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Red Oak Farm
3040 Big Buck Road
Trezevant, TN 38258

Copyright © 1998 -2012
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Red Oak Farm
Revised: almost weekly



Facilities – Land, Fencing & Shelters  

The first decision you have to make as an emu farmer is what your goals are regarding bird production.  That decision will affect your choices in facilities and fencing.  For example, if you choose to purchase chicks and run a grow-out facility, you have no need for breeder pens or chick runs.

Your first question is, do I want to keep up with genetics?  If you do, you will want to run breeders in pairs rather than group pens. 

Land Requirements

Land requirements for emu are minimal.  If you are diversifying your farming operation to include emu, you probably already have the basis of the operation.

Emus can be successfully raised in small pens or large pastures – or a combination of the two.  Most emu ranches are between 5 to 10 acres. Our birds are on less than 5 acres.

Breeder Pens - 30’x100’ is adequate. The pens can be laid out in rows or wagon wheel shaped; it’s a matter of personal preference on the part of the farmer.  Having breeder pens is necessary if you plan on keeping up with genetics, fertility rates or selling livestock.  This size pen is large enough to run either a pair or a trio.

Colony pens - stocked with between 5 to 10 pair of emu per acre.  No way to keep up with genetics, laying or fertility records.  However, it is a more natural environment for the birds and some farmers run colony pens during the summer, moving the breeders back into smaller pens when breeding season approaches.

Grow out pens - chicks 2 or 3 months and up of a similar size are kept anywhere from 20 to 50 birds per acre until they are ready to transport to a processing facility.  

Chick runs - depending on where your farm is located, chicks from the brooder to 2 or 3 months of age are usually kept in smaller pens with shelter.   We keep ours in 5’x10’ inside pens during the coldest of our Tennessee winters.  The outside runs are 80’ long.  See also “From Egg to Grow Out

Notes on choosing a site:

Good drainage is essential for control of bacteria and insects.   

Sloping land is not a problem for emus.

Leave as much natural vegetation as possible for shade.


Fencing can be chain link, hog wire, 2-inch by 4-inch non-climb wire, game fencing or even cattle panels with wire on the outside. Although you will find that many emu ranchers use 5’, I prefer a 6’ fence.  I have seen upset emus jump chest high on a 6’ fence.  Healthy emus can and will get out of a 4’ fence. 

Do not use barbed wire fence, even a few strands to “finish off” the height!  Emu tend to rub against the fence and this will tear up their hides, hurt them and decrease the value of the leather in slaughter birds. 

Another thing to remember is that your fence should not have any areas where the bird could stick its head or foot through to get caught.  Chicks can be fenced in using chicken wire.   

When laying out your pens some things to consider:

  • Would an alleyway be beneficial later when moving birds?  

  • Can I move the birds from one pen to another easily? (Example, can the chicks be herded from their runs directly into a grow out pen or will I have to catch and carry them?)

  • Can I get the mower/other equipment in through the gates I have planned?

  • Should I build a chute to help in loading birds?

  • If I expand my operation later, will I be able to run water/electricity where needed easily or will I have to dig up pens?

Our personal choice for our breeder pens was to install a wagon wheel design.  It takes up less than an acre, provides a central point from which I can quickly feed and water birds.  During lying season, most of the females lay under the shelter and it is easier to gather eggs as well. 


Depending on your climate and budget, there are many options for you to consider when choosing shelter for your birds.  Chicks under 3 months of age require more protection from the elements than older birds.   Given the choice, after they hit the 3-month mark, most emus would prefer to sleep outside under a tree, next to a hay bale or along the fence than “inside” even a 2-sided structure unless the weather is very cold.  

As I stated, our farm is in Tennessee.   We use pole barns and put out straw bales in the winter for wind blocks.  In the spring these are used as mulch.  Round bales are used in the grow-out pens as wind blocks.  Some people use plastic “huts”/igloo type shelters, lean-tos, pole barns, or tunnel type shelters.

In the northern states some farmers use pre-existing barns or stables to house their flocks through the winter months.

The main thing to remember when using buildings like this is that darkness, poor air circulation and body warmth are breeding grounds for bacteria.  Shovel it out folks.

Chicks under 3 months need more shelter during winter months.  Many people have successfully converted greenhouses for use as a chick barn.   We use a chick barn with 5’x10’ pens leading out to 80’ runs.   During the day, if the weather is not too cold, the chicks have access to the outside. We close them up inside at night.   We do not put more than 10 chicks in a pen.  We have learned the hard way that if we do, one dies.   They huddle together under the heat lamps and one will inevitably smother.   (And it is always the largest, prettiest one that dies!)

Some Do's and Don'ts

Wagon Wheel Design

Feed Requirements

On to From Egg to Grow Out