For the smallholder who has everything ~ consider getting a couple of emus. Although they can run fast, they don’t need a great deal of space, so are suited to smallholding conditions.

The second tallest bird in the world, emu females are slightly larger than males and they can grow to 1.9 metres tall. Emus cannot fly but they are fast runners – up to 48 km per hour.

There are few predators capable of attacking an emu. It has sharp claws on its toes which are its major defensive attribute, and are used in combat to inflict wounds on opponents by kicking. They are also able to jump high when attacked, so are able to get their heads and necks out of danger.

This ability will explain why it has become popular for smallholders to keep emus to protect their flocks of sheep. They are protective and very territorial and can be very aggressive when they feel threatened.

Male emu at nest of eggs

Their dark brown colouring is the same for both genders. However, during the mating season the emu hens grow black feathers on the head and the bare skin on the head turns blue.

They are handy in your garden because they eat great quantities of caterpillars and grasshoppers. They also eat masses of the burrs that tangle sheep wool, which makes them helpful to many smallholders. They are also known to steal sandwiches from small children.

Female emus are pretty emancipated: they lay 5-15 eggs and then leave the incubating and raising of the chicks to the male, who will do this all by himself.

Emus can become quite tame, but you still need to treat such a large bird with caution

The emu is extensively farmed for its meat, oil and leather. This oil is made from emu fat. There is a large pocket of fat on the back, as well as on the belly, which is processed into oil. The oil is used in dietary supplements, therapeutic products and in cosmetics, depending on the grade of oil. The meat is similar to ostrich, in that it is lean, low in cholesterol and filled with nutrients. If you want to compare them to ostriches, click here to refer to our recent article on keeping ostriches.

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