Indoor Emus?

Kids—Don’t Try This At Home

A.V. Walters

We really don’t have much in the way of options in this. We are renters. We don’t have easy access to a barn or a shed or other outdoor structures that we don’t mind being trashed by five of the messiest creatures on earth. Still, these emus are technically babies. They still need to have an environment that is heated until they reach a body mass that is large enough keep themselves warm. We put them outside now for several hours each day. It’s a shorter run if it’s cloudy, or if, like today, it’s raining. I’m watching to see when they start to tremble, at which point I’ll haul them back in and put them under the heat lamp.

While they’re out frolicking, I take the opportunity to clean their little room. I’m so relieved that it is a tiled bathroom. Even then, I line it with newspapers everyday, so that I can just roll up a day’s worth of filth, and dispose of it. You cannot believe how much “trash” is generated by five emu chicks! They’ve almost tripled in size since the first day we took them in, at the beginning of the month. They’re growing, eating and you-know-what, at a prodigious rate. It’s not surprising—an emu reaches adult size and weight in about a year. By comparison, it means they need to grow the human equivalent of a year’s worth, every month. They are now knee high, without much of a stretch. (And that means that their “mess” extends up the walls, that much higher now.)

It raises the issue of how one measures emu growth. Their flexible little necks complicate the equation. Extended? On tippy-toe? (And yes, they’ll stand on tip-toe to look into the trash bin, to peck at any odd spot, or over a low enclosure.) The knee-high average is just standing with no effort at extension. I suppose the best way would be to weight them, but they’re so wiggly that I can’t figure out how to get them back on the scale. Just weeks ago, when we weighed them in at teacup size, it was a relatively easy proposition. I can’t imagine doing it now.

And, fast! They can run. Together they move like fish in a school, (well, a school of kindergarteners) en masse with sudden, inexplicable and semi-choreographed changes in direction. They also dance and play—a series of hops, often preceded by rolling over and then followed by a group mad dash in every direction, knocking each other down if at all possible. It keeps up laughing.

With any luck, two will have a new home by week’s end. The first potential adoption fell through when the gentleman realized how fast they’d grow, and how hard it would be to relocate them for his scheduled move in eight months. “Maybe next year.” Ha! Do you think I’m going to do this again? But now, there’s a much better prospect in the works. Every now and then, when I worry about how to adopt-out emus, I realize that it’s not really my problem. (Yeah, I know. If it’s not my problem, then why am I up to my knees in emus?) I’m just a renter here, and these are Elmer’s emus, after all. Well, you know, I could just move away…