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Red Oak Farm
3040 Big Buck Road
Trezevant, TN 38258

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Red Oak Farm
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Herding Emus

Imagine that you have 20 cats in your living room.  Imagine that they really, really like your living room.  Imagine that you want to move them to the bedroom, which is down the hall.  What are the chances of you getting all of these cats to move together out of the living room, down the hall and into the bedroom?  What are the chances that at least one of them will climb over you to avoid going to the bedroom?

The Emu Zone

Each emu is surrounded by a "personal space" or zone which they do not like to have violated.  

  • The zone varies in size from emu to emu and with the season.  The zone seems to shrink during breeding season for the majority of the males, but increases with the females.  
  • The zone area will expand when the emu sees the vet drive up.  
  • The zone area will expand when the emu thinks you want to move him/her out of the pen.  It does not matter if the same bird slipped out the gate the day before, had to be captured and put back in the pen - if you want to move it out of the pen, it is going to want to stay and the zone will expand.
  • The zone area will expand the second the emu realizes you are not just petting him, but want to move him.
  • The zone area will expand if you are holding the rope used to "walk" the birds from one pen to another.
  • The zone area will expand if more than one human adult enters the pen.

In order to prevent you from entering the zone, the emu will move away from you. Fast.

Suggestions for Moving Groups of Emus 

If you know when you are going to move the birds, you may want to give them Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine) in their water the day before.  The calming effect will only last a day and you should not continually dose their water as you don't want them to become accustomed to the higher level as it will quit working.  Figure the dosage by package directions.  Keep in mind how much water they will drink per day, how many birds are in the pen, etc.  If you have an automatic waterer, you will want to turn it off so you can keep up with the dosage.

Between adjacent pens:  This is easier with two or three people, but can be done with one, it will just take longer.  The evening before you want to move the birds turn off any automatic waterers in the old pen, and dump the water.  If you have been supplementing the forage with feed, remove it. Open the gates to the new pen.  Go back to the house, have supper, watch TV, fill orders - do whatever you would normally do.   The next morning check and see if a miracle happened and they all moved without help.  Then sigh and get a sack of feed and go into the old pen.  Your helper, should you be lucky enough to have one, can come into the old pen in about 15 minutes.  Walk through the gate into the new pen.  Pour the feed into the new feed trough where the birds can see what you are doing.  Some will have followed you, some won't.   Make a big show of turning on the water.  If you have a garden hose, spray the water around and start a puddle.  Within just a few minutes most of the birds should be trying to get a shower.   The majority of the emus will be smart enough to go through the gates into the new pen, but if one  is running up and down the fence unable to find the opening, your helper may have to shoo it through the gate.  In the event that you don't have a helper, try to figure out a way to hook the sprayer handle over the fence in such a way as to spray the emus wallowing and ease slowly around the group (remember the zone) and back into the first pen.  With any luck you can shoo the emu into the new pen without having others rejoin you in the old pen.

From pen into alley: One way to herd the emus out of the pen into an alley is by using shelter shade.  The length of the cloth and the number of people needed to handle it will depend on the size of the pen and number of emus.  Ideally you would have one person per 6' of shade cloth - walking with their arms outstretched holding the cloth.  The space between your body and the next person should not be greater than 6'.  However, it has and can be done with fewer people if the emus are not too wild.  The problem is that if there is too great a space between the people, the emus will try to jump or go under the shelter shade.  If one emu gets through, others will try the same thing.

Down Alleys:  Herding emus down alleys between pens or to a trailer can be done by using fence panels to block their escape.  Hold the panel and walk down the alley towards the bird, which will move away from you.

The only thing worse than trying to move yearlings or breeders in a large pen is trying to catch chicks.  Imagine something the size of a large chicken running 32 mph away from you and turning on a dime.  Geez. 


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