An intimate view of a Co-habiting emu Pair
When keeping a mob of emu, breeding season is always an exciting time of year. You never know how it will go, who will pair off with whom etc. Featured here is Tarquin (female) and Crackers (male).
When breeding season started it was obvious that Tarquin was possibly going to injure another emu, as her temperament was far from calm. On the other hand, Crackers, who is one of my more relaxed and easy going emu, was attempting to form a trio with his mother and father. I couldn't let that happen, or see Tarquin constantly aggressing the other females, so in a moment of frustration I put them both in the baby enclosure together!
They got on fabulously, and this year Tarquin was the first to start laying. It was her first breeding season. She took to Crackers straight away, and well, Crackers is the sort of boy who does as he's told and goes with the flow. He made some great nests, usually huge with lots of effort going into them, which is rare for emu! He took his role seriously, and sat diligently, through wind, rain and a sprinkling of snow, within the open air enclosure. At one stage Tarquin was let out of the enclosure, and all hell broke loose, so she ended up back in there!
My emu lay their eggs out in the field, and when the fathers have reach hatching time I usually take away any viable eggs and put them in the incubator for their final period, to hatch them at home. I felt very differently about this pair though, although they are both first timers and the eggs were small, they came together so well. I observed them build nests together and have been present a couple of times during egg laying. They worked very well together and had the security of their purpose built enclosure, so I made the decision to let nature take its course.
The eggs were due on Monday 22nd. On Tuesday 23rd one had pipped and we could hear its whistles from under the body of Crackers. This was a very anxious time. I've had males get up at this point and leave the eggs, especially first timers. I think maybe they feel strange about eggs moving around under them. Crackers remained sitting though, and Tarquin stood guard, drumming and circling the nest enclosure I had made for Crackers, using bales of straw to fend off the wind and weather.
Nothing much happened on Tuesday 22nd, just lots of expressions of excitement and anxiety from us humans, not knowing how the female would react to the babies, since female emu are not known for their maternal nature, and caution needs to be taken when the female is around the hatchlings, in case she kills them. Sadly, we have had this happen to us before so we were very anxious about this hatching.
We were there at first light on Wednesday 24th to find that the egg had not progressed in hatching much since the previous day. This was a relief in a way as it felt we still had some control should Tarquin change her mind about her young. She maintained an excellent disposition though, and around lunchtime there was some progress in the hatching; the first baby was almost out. It was helped out, I feel, when at one stage Crackers went to sit back down on the egg and there was a loud 'crack'. He stood up again, and we could see the baby was on its way out. Also, by this time, a second egg had pipped. We were quite worried when we saw what we saw; it appeared the parents were pecking at the chick, but afterwards we realised they were probably getting off the egg goo and removing the shell around its head! This is something I never do when incubating eggs, as the chick can still be attached to the membrane, but the parents instinctively seemed to know what to do.
Wednesday passed. Crackers wanted to keep the wet baby warm, so we left them to it and returned at first light, Thursday 25th, to find two fluffy healthy little babies! I lifted Crackers to have a look; he didn't mind at all but, certainly wasn't going to show me voluntarily. He and Tarquin seemed just as excited as we were to see them safe and sound! I can honestly say that this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and feel extremely privileged to have the parents allow me to be so close to them. I even got to hold the chicks briefly!
At this stage we don't know what is happening with the other eggs. We know one is sloshy, but Crackers seems to know what he is doing, so I'm leaving them with him for now. I've a feeling the hatchlings will soon keep him busy if the others are not going to hatch.
Thanks to Lynda, James and Tania for their reassurance throughout the hatching.
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