January 10 – Back in 1998 Chris and I were planning on moving from Erie, PA to a home near Pleasant Hill, MO, to be near our children who had moved west to find work. Our daughter Biz and her husband Harvey told us that there was a man near them who had a number of emus to sell for $25 each. Raising emus sounded interesting, so we sent some money to buy three of them, a male, and two females. Harvey and his dad drove over to the emu farm and loaded three emus onto their truck and brought them home to their own farm and released them into a fenced area they had. When we arrived with all of our belongings and settled down into the home we had bought unseen, the emus were brought over to be released into a fenced pen where dogs used to be kept. By this time one of the female emus had died, probably from eating some odd metallic item she had found, so now we had just a pair.
Harvey and his dad brought them over and released them into our pen, and I went in and got acquainted without being harmed. Emus are big birds, close to six feet tall, and have large toenails to kick enemies with, but they are the most docile of the ratites, which are large flightless birds like cassowaries, ostriches, and rheas. We bought bags of ostrich food, which we understood emus like to eat. I built an eating tray to an appropriate height so the emus could eat standing up. A half of a plastic drum was their water container, and come winter I put in a large electric water heater to keep the water from freezing. Our emus enjoyed wandering around in their roomy pen, eating various weeds that they found appetizing. Clover, lawn plantains, sorrel, and dandelions were some of their favorites, and I used to gather handfuls of them from the pasture and bring them in as treats.
The male emu was the most friendly, while the female, though not hostile, did not really care for our company and just tolerated us. Sometimes the birds would get playful and go running around the enclosure, cavorting and leaping, sometimes as high as the tops of the five foot cattle panels that fenced them in. I did worry at times that they might even leap over those panels, so I added a wire strand around the pen, a few inches above the panel tops. The male spoke in grunts, while the female made booming drumlike sounds. When the grass in their pen needed mowing, Chris would go in with the riding mower and cut the grass. Sometimes she would look around and find a curious emu head close behind her shoulder, following to see what was going on. (continued tomorrow) – DALE