Red Oak Farm
Copyright © 1998 -2012
When chicks are just hatched, they may be vent sexed. It is advisable to do this immediately as there will be manure later. You must be very gentle doing this so you don't hurt them. Wearing rubber gloves, turn the chick upside down and very gently part the feathers on either side of the vent. You will have to apply a little pressure to one side in order to get the sexual organs to 'pop out'. If the chick is male, the penis will show as a little white stem. A female will have a clitoris. If the sexual organs are not defined, the bird will be an 'it'.
Another way to tell the sex is to look at the chick's head. This is not as invasive as vent sexing and frankly, I have found it to be just as accurate. The feather pattern on the back of the head will, in the case of the males, be shaped like a bulls-eye. The picture above shows the back of the head on a 3 day old male emu chick.
The female will have a defined pattern of lines, but no bulls eye. Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether or not a pattern is a bulls eye because the circles will not be 'complete' - we recommend vent sexing if there is any question.
If the feathers are salt and pepper with no pattern, it will be an 'it' and will not breed. These are rare in farms with good breeding programs but should be should be culled for processing.
Note: There are three subspecies of emu being bred in the US today. In at least one of these subspecies, the markings are on the front of the head rather than the back.
Straight Run Chicks have not been vent sexed.
When the chicks turn brown and lose their stripes it is impossible to sex them. The reproductive organs do not develop further until their reach their first breeding season and at this point the male and female organs look very similar.
As adults, emu cannot be told apart visually. You must either manually sex them or wait until breeding season to observe their actions or listen to them. The voice change begins at between 10 to 14 months of age. At this time both sexes will be making a grunting sound. Not long after that, the female goes through a physical change the male does not, her throat sac begins to develop. By the time she is sexually mature, she will have 'found her voice' and will be making a 'booming' sound, rather like a bass drum. A visiting nurse told me once that it sounded like a heart beat.
Males make a grunting noise, like pigs. They will whistle to chicks.
Chicks whistle up until 10 to 14 months.