The emu is a large, feathered flightless bird termed a
"ratite" from Australia. Other members of the
"ratite" group include ostriches, cassowaries and
kiwis. It is the second largest bird in Australia and the third
largest bird in the world. Only the ostrich and cassowary are
larger than the emu. Emu's were imported into the United States
from the 1930's through the late 1950's as exotic zoo stock.
Today, the exportation of live birds and eggs is prohibited from
Australia. Exports of processed emu products from Australia,
however, are on the rise as emu begins to gain acceptance
worldwide for its unique qualities. Emus are raised throughout
the United States and have adapted to a variety of conditions in
North America ranging from the cold winters of North Dakota to
the extreme heat of southern Texas.
are very fast and can run up to speeds of 30 miles per hour (50
kilometers per hour). Emus are also very good swimmers. This
huge bird naturally lives in groups together called flocks. Emu
flocks are found where there are grasslands savannas or
grasslands with some trees, and the Australian bush. Emu's live
to be 20 to 30 years old. The curious birds are born with black
and white striped feathers but are tan, brown, and black as
adults. The genus and species names of the emu are Dromaius
Emu grow to be between 5 and 6 fee tall and weighing between 90
and 150 pounds. This makes the emu the size of most humans as
Emus normally breed as pairs. The female emu or hen begins
laying eggs as early as 16 to 18 months of age, but laying
normally begins at two to three years. Emu lay large green eggs
between November and March in the United States each year. Emu
can be productive for as long as 20 years, laying between 20 to
50 eggs in a season. The emu egg varies in size and color. It is
usually dark green, averaging 5 inches long and weighing
approximately 600 grams. Artificial incubation is often
conducted at a temperature of approximately 97.5 degrees
Fahrenheit and a relative humidity that varies according to the
climate. Average incubation time ranges from 48 to 56 days.
nature, the emu's nest is a shallow hole by a bush. The nest is
lined with leaves, grass, and bark. The female lays from 4 to 20
greenish-brown eggs in a clutch or group of eggs laid at one
time. Chicks hatch after an incubation period of about 8 weeks.
The male incubates or keeps the eggs warm and cares for the
chicks for about one and a half years.
Emus are primarily herbivores or plant eaters. They eat grass,
seeds, flowers, young plants and fruits. They also eat insects
including caterpillars. They swallow small stones called
gastoliths or gizzard stones as do all birds which stay in the
gizzard and help grind up food.
provide a red meat, similar in taste and appearance to very lean
beef, that is lower in cholesterol but higher in protein than
beef. About 25-35 pounds of meat can be obtained from a mature
Emus provide a unique, penetrating oil. The oil comes from a
thick pad of fat on the back of the bird that was initially
provided by nature to protect the animal from extreme
temperatures of the Australian homeland. Emu oil had diverse
applications ranging from cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos to
analgesics. Emu oil has been shown to display anti-inflammatory
properties and helps combat the effects of the aging process.
Emu oil has also been proven to thicken the skin of the elderly
by as much as 14 percent. Medical specialists are discovering
the benefits of emu oil and are adapting it into their treatment
techniques for relieving the symptoms of joint aching,
preventing scars, and treating extra dry skin conditions. In
addition to reducing swelling and stiffness in joints, it
reduces bruising and muscle pain.
Approximately eight square feet of hide may be obtained from the
adult bird. The tanned body leather is supple and durable, while
the reptilian appearance of the leg leather provides a striking
contrast when selected as a fashion accent. The leather is used
in upscale products including boots, belts, luggage, and
Emu eggs, feathers, and toenails have many decorative
applications. Eggshell artists transform these shells into works
of art such as music boxes, intricate miniature scenes and even
works of heirloom quality. Their feathers have been used to
accent unique fashion designs while the toenails may be polished
and used in jewelry pieces.