Happy-dancing Emu chicks

Hello everyone and thank you for your kindness and support when I went live last week.

First up, promise this will be a shorter post since the some of you are still trying to get through my first attempt.

An emu graces the Australian Coat-of-Arms for the same reason as the Kangaroo – (they can’t go backwards) so it’s only fair they get their own post.  I’m making this post more like the training notes I give new foster-carers operating under licence and direction.  Also, since some of you who wanted to follow me had problems finding my LIKE page on facebook so try this:  http://www.facebook.com/VickiLee.AuthorFOLLOWERS?sk=wall

So let’s start with some photos,  as requested.  First up a predator-proof shed to sleep in overnight.  

Emu Diet

These nomads feed on grains, grass, flowers, fruit, soft shoots as well as insects, mice, grubs and even other animal dung. Farmers often don’t like them but the fact is they help with locust plagues and eat flowers off weeds which affectively stop noxious weeds from seeding and then spreading. 

Photo 2 is Outdoor time – once they settled in, the happy-dancing began each morning when they were let outside. 

Mating rituals

Once a pair of emus partner up, they mate every day for about a month. Every three or so days, the female lays one 500gr dark greeny/blue egg. After the seventh egg, the male becomes broody and sits on the eggs.  For the next eight weeks he won’t eat, drink or even take a toilet break. He’ll lose up to a third of his body weight as he uses up accumulated fat, but he won’t budge.  His partner will go about freely and mate with other males, sometimes adding to the original nest, other times, she may have three males sitting. The male will even adopt a stray chick if it’s around the same age as his own and needs no special attention which takes away from his primary care of his own brood. He will protect his brood, teach them what’s safe to eat and play chasing games to help them build speed to avoid predators.

Couldn’t load a one minute video here,  so put it on Youtube: Take a look – I called the first video – The Call because it reminded me of how some authors celebrate getting the call from an agent/editor. I’m sure this is where the term doing a happy dance originated. 



Curiosity defines these flightless birds and they will investigate anything unusual they come across.  In older times, aborigines used this trait to trap them. One man might  kick his legs in the air for example, and the others would jump the emu which came to investigate up close.  Sometimes you see people with one arm held straight up in the air and making a ducks beak with their fingers to make themselves seem taller (to discourage the emu investigation) They eat a lot and grow fast. 


Wildlife rescued file notes: 

We got a call to go help five emu chicks orphaned when a redneck shot their father for a bit of sport. What can I say? These men must have had mothers. These men vote. Some women will see them as a good breeding partner. What I’d say to all sportsman shooters is that they should go to Iraq and shoot at things which shoot back. That’s my idea of true sportsmanship, if you’re that way inclined.

The chicks were the size of an average chicken on arrival and grew from about a kilo each on arrival to 15-18kg ten weeks later. We released them at about 30-35kg each some six months later.  On a nice property with a creek running through it and a huge National park.  They needed to be moved in a horse trailer and you can see the size of one although its a bit dark in there.

They all refused to come out so we hung around collecting seed while they checked it out for a few hours before leaving them. Friends on the property told us the emus opted to cruise the edge of the highway – under the power lines (where bird droppings sprout) rather than go deeper into the National Park. 

That’s my under-800-words post, folks.

As always I’m happy to respond to comments/questions and if you hate commenting, please hit the like button above and let me know you’re enjoying my posts without having to make a comment.

Until next post, take care and be well.

Vicki Lee

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11 Responses to Happy-dancing Emu chicks

  1. Marne Ann says:

    Vicki Lee,
    What a great post! These emus are so adorable. I understand the ostrich can kill a grown man with a kick. Is the emu the same?
    Also, if they eat flowers off the noxious weeds, do they also eat flowers off the garden flowers you try to grow?
    Thanks for the information. Take care,
    Marne Ann

    • Vicki Lee says:

      Hi Marne and thanks for looking in. Potentially they can kill, but they are easy to manage and are farmed for emu oil and meat. The only danger I’ve ever heard of involved a protective dad with chicks who flapped and fluffed up his neck feathers to discourage close proximity. They would eat flowers if you had a cottage garden, but generally they browse grasslands and plains. Remote, rural home-makers tend to have waterwise “native” gardens because there is no town water supply. They dont come too close to houses (dogs barking etc) unless really hungry or thirsty.

