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The Pros and Cons of Emu Farming

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Author of fiction novels, short stories, book reviews and other online content, Peggy Cole has been writing articles on HubPages since 2009.

The birds enjoy a shower during hot days

The birds enjoy a shower during hot days

Getting Started Raising Emu

When a couple of our friends started raising ostrich, they invited us to join them at a seminar on raising big birds. After learning the basics about emu farming, we decided to invest in this fast-growing business.

Our house was still under construction out in the rural part of North Texas. We both worked full time in the city at office jobs. Weekends, we tried to make a little progress on finishing out the interior of the house. With our limited construction experience, we set out on this new adventure, hoping to buy some birds and get started on our future.

Visiting an emu ranch near our house.

Visiting an emu ranch near our house.

Big Bird Business

This was the late nineties and the industry was booming with breeder pairs selling for forty to fifty thousand dollars for mated pairs. Birds with a track record of egg production were in high demand with prices rising.

The end market was anticipated as a healthy source of red meat along with eggs, feathers, emu skin products like purses and belts and other uses from the versatile birds. It all sounded quite promising, but there were some drawbacks. We were not farmers nor had we ever raised livestock. Hoping to learn more, we joined the Emu Association and met other farmers willing to mentor us.

This is an emu ranch that housed multiple breeder pairs, a hatching barn and dozens of birds.

This is an emu ranch that housed multiple breeder pairs, a hatching barn and dozens of birds.

Hatchling baby emu.

Hatchling baby emu.

We visited an emu ranch with breeders laying 11 to 20 eggs per season to study tracking methods for egg production, learn about incubators, hatching time, and assigning bird identification numbers.

With the cost of a breeder pair out of our financial reach, we decided to buy six hatchlings. While we worked on building our pens, the breeders housed our young stock until they were nearly six months old.

Emu hatchlings around two weeks old.

Emu hatchlings around two weeks old.

How Much Space Does an Emu Require?

Emu require space to run as they are quite active birds. A minimum of thirty by one hundred-foot (30 x 100') pen is recommended per pair. The fencing needs to be six-feet tall so they can't jump over the top. They are energetic jumpers. They also need shade for their feed pens, around 8 foot-square for the food shelter, although, they don't stay inside the shelters at night.

Using a gasoline powered auger to drill fence post holes.

Using a gasoline powered auger to drill fence post holes.

Building the Emu Pens

We bought an auger to drill holes to set the fence posts in the ground around 18 inches deep, filling the base with pebbles, then, leveling the poles and setting them in quick-set concrete. We rented a trench-digger and dug two-hundred feet of water lines from the main line to the new pens to get water to the drinking troughs. Then, we started building the feed shelters. We soon discovered what farmers have known for years; farming is hard work.

Shelters provide shade and a safe place for the birds to eat their feed.

Shelters provide shade and a safe place for the birds to eat their feed.

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Farm Work Is 24/7

Thankfully we were used to hard work. After working our day jobs, we'd come home and drill holes in the clay-based soil to set fence poles and build the sheds. After that, we brought in truckloads of sandy loam and shoveled the dirt around the pens. Our office-worker muscles grew strong with the effort.