The first chick of the spring happens to be an emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). In December I posted a large, dark green emu egg. My friend’s emus are now hatching, providing the perfect opportunity to share what developed from that egg.
In the wild, the female does the courting. The male constructs a large nest of twigs and grasses lining a depression in the ground. The pair mates every day or two. The female lays an egg each second or third day until there are about eleven in all. At that point the female often leaves the male and eggs, going off to find a new mate and lay another nestful of eggs. The male incubates the eggs for approximately eight weeks and then continues to nurture the young until they are full-grown at about six months.
A native of Australia, these local ratites (flightless birds) have not adapted to the Northern Hemisphere’s seasonal cycle. They lay their eggs in the winter here in Modoc County CA! Although my friend will leave some eggs with the male to incubate, none have ever hatched. The weather is simply to harsh. She incubates several of the eggs indoors and the remainder make great omelets.
The chick is active upon hatching and in its natural setting will leave the nest within a few days. About five inches tall, the chick has brown and cream longitudinal stripes and a spotted head, very different from the solid color it will become as an adult. The color and pattern of the chick provides camouflage in the wild. Indoors the little guy/gal just looks cute. My friend keeps the babies in the house and nurtures them until temperatures moderate and they can be put into an outdoor pen.
In captivity the emu chicks are safe, however in the wild, lizards, eagles, dingoes and domestic or feral cats and dogs are a threat to the youngsters.
Since male and female emus look the same, the sex of the chicks cannot be determined until they mature. Adult males make a drumming or grunting sound. Over the summer I will share more photographs of this chick as it grows.