  2. Well, I learnt a few things. Do you find they are dumb as posts, though? You have to be so careful when a group is near the road – especially if they split up.

    • Vicki Lee says:

      Hi Greta,
      Much as I love them, I have to confess they can be less ‘with it’ than most other birds.
      The second time I enter an enclosure (parrot, raptors) generally he’ll come flapping and flying at top speed in a bid to sneak out the closing door, but I can leave the emu door open for ages while I change water, drag in bags of feed etc and they won’t notice it’s open, even after I’ve walked out and left that way. Yeh *shrugs*.

  3. kendallgrey says:

    The happy dance was hilarious! Funny how the emus would sometimes fall down. They look as if they should have arms or something. Hahahaha!

    I have so much respect for people like you. I love animals, but I couldn’t stand to see them put down if they couldn’t be rehabilitated. I understand the reasoning, but that must be awful. Thanks for sharing all this great info about Australian animals and for visiting my blog. 🙂

  4. Deborah Barrett says:

    Loved your post! I’m an avid animal lover & volunteered 18 or so years with a local wildlife rehab center. We worked w/hawks, owls, eagles, falcons, vultures & all native species from desert tortoises to sparrows. So, anything related to animals, I love. I agree w/your comment about the “sportsmen”. I really enjoyed their happy dance.

    • Vicki Lee says:

      Thanks for commenting Deborah,
      I’m jealous about the Vultures – never had one of those in care!
      Where in Aust. are you? and what kind of vultures are we talking here – Buzzards?
      I find raptors a challenge – not the handling part but the feeding. When I got my first Eagle, there were no raptor carers for 300km either side of me so I hit the mountains and consulted a recluse rumoured to have made a pet of one. He ripped the head off one of his chickens without any warning and I threw up. He called me ‘girly’ and growled out that the eagle needed, fresh, warm blood to recover and asked if I was an idiot vegetarian. The eagle did recover in my care. Later he recommended me to rear a whistling kite chick and had it delivered with a live chicken. Old coot!
      I should probably find a photo and blog that story…

  5. Hi Vicki Lee!
    Great post, loved the dancing Emus, so incredibly cute! It’s hard to believe that something that starts out so small grows so large that quickly. Love the fact that the male are the brooders. If only some human males were as smart… As for the redneck, I wholeheartedly agree and I’ll never understand. I live in a rural community in Illinois, lots of hunters here and I don’t have a problem when they’re hunting to supplement their food stores usually with deer, there’s not much else to hunt here (but the deer are so think around here, herds run out into the roads). But, sportsmen hunters are another breed altogether, or the hunters that take such pride in their guns, I just don’t get it.

    • Vicki Lee says:

      Thanks for commenting Dottie. Pretty much everyone in my family has a gun licence out here but nobody shoots for fun. I’m fine with dealing with foxes and feral dogs and cats which are in plague numbers out here and eat their bodyweight in native creatures every week. Its senseless killing which really bugs me and I can’t even euthanise a suffering and injured creature. When caught out alone with a beyond help/ near death case. I can’t see the point of killing grass eaters – sure a kangaroo has a powerful kick and can disembowel with his toenails but its basically as docile as a horse/sheep/cow – why pretend it’s a man eating lion who’s stalking a human?

  6. anemulligan says:

    I have to ask if Emu and Ostrich are different in taste. I’ve had Ostrich and love it. I have some other writer friends in Australia, most are members of ACFW and probably RWA, too. I’m looking froward to getting to know you in the WriterU class.

  7. Vicki Lee says:

    Hi Ane,
    I’ve never been able to eat native animals I’m afraid, I’ve travelled through Europe and Asia where wildlife is not so abundant and feel this is a sad loss for future generations. Actually we eat minimal meat and never lambs/chickens our kids raised. Lovely to meet you and thanks for stopping by.

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