Monday, 30 March 2015

Follow our Emu Chick Hatch-a-long

Introducing Mt. Sicker Family Farm 2015 Emu Chick Hatch

All is ready! The hatcher was turned on a week ago to make sure that it is working properly. Good air exchange and constant temperature and humidity are necessary for the chicks as they will be working very hard to break through their 7 layer shell. Looking good.

Hatcher at 96 deg RH 50%

March 29: Five eggs are moved to the hatcher.

March 30: First emu chick breaks the shell and second egg is rocking. The chick is responding to my whistles. A radio is turned on in the hatch room so that they become accustomed to human noise.

 March 31: First chick has hatched through the night. With sides on the hatcher drawers he is quite safe and there is time for him to dry his feathers before being moved to the brooder. His awkward movements and whistling encourage the other chicks still in their shells and this mimics how it would be in the nest.

  • Yesterday the brooder box was brought up to temperature.

  • The red hue is from the heat lamp which keeps the temperature at 90 degrees. The chick's navel has been disinfected with Betadine and what he needs most now is sleep and more chicks for company. Water will be introduced today and food not until day 3. He is nourished from the egg yolk that was fully absorbed during his struggle to get out of the shell.

  • The following video was taken at 7:30 am. By 10:00 am the chick on the right has hatched (moved to brooder) and the inactive one at the back has broken the shell. Long wait during incubation but when the hatch starts it goes quickly.

April 1: Five chicks in the brooder and five eggs in the hatcher with all but one broken through the shell. Half way through Hatch #1.

  • Notice the beak on the left has an egg tooth to allow the chick to pip through the membrane to the air sac. Breaking the shell will require more power and the chick uses the strength of its back bone and feet as well.

  • After drying for a couple of hours in the hatcher the chick is checked closely for health. Betadine is applied to its navel area where the egg yolk has been absorbed for a food supply for the next couple of days while it learns to get mobile.

  • This little guy's navel opening was not completely closed so he was placed in the brooder with paper towel under him to protect against germs from the other chicks. As soon as he gets mobile the navel will have closed and the toweling can be removed.

  • Chicks thrive on company and will learn the way of the world from the stronger ones.

  • The water reservoir is available right away with room temperature water and a pinch of electrovite changed daily. 

  • You will start to see liquidy secretions on the brooder matting. This is a normal bodily function as the digestive plug is expelled. As everything with emu is green this liquid is no exception.

  • The egg shell collection is mounting up as the hatcher is cleaned of debris. The membrane is discarded and a remarkably clean shell remains. Not surprisingly there has been some research as to the dietary health benefits of crushed emu shell.

April 2: Daily human contact is essential for monitoring the health of the chick. Emus by nature are cautious so building a trusting relationship with each chick will pay dividends to the farmer when the emu grows to be 6 ft tall and 100 lbs.

  • Its day 52 of incubation for the rest of the eggs so the remaining 11 have been moved to the hatcher. They will be tapped and whistled to, poked and prodded during the upcoming days to encourage chicks to appear. We do however expect some of the eggs will be infertile as this is the first hatch of the season and we also have some new breeding pairs.

April 3: All the chicks are very alert and mobile, friendly and inquisitive. It is time to introduce food. It starts by anchoring a small dish of starter crumble (26% Poultry non-medicated) to the side of the brooder and tapping it to encourage the chicks to explore.

  •  They will have exhausted most of their internalized egg yolk and will be very excited about this new find. According to 'Brief Visit', a south western Australian who contributes to the emu forum on Back Yard Chickens, "a natural hatch [in the wild] happens over about four days. The early chicks just tough it out until their siblings emerge and then they hoof it to water" and "in the wild I have seen a chick an hour old cover a half a mile before dark. And in their first week, they may travel four miles a day through breast-high wet foliage" with dad in search of food.

April 4: It is important to tag the lineage of each of the chicks. We use small expandable leg bands (size 2009 to start). As emu grow very rapidly in the first year we won't bother as this point to give them an individual number, that will come later as part of our traceability programme. Our main concern now is to easily recognize which breeder pair they came from. If any health issues come up we will number that bird. We also want to identify male/female. We use the vent sexing method and will periodically check as they age to see if we called it right. So the leg band is placed on the left leg for male and right leg for female. 

Our first hatch is almost complete. We have four more to go which will take us up to early June. There will be further updates in subsequent blogs as we increase our emu chick mob. We hope you have enjoyed following along.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Hatching - A Symphony in the Key of Egg (continued)

 The emu egg hatch symphony has four movements:

(for details on Storage, Incubation and Hatch click here)

The Melody and Rhythm:

Tipping - if there is a maturing chick in the egg it will tip (tilt) to the pointed end where the chick grows and tip upwards where the air sac is located. At hatch the egg will level out as the chick occupies the whole egg space.

Tapping - if the egg is fertile it will sound solid when tapped with a pen or large nail - if infertile it will sound tinny like tapping a china cup. At hatch the chick will make wiggle responses to this tapping.

Piping - at hatch the chick will use it's beak to break through the membrane (internal pip) and access the air sac. Now the tapping will sound hollow as the chick occupies the whole egg space.

Whistling- at hatch the chick will respond to out of the shell sounds like whistling. Chirping and pecking can be heard and an increase in the temperature of the egg will be noticeable.

The Finale (ta-ta-ta-TUM)

As it has all come together: the egg sits level and sounds hollow, wiggles and is time to move it to the hatcher. The environmental conditions are different than in the incubator: temperature is lowered a degree to 96-96.5 and relative humidity is raised to 50%. The hatch might be as little as a couple of hours or as much as 2 to 3 days. No need to rush as the chick is warm, fed and breathing air and will break from it's shell when it's ready.

Source: Wikipedia

Hatching - A Symphony in the Key of Egg

Hatching - A Symphony in the Key of Egg. YouTube
Andrew Abyss, Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada


The emu egg hatch symphony has four movements:

Storage  Emu males repeatedly hide their mate's eggs in a nest until a hatch of 8-12 is collected. See more detail in this blog post


Incubation  When time is right the male goes broody
and sits on his eggs for about 50 days only getting up to move them several times a day. See more detail in this blog post


Hatching   The emu male will know when it is time for the hatch. The audible signals from the eggs will bring him out of of his trance.                                                                                                  

As in nature the farmer collects and stores enough eggs for a manageable batch. Emu chicks are very social and need the company of others to be healthy and grow. The momentum of the hatch then builds over the next 40 days. 

First quiet observation takes place as each egg is weighed regularly during incubation. Careful adjustments are made to slow or increase the rate of evaporation to ensure healthy embryo growth. 

Finally the chick is fully developed and will demonstrate its readiness to hatch. It will remain in the incubator until the final signals are given. Audible and visual signs are apparent in the form of tipping, tapping, piping and whistling characteristics. 
  • When a fertile egg is placed on a counter it will tip down to the pointed end where the chick is laying and tip up to the rounded end where the air sac is positioned.
  • Tapping the egg with a pen or long nail will get the chick to wiggle gently at first and more aggressively as it hears outside stimuli. 
  • When the chick runs out of room and is ready to hatch it will pip (break) through the inner membrane to the air sac. The egg will when placed on the counter sit in a level position (ie no tipping) and have a different tapping sound to it. The chick will make whistling sounds that exercise its lungs and signal to the outside world that it is time to break the shell. It is then moved to the hatcher for the final stage.

Finale (ta-ta-ta-TUM) to be continued....