As with other animals, the early days of a baby emu’s life are vital to survival. When an emu chick is only a few days to a few months old, you must keep it in a safe environment with all the right conditions. More importantly, you must provide a diet that offers all the essential nutrients for growth in emus.
So, what nutrients do baby emus need?
Baby emus need around 20% protein in their diet. They especially need sufficient methionine – a type of amino acid – in their feed. But beyond protein, baby emus should also get enough calcium and phosphorus in their meals.
There’s more to a complete baby emu diet than we described above. So, in this article, we give you a thorough rundown of what your baby emus should eat. We also compile a list of 11 healthy foods for your baby emu.
What Are the Nutrition Requirements for Young Emu?
Protein and Amino Acids
As with most animals, baby emus need sufficient protein in their diet to grow. But you must be careful not to give your emu chicks more protein than necessary. If you do, the chicks may end up with splayed legs.
The diet of your baby emus should offer no more than 20% protein. Give them more than 20%, and they may suffer splayed or spraddle leg as stated above.
Besides the overall protein of your baby emus’ diet, you should pay attention to the type of amino acids the protein sources offer.
Proteins are a combination of 20 amino acids. However, of these 20 amino acids, emus can only produce 9 in their bodies. So, they must get the remaining 11 from their diet; in other words, those 11 are essential amino acids to emus.
When getting or preparing feed for baby emus, the 11 essential amino acids must be present. If they are not, the emus may suffer deficiency over time.
Of the 11 amino acids essential to emus, 5 are likely to be short in supply. These 5 are:
Methionine is particularly vital because its deficiency may contribute to leg disorders in emus. So, pay attention to the methionine content in your baby emus’ diet.
Baby emus need minerals like calcium, sodium, phosphorus, manganese, and chloride in their diet.
Baby emus only need the said minerals in relatively small amounts. However, the balance between calcium and phosphorus is vital as an imbalance may cause leg disorders.
Besides the minerals mentioned above, trace amounts of iron, potassium, zinc, selenium, iodine, and copper are also beneficial to emus.
Emus do not need too much fiber in their diet; they are best fed low-fiber meals. Baby emus will do just fine with around 5-7% fiber in their feed.
While fiber serves as an energy source and helps with gut health, its overall nutritional value to emus is low. So, keep it minimal.
Vitamins A, B-complex, and D are beneficial to baby emus. Vitamin A deficiency can leave baby emus prone to respiratory diseases. It may also lower their immunity, eyesight, and overall growth.
Generally, deficiency in the B vitamins can lower immunity and affect metabolism. It may also affect nerve functions, growth, and blood formation.
Vitamin D helps regulate the balance between calcium and phosphorus. So, if your baby emus are deficient in vitamin D, they may suffer leg disorders.
Carbohydrate and Fat
Carbohydrates and fats provide most of the energy baby emus need to survive. Thankfully, sources of these two nutrients are ubiquitous.
11 Healthy Foods / Treats for Baby Emu
The ideal diet for baby emus should be species-specific. In other words, the best food for emu chicks is emu feed.
Ideally, you should offer your emu chick an emu starter feed in the first 8 weeks of its life. Then from 2 months to 14 months, let your emu chicks live on emu grower feed.
Emu feeds are typically pelleted. Emu starter feed usually contains the following:
- 15-20% crude protein
- 3% fat
- 0.8-1% lysine
- 1-1.04% linoleic acid
- 0.5% methionine
- Metabolizable energy of up to 2700 kcal/kg
Emu grower feed would contain the following:
- 18-20% crude protein
- Metabolizable energy of around 2600- 2700 kcal/kg
- 0.4-0.5% methionine
- 0.75-0.9% lysine
- 3% fat
- 1-1.04% linoleic acid
In cases where you cannot get an emu-specific feed for your baby emus, you may try out the following alternatives:
Chick Starter Feed
Chick starter and grower feeds typically contain around 18 to 20% protein. They may also have about 1% calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. High-quality chick starter feed may also contain trace minerals such zinc, iron, and copper.
The nutrient profile of chick starter feed shows that it is a healthy alternative to emu starter feed. It offers many of the nutrients baby emus need for optimal development. So, if you do not get emu starter feed, you can work with chick starter feed.
You can offer cracked corn as a treat to your baby emus. Corn provides protein, fat, carbohydrate, and fiber to emus. And as we already stated, these nutrients are beneficial to emus.
Ordinarily, baby emus may find it hard to eat uncracked corn kernels. But since you will crack the corn, eating and digesting is easier.
Cottonseed meal is a rich source of protein, with each 100g containing around 49g of protein. Besides being proteinous, it has significant amounts of calcium, vitamin B6, iron, carbohydrate, and fat.
While cottonseed meal is healthy food for your baby emu, it should not be the only constituent of their diet. Cottonseed meal contains way more protein than baby emus need. But if you mix it with other healthy food items, the overall protein content falls in place.
Kale is a healthy treat for baby emus. While it does not offer so much protein, carbohydrate, and fat, it provides other helpful nutrients.
Kale contains fair amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium. Each of these vitamins and minerals contributes to the overall wellbeing of emus in different ways.
Meat and Bone Meal
Meat and bone meal has a rich amino acid profile. So, it can offer most, if not all of the amino acids emus need in their diet.
Meat and bone meal contains protein, lysine, calcium, and phosphorus in significant amounts. So, it is typically restricted to 5% of a poultry bird’s diet. In other words, like cottonseed meal, meat and bone meal contains more nutrients than emus need. So, mix it with other healthy food items to normalize the nutrients.
Wheat mill run has around 15% crude protein and 0.1% calcium. But beyond those two, it contains many nutrients beneficial to emus. Mill run provides phosphorus, chloride, lysine, potassium, iron, and zinc.
High-quality rabbit pellets provide around 14-16% protein. It also provides 1% calcium and 1% fat. However, the fiber content is pretty high – about 22%.
If you intend to raise the fiber content of your baby emu’s diet, you may add rabbit pellets to its feed. But rabbit pellet fed alone to baby emus is not ideal.
Sorghum offers around 10% protein, 3% fat, and 5-6% fiber. It also provides carbohydrates, copper, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6.
As you may see, the protein content of sorghum is not very high, but most of the other nutrients are present in sufficient amounts. So, you may combine sorghum with a high-protein meal when feeding sorghum to your baby emus.
Soybean meal has a similar nutrition profile to cottonseed meal. It is highly proteinous like cottonseed meal. But beyond the protein, it is a good source of calcium, vitamin B6, iron, potassium, sodium, and magnesium.
Like cottonseed meal, mix soybean meal with healthy low-protein food items when feeding baby emus. This way, the protein content can be low enough for emus.
Sunflower meal contains around 28 to 40% protein – of course, this is much more than baby emus need in their diet. It also has about 15 to 25% fiber – more than baby emus need.
So, while sunflower meal is a healthy option for baby emus, it should only be a limited part of their overall diet. In other words, mix sunflower meal with low-protein, low-fiber food items. This way, you can normalize the protein and fiber content.
Spinach does not contain protein, fiber, fat, or calories in ample amounts. But it provides vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin A, iron, folate, and vitamin K.
Spinach is more fitting as a treat since it does not contain the primary nutrients baby emus need.