat less if they are allowed to "graze" all day long with feed available to them at all times.
It is not advised to keep emus with other poultry. Avian Influenza is usually NOT a problem for emus but, if exposed to it through disease or vaccinations, they can test positive and may have to be put down.
The biggest problem that emus have is a susceptibility to Eastern Equine Encephalitis. It will kill them within 24 hours. If your area has recurrent outbreaks, you should vaccinate for it. West Nile Virus will make the adults sick but, they will usually recover quickly. Another problem is a parasite that raccoons carry. It doesn't harm the raccoon but, when the raccoon goes to the bathroom, eggs can be shed in its feces. These eggs can remain viable for up to 10 years in the ground. Emus tend to eat dirt and can pick up the egg. The egg can then hatch, migrate to the spinal cord, continue up to the brain and kill the bird. Wormers work until the parasite gets into the brain because the wormer cannot pass through the brain barrier. We use livestock guardian dogs to keep raccoons off of our property and this has worked out well for us. Emus can also break a leg or break their neck. Otherwise, they are very hardy once past 3 months of age.
Handling as chicks will always help to make an emu easier to handle but, you must try not to "bond" with a teenager or adult emu (especially a male) as they may want to bond with you, not with another emu. I do have birds that I can put my arms around and are real sweethearts but, I only touch ours briefly and not on a daily basis.
Male emus are naturally more friendly to people and females seem to be a little more stand-offish but, this does not always stand true.
Emus don't go through a breeding temperament during laying season. They remain calm and easy to get along with even when you take the eggs away from the males when they want to sit on them. The only time that they get very protective (and dangerous) is when they have chicks that they have hatched.
Below are some other things that you might find helpful.
The Emu Today and Tomorrow (ET&T) magazine is the premier publication for the emu industry. It carries articles that range from rearing birds to product viability, farming methods, new trends and developments, on and on. Not the least of importance is the insight you'll gain through the publication on who is active in the industry and how different developers are operating so you can pick and choose who you'd like to work with. In fact ET&T is the only comprehensive journal for the emu industry. If you are interested in learning more about the emu industry, you should definitely take advantage of this resource. You can subscribe to Emu Today and Tomorrow by calling their subscription services at 580-628-2933, or by visiting their web site at www.emutoday.com This magazine is published every other month at a subscription fee of $25 per year.
ET&T also has available the "Emu Farmers Handbooks I & II" by Maria Minnaar. These two books are a "must have" for anyone who own emus. They would answer most (if, not all) of your questions about hatching and growing these birds.
Another excellent source of information on the care and raising of emus is the Red Oak Farms website www.redoakfarm.com . There are some excellent pages here and a lot of pictures.
Also check out the online emu magazine:
Here is an excellent Yahoo emu e-mail list you can join on emu husbandry and emu industry questions in general:
Emu Farm Group
Many new emu farmers ask questions on this list. If you sign-up for this e-mail list, you can browse through the archives (past e-mails) for much emu information including hatching emu eggs.
The Wisconsin Emu Association (WIEA) has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page that might answer some of your questions www.wiea-emu.org .
You can join the American Emu Association (AEA) by visiting their website at: www.aea-emu.org
You will find a lot of good information at this website, too.
Membership in the national American Emu Association (AEA) will, also, enroll you in your home state (or any state affiliate that you prefer) and the regional AEA affiliate.
By joining the AEA you will have access to other people that share your interest. I believe you'll find them invaluable as you pursue your quest for information, contacts and methods. I'm sure you'll find your AEA Regional Director a very valuable source of knowledge. The AEA has on-line e-mail forums to communicate with other growers and to learn key skills and techniques for anyone working in this industry. They also conduct conferences that expose us to growers across the country (and in some cases from other countries) that provides solid information and extremely useful motivational information to keep us working together. Every other month, a newsletter is sent to members.
The cost of U.S. membership is an initial fee of $100 for the first year and $100 for each succeeding year of renewal. This pays for both the national membership and a state membership. International membership costs can be found at the AEA website.
The AEA provides the clout needed in congress to get laws and rulings that nurture the industry along, sets standards for emu oil to promote marketing initiatives, etc. Click on this link to go to the American Emu Association (AEA) website to fill-out a membership application if you would like to join. http://www.aea-emu.org
State associations hold state meetings throughout the year. For more information go to www.aea-emu.org and click on state associations. For Wisconsin it would be: www.wiea-emu.org .
The American Emu Association www.aea-emu.org holds an annual, three day National Convention each year. These meetings allow an opportunity for members to receive the latest emu industry information, hear updates on emu oil research and network with other emu growers from across the U.S. and around the world.
The 2017 AEA National Convention will be held in Springfield, Missouri, July 14 - 16, 2017 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel & Oasis Convention Center.
Information about the convention can be found on the AEA website www.aea-emu.org as it becomes available.
NOTE - The "AEA Emu Primer", a great general guide to raising emus, is now available from the American Emu Association. This book gives a brief but, complete, overview of hatching and raising emus.