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Hi Myra (& everyone)-
I'm doing research for a book I'm writing about owning emus as pets. We've had our pair since they were 1 week old in 1998, and we had to learn as we went. In 1998, there was virtually no information available online or in bookstores about emus, other than one or two sources for emu farming.

My question ... do you get a lot of contacts for people who want or have emus as pets, as opposed to those who want to start an actual farm? There are some differences in the information needed for having them as backyard pets (as ours are), which is the reason I feel it necessary to write the book.

Also, how is the emu farming industry? Is it out of its plateau yet, is it increasing in popularity again? I still haven't tried emu meat yet, though I would love to. I can't afford the mail-order meat right now -- still waiting for the FDA classify emu as a table meat rather than an exotic meat!


Re: Pets

Most serious inquiries I receive are from people interested in emu farming, not as emu as pets. Emu are classified as livestock in this country, just as cattle, sheep or goats. Since they can be raised on a small amount of acerage, with little to no waste when processed, they are ideal for the smaller farms whose owners seek self sufficiency.

I would agree that an adaptation of the information needed would be appropriate, but do feel that persons wanting a large bird such as a ratite as a pet should consider all aspects of the venture, including proper feed, water, sanitation and fencing.

As members of the Tennessee Emu Associations' Emu Rescue Program, we have assisted law enforcement officials in rounding up birds that have been dumped by their owners, much the same way people dump puppies or kittens in the country rather than take them to a shelter. We have also taken "pets" from people before that either grew tired of them or found them to be more trouble than they expected. We have found such birds to be in poor condition, stunted in growth and sometimes ill because of worms or aspergillosis.

A pet that lives 25 to 30 years is a major committment. Emu do require health care and it varies depending on location. Because emu are now accepted by NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Program) a diseased bird can shut down an entire state's poultry industry.

Anyone interested in emus as pets or as livestock should be prepared to assume responsibility for the birds health and well being. They need a balanced diet which can be found in a ratite feed, not cracked corn or browse, in order to reach their genetic potential. Additional information can be found at http://www.redoakfarm.com.

USDA says: "Red meat is now on the "wing" into innovative restaurants and some meat markets. The latest in meat products is from the "ratite" family of flightless birds. It's lean and tastes like beef, but contains much less fat. In fact, ratite meat is even lower in calories than chicken and turkey. Ratites have been around for 80 million years...... At this time, emu, ostrich and rhea meat are specialty items available in restaurants and some stores. The meat is more expensive than beef, pork, chicken and turkey. However, the price will become more reasonable as the quantity of this meat becomes more widely available." Visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/ratites.htm to read more about it.

The emu industry appears to be in an upswing at the moment. Meat, feather and leather sales appear to be on a plateau, but fat sales are up with prices being paid between $10 to $12 a pound in 2003.

Re: Re: Pets

Dear Myra,

Thank you for your input. You mentioned some things I hadn't previously considered and that would be vital to a book on emu as pets.

I am a voracious proponent of pet adoption from shelters. My neighbors adopted 3 emus from a shelter who had been abandoned. While needing a lifetime commitment, as you said, owning emus as pets can be incredibly satisfying. Parrots, horses, and even dogs likewise require a huge commitment, as does any pet. Hopefully the existence of such a book will help people to understand what they are getting into should they decide to acquire an emu or two, or adopt them from shelters. From negative past experience with the city we lived in prior to moving here, I found that many people are ignorant when it comes to these gentle birds, and they should be educated.

It is also vital that government agencies take seriously the viability and research of emus. I could find no information in 1998 about which (if any) vaccinations my birds might need. I could find no vets with experience in the area. Now, in researching for the book, I found that they need worming, a boost of B-complex, and possibly an EEE vaccine in certain areas (according to Minnaar, ExoticPetVet.net, and J. Helm/Clemson University).

Thankfully I've had no disease problems in the past 5 years with my birds; however, our town (which has some livestock) was quarantined with a possible case of Newcastle Disease, and all pet birds in a 5-mile radius of the SUSPECTED case were destroyed! Thankfully at that time our birds were staying at a friend's house while we were house-hunting during that time. In discussing the problem with our emu-owner neighbors, he said that the official he spoke with didn't know if emus were succeptible to Newcastle, and that he was trying to research the question with little funding available. To my knowledge, there are 2 emu farms in the Antelope Valley (southern CA) where I live.

It is my absolute hope that people become educated and accepting of emus as an important part of a healthy diet and serious farm animal in our country, and that people will respect and care for the animals as such. They are truly amazing animals.

Re: Pets

Hello Heidi,

This is my first reply to this message board, and I was reading these posts regarding emus as pets. I am for one extremely glad to see that someone is trying to create a book that would help people, like me, who have acquired an emu or more, and do wish to keep them as pets. I was given an extremely beautiful bird that was found by a woman wandering around her property. Belief was that some very irresponsible person had let several go because the "business" wasn't working for him. Some of the birds were shot and eaten. Mine was a lucky one. I consider this luck was for both of us. Because I would not have gotten to spend time with such a great animal.

As you can probably tell I knew, and to this point know very little about this bird. I am luckily getting a emu food from our feed store so I do feel like I am feeding her well. Being that she was living on cracked corn for about 2 years. BUT! I know nothing about worms, and other problems that can occur from this bird. Over 40 years I have had many dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, and horses. I have ALWAYS had annual vet checks, and worming schedules, and shots. (My large animal vet doesn't seem to much knowledge in these birds as well, and I am sure he isn't the only one.) I consider myself an extremely responsible pet/animal owner. I DO feel extremely frustrated when I have a situation, like JUST basic emu behavior and keep for its safety, and I can not find information anywhere. When I try to find out how to take care of it all I find is how to cook it, and what to do with the oil.

SO, I greatly appreciate a book offering any practical (pet type) information on emus. Let's face it there are emus as well as many other animals that end up in unfortunate situations I would only hope that people with large hearts take them in. But it would help if we can find more info then where the bird comes from. restriction from this information seems like it would only enhance problems with the birds.

Thanks you Heidi, and let me know when I can buy one. I know this was posted several months ago, but I would like to know if you are still working on the project.

Maria Williams