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Rheas?

 
Doug Gillespie
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Anybody ever had any experience with keeping rheas?  It's sort of a silly idea, but for some reason they just fascinate us, and the idea of having giant prehistoric looking birds walking around our pastures tickles us.

Thanks,
Doug
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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We had some when I was younger.  I totally loved them, my parents weren't thrilled.  The coyotes eventually got them all.

They have issues when young, especially if raised in pens, lots of leg problems.  They have to have a lot of exercise, and best if raised on pasture.

Emus are a lot hardier, and the coyotes are not a problem with them.  They also offer a their oil as an extra product.
 
                        
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I grew up on a rhea/emu ranch, and if given the choice between the two, it will always be emus.  Emus are friendly, rheas are highly aggressive, especially males during the breeding and egg seasons.  Emus do have a powerful kick that rheas do not have, but the only time I've ever had to deal with it was when rounding them up and they got spooked.  Rheas do not kick, they bite, and they are the pitbulls of the bird world.  They do not let go until they want to let go.

If you have kids or just concerns for your own well being, avoid the rheas, go with emus.  As previously stated, you get a high quality oil form them, plus a high quality meat and egg.  The eggs are a beautiful deep green and are teal lightly under the surface.  I've seen folks charging quite a bit at farmers markets for carved emu eggs, if I had any artistic talent, I would have done the same.
 
Doug Gillespie
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The coyotes eventually got them all.


That's sort of surprising.  I had thought, from the limited info available, that they were not terribly vulnerable to coyotes except when brooding.  That's a huge consideration - our land in GA is coyote wonderland. 

Emus are friendly, rheas are highly aggressive


It's amazing how opinions diverge on this - some say exactly the opposite, but then, you're not trying to sell me an emu, and some of the people who've said emu are more agressive did have a vested interest in sellng rheas. 

Anyway, it looks like emu might be a better option.  Two more questions, then - how's the meat taste? People say rhea is like beef, is emu similar?  And how well do they handle extremes of climate?  In northeast GA it can be miserably hot and humid in the summer and surprisingly cold in the winter.  As a side benefit, there seems to be more information generally available on emu care than rhea.

Thanks for the input!
Doug
 
                        
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Not sure about Georgia, but in Southern Idaho, we go from single digits in the winter to 110+ in the summer, and they have done fine.  As for the meat, both emu and rhea taste like a very lean beef.  However, they are so lean they tend to overcook if you aren't careful.  Quality of the eggs is decent, and like chickens, will depend on the feed and general health of the hen.  However, it's nice to only use one egg to make an omelette for 2 and still have plenty left over.
 
Doug Gillespie
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Cowboy wrote:
Not sure about Georgia, but in Southern Idaho, we go from single digits in the winter to 110+ in the summer, and they have done fine.  As for the meat, both emu and rhea taste like a very lean beef.  However, they are so lean they tend to overcook if you aren't careful.  Quality of the eggs is decent, and like chickens, will depend on the feed and general health of the hen.  However, it's nice to only use one egg to make an omelette for 2 and still have plenty left over.


Well that's even more of a range than in GA, albeit probably with significantly less humidity.  They should be fine, I'm thinking.  It sounds like the meat needs the care one would take with venison or other ultra lean red meats, so that should not be too big a problem.  Do you render any oil from yours?  Also, how do you go about slaughtering.  I have this surrealistic vision of a gigantic killing cone nailed to a large tree. 

Doug
 
                        
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Well, I grew up on the farm, so it's nothing I'm involved in anymore, but in the old days, we would tie a rope over the rafters, throw down some fresh straw, and grab a tub.  Then, we'd put a hat or a sock over the emu's head (like most birds, they calm down a bit when blinded), bring it in to the barn, tie it's feet and hang it upside down.  It would start to panic then, but if you have a friend or helper, they can try to wrestle the head still while you slit the throat. 

As for rendering the oil, that's really a question for my folks.  I believe there are pouches of fat on an emu near the wings that provide the best oil.
 
Doug Gillespie
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Thanks for the info - I'm amused to see that my visions of a ridiculously huge killing cone are not that far off base after all.    Another question for y'all - how do emu do in a mixed pasture situation, say with goats and/or sheep?

Doug
 
                        
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Well, we had several pairs of emus and we'd separate couples during the laying season, but other than that, they did fine with several goats, a sheep, and a few cows.  It's like introducing a new puppy to the crew, you have to take it a little slow at first and let them become acclimated.  However, the emus are able to find a quiet corner of the pasture should they need it.  Remember, unlike rheas, emus mate for life and work well as pairs.  The male does a lot of the nest sitting and taking care of young chicks, so it's important to keep male and female together during the laying season and hatching season.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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