Commercial ratite rations are available from a number of sources. Most commercial feed companies are producing starter, grower and breeder rations in mash or pellet form. Limits on the addition of other sources of roughage or nutrients, such as alfalfa hay, may be recommended by the manufacturer.
Protein contents vary from 16 to 22 percent. Nutritional requirements of the emu have not been determined by scientific research; however, similarities of the emu and chicken digestive systems suggest that their nutritional requirements may be similar.
Many farmers feed newly hatched chicks a mixture of chopped greens, a commercial starter crumble and a vitamin/mineral supplement. The greens are thought to attract the birds to the feeder and stimulate feed consumption; the nutritional benefits are negligible. Water may be offered before food by about 12 hours.
Grit is offered with the food although it is not necessary if feeding a processed commercial diet. Chicks are usually fed twice a day for about an hour. Diets are usually in a small pellet or large crumble form for chicks. Fiber content varies between 7 and 15 percent. Some nutritionists recommend fiber content between 5 and 10 percent. Diets with more than 25 percent protein (such as dog food and catfish chow) have been associated with growth problems in young emu.
Breeder diets contain additional calcium, or calcium can be offered "free choice" in the form of oyster shell. Breeders that are too fat do not appear to reproduce as well as those in normal condition. Some emu producers prefer free choice feeding systems, while others prefer one to three daily feedings. Advantages of each system are based on economics (your time, hired help) and personal preference. However, multiple daily feedings provide a time for interaction with the birds, making it easier to detect illness and control an individual bird's weight.
Emu reach sexual maturity at 18 months to 3 years of age. Males and females usually are paired in a 1:1 ratio although polygamous mating (more than one female per male) has been successful in some cases. Emu courtship consists of strutting and displaying the neck feathers by both the male and female. The female makes a drumming sound ("booming") and the male makes a grunting sound ("growling"). Allow emu to pair naturally from a communal pen or across a fence, and then move them to a breeder pen together. Non-compatible birds will fight. Many emu begin producing in their second year. Emu lay eggs in the winter months, usually between November and March. Eggs are laid every 3 or 4 days, with an average of 30 eggs laid per season. Some may produce up to 50 eggs per season.