Often frequently mistaken for ostriches, emus are large birds native to the land of Australia. They stand more than 5 feet tall and weigh up to 100 pounds or more. These terrestrial birds are also the second-largest birds in the world.
But don’t be fooled into thinking they are defenseless because emus can run up to 38 miles per hour and jump vertically to 7 feet!
Like many species of birds, we tend to assume that emus may eat only green plants, fruits, and small insects. But that’s not entirely true. Emus do eat meat.
In the wild, especially in the arid land of Australia, emus will look for food during the day. They will even travel hundreds of miles just to find food and water. After eating, emus can store a lot of fat in their body until they are able to feed again in times of scarcity.
Additionally, weather and environmental changes also influence emus’ diets.
The climate in Australia is very different from the weather in the United States. The central region is arid and hot while the east is oceanic and subtropical. There are also wet seasons in certain parts throughout the year and the north part consists of a Mediterranean climate and a savannah.
Emus have adapted to these conditions by storing water which enables them to go days or weeks without drinking.
Emu Nutrition Requirement
Like other animals, emus require many kinds of essential nutrients and vitamins to keep their metabolism and health at an optimum level. This table shows some of the nutrients that emus need, either in the wild or under human care:
|Nutrient||Starter (0 to 6 weeks)||Grower (6 to 36 weeks)||Finisher (36 to 48 weeks)||Breeder Holding (48 weeks to maturity)||Breeder (From 3 to 4 weeks before the onset of egg production)|
|Protein (%)||22||20||17||16||20 to 22|
|Calcium (%)||1.5||1.3||1.2||1.2||2.4 to 3.5|
|Crude fiber (%)||6 to 8||6 to 8||6 to 7||6 to 7||7 to 8|
|Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) (%)||14 to 16||14 to 17||10 to 13||14 to 16||16 to 18|
|Vitamin A (IU/lb)||7,000||4,000||4,000||4,000||4,000|
|Vitamin D3 (IU/lb)||2,000||1,500||1,500||1,500||1,500|
|Vitamin E (IU/lb)||45||20||20||20||45|
|Vitamin B12 (μg/lb)||20||10||10||10||20|
|Total sulfur amino acids (%)||0.86||0.78||0.65||0.60||0.75|
|Metabolize energy (kcal/lb)||1,200||1,200||1,300||1,150||1,090|
Dietary Habits of Emus
In their wild habitat, there is no telling how much emus eat in a day because a lot of factors come into play.
However, emus that are kept in zoos or captivity eat between 1.5 to 2 pounds of food each day. No matter where they live or grow, their diet will mainly consist of all these things:
Emus aren’t picky and they eat almost any type of non-poisonous plant. These include wild grasses, grass shoots, acacia, casuarina, hay, wheat, and various plants species. However, they don’t eat plants that don’t look healthy such as dead flowers and dried grass.
2. Fruits and vegetables
Aside from plants, emus also love to devour different kinds of fruits and vegetables.
These birds don’t have any teeth and they consume fruits and vegetables by gulping and digesting them. During the long, hot summer months, this food can supply them with vitamins, fiber, energy, sugar, and most importantly, water. Some of the fruits and vegetables that they love are:
- Kangaroo apples
- Sandalwood kernels
3. Insects and arthropods
Emus require between 15% and 20% protein in their diet. Due to this high protein demand, they will consume non-poisonous insects and arthropods on a daily basis. These include:
- Moth larvae
Aside from insects, emus get their protein from other sources of food.
In the wild, they can catch small animals such as frogs, lizards, snakes, mice, and invertebrates such as land snails. When breeders and farmers keep in their farm or backyard, they can feed emus with chicken meats, chicken eggs, bone meal, and other animal products.
Be sure to monitor their protein intake and keep their meal healthy and balanced.
5. Grains and seeds
Emus also enjoy a wide variety of grains and seeds. In fact, they are considered effective ‘seed dispersal animals’. When they roam and wander around, their droppings contain seeds that they have eaten and these seeds will be spread naturally.
Some of the grains and seeds that emus love are:
- Sunflower seeds
- Grass seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
6. Small stones or charcoal
Don’t be surprised when you seed emus feed on small stones. As a matter of fact, they need small rocks to help with their digestion.
Simply put, these rocks and emus’ gizzards act like a pestle and mortar. Due to the nature of their diet, emus’ gizzards are also large and full of strong muscles.
Emus could swallow stones between 1.5 ounces and 1.64 pounds at one time.
Last but not least, emus also need enough water to wash down everything that they eat. It also helps them to stay hydrated, especially during hot summer months.
Adult emus generally drink around 2.3 gallons of water and could consume up to 4 gallons per day. However, if they drink a large amount of water, this will be done in one sitting. Then, they won’t drink for days until they are thirsty again.
What Do Emu Chicks Eat
Emu chicks’ diet is slightly different than the adults’. During the first three days, they may not eat or drink as much as they could. But they may peck at small crumbs of food that they find around them.
During their first eight weeks, you can feed emu chicks with starter feed that contains 20% protein. Don’t give them any feed that has a higher amount of protein to avoid growth issues such as splayed legs. The ideal amount that they should eat is usually around 2 pounds of feed per day.
Once they have reached two months, you can switch to grower feed that contains 18% protein. During this phase, their growth will accelerate and the amount that they need could change. However, you can still maintain the ideal amount that they should eat, which is around 2 pounds.
Feed emu chicks with grower feed until they reach 14 months old.
Overall, emus are easy to keep and raise due to the versatility of their diet.
Unlike other birds, emus aren’t picky. In fact, they will eat eagerly because most food is important to give their body energy while keeping them healthy. Hence, it is no surprise that some people could afford to adopt these large birds as pets.