Wednesday, 2 December 2015

A Change Is As Good As A Rest

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Summer Changes for the Chicks


We have incubated, hatched and raised our own emu chicks for three years now on Mt. Sicker Family Farm. As the mob grows and multiplies we always seem to be playing catch-up with building new pens and feed enclosures. Emus grow very fast and as running birds they need progressively larger pens until maturity. Small pens at the start for shelter from the elements and protection from predators. Suddenly, it seems, they outgrow the chick area and require running exercise more importantly than shelter and protection. They are then moved to grassed and treed pens that are located close at hand for observation. The hatching process on our farm takes about 2.5 months so the earlier chicks are significantly bigger than the later batches and so at this stage