Red Oak Farm
Copyright © 1998 -2012
From Egg to Grow Out – what we do……
Most emus lay at roughly the same time each laying day, and all but one of ours lays every three days. The male usually shows the female where he wants her to lay. When it is getting close to time for the female to lay, she becomes agitated and walks back and forth up and down the fence line. The length of her walk becomes shorter and she will sit down and hop back up. Finally she arches her back and the egg will go shooting out and bounce off the fence, tree, bush or whatever. Aside from rocks, it is amazing what that egg can hit and not break! When she has laid the egg, the male will inspect it, peck it and then pick up some grass, straw or even dirt and deposit it on top of the egg. In the wild he will store eggs (batching) until ready to start incubating. By removing the eggs we insure he continues to breed the female so she will continue to produce fertile eggs.
After the first egg of the season has been laid, unless it is laid under the shelter, we put a toy football in the pen where we want the bird to lay. Yes, this actually works.
Ok, we did have one hen attack the football, tear it up and toss it out of the pen; but she started laying in that spot immediately. We figure she heard the Vols lost that last game…….
After picking up the egg we take it to the incubator room to be weighted and logged in. We wait until at least the next day to incubate. Unless the egg is very dirty, we do nothing more than wipe it off before putting it in the incubator. We put a piece of masking tape on the egg, write the egg number and date of incubation, expected date of hatch on the tape. We do “batch” the eggs, meaning that we save eggs until we have at least 12 to put in at a time. We do not try to hatch abnormal eggs.
rotten eggs are usually infected at the time they are laid.
The warm egg lands in a mud puddle and the bacteria gets sucked in
through the pores. If this is the
case, no amount of disinfecting will help.
For this reason it is wise to have proper drainage in the field and
provide plenty of nesting material.
ranches disinfect the eggs prior to incubation through the use of ultra-violet
lights, an antiseptic dip or misting, etc.
batch our eggs until we have at least 10 to 12. Our reason for this is
that we only keep 10
chicks together at a time until they are 2 months old.
Studies show that chicks
in a clutch stimulate each other to hatch, eat, drink and exercise.
It is more energy
efficient to wait and batch a clutch of eggs than to start up the incubator for
one or two eggs.
One thing to keep
in mind when incubating, whether you batch or not, is that a cold egg should not
be put into a warm incubator. Leave
the egg in the room overnight to let it reach room temperature before
I am often asked by new farmers why their eggs didn't hatch. If the problem is not sterile eggs, it has to be the way the eggs are handled and/or incubated. The most important things in incubation are temperature, humidity, air flow and egg turning.
Most new farmers get the temperature and humidity right for
their area of the country. It's usually a matter of following the
incubator manufacturer's instructions. However, there are two other
things that are equally important.
Air flow: As the eggs develop the embryos grow and use oxygen. Levels of carbon dioxide can easily build up if there is insufficient air flow. This is problem in the smaller cabinet type incubators. Know your incubator, talk to people who use the same type you use, talk to the manufacturer. The larger commercial style incubators usually have this problem addressed.
people start their incubation operation with a cabinet style incubator that
rocks the eggs back and forth. They
incorrectly think that this is all that is required to hatch a healthy chick.
Wrong. The eggs need to be
hand turned at least 3 times per day. When
turning the eggs by hand the egg must not be rotated in just one direction every
time, but back and forth. If you do
not rotate the egg back and forth the embryo will stick to the shell membranes
or the yolk sac will stick to the bottom of the egg, either way, you have chicks
dead in the shell. We use a large
incubator with rollers that turn the egg back and forth hourly.
Check the eggs
daily for odor and temperature. When
the eggs are within a week of hatching, I start tapping.
You use a metal rod for this and tap the egg.
If there is a tinny sound, you have a dead egg.
To double check, take the egg out.
A fertile egg will remain hot, a dead one will cool quickly.
hatch between 50 to 54 days, depending on the temperature. Higher
temperatures produce chicks quicker, but if the temperature gets too high, you
have other problems.
We keep our incubator room at 68F, and incubate at 97.5F, with 30 % humidity. We keep the hatcher at 97F.
When the chick has broken through to the air sac (sounded), the egg will sound hollow when tapped and the chick will cheep. (I whistle to mine) Compare the sound with that of a clean blown egg (one hole in one end).
will have 72 hours worth of air, but once the chick has entered the air sac they
usually hatch within 24 hours. When the
chick makes a hole in the outer shell, it is called pipping. You
can offer encouragement by tapping on the egg and talking to it.
If the chick is mal-positioned it may need help to get out – however,
these chicks usually do not flourish and die before 3 months.
Keep an accurate hatch log and indicate if you have assisted the hatch in
order to make comparisons to any chick mortalities.
We move the egg to a hatcher when the chick has sounded the shell. We use old terry cloth towels that have been cut into the right size for the hatcher boxes to keep the chick from slipping. We also tape the legs for the first couple of days to be sure the legs don't become splayed.
Since we sell both straight run chicks and sexed and tagged chicks, some of these may be sexed after hatching.
When the feathers
are dry, we move the chick to the brood box.
The box has a heat lamp and heating pad at one end to keep the chick
warm. It is able to move about and stay comfortable.
Keep the belly warm! The
chick will live on it’s yolk sac so it does not need food or water for the
first 3 or 4 days. This is
important – if it does not use the yolk sac, it will get sick and die
It must be taught to drink and eat (the father does this in the wild). After the first chick learns to eat and drink, it will teach the others. The chicks will instinctively peck at bright colors. You can put marbles in the water to attract their attention. If they have not taken a sip after 5 days, I dip their beaks in the water and lift their heads back so it will run down their throats. That usually gets them going. Eating is not too far behind.
The chick is moved to a chick run and the tape is removed
at 4 days old. It stays in this run until it is 2 to 3 months old.
During the day, if the weather is not too cold or windy, we open the outside
doors and let the chicks roam the outside runs. The inside run is
covered with straw which is changed as necessary. (The older the chicks are, the
more often it becomes necessary)
Our chick runs have gates at the end which lead to our grow-out pens. Birds destined for slaughter go to these pens. Those kept for breeding are tagged and put into another pen. We feed free choice until the chicks are 14 months old, then harvest them. The exception is the few birds which make it into our breeding program.
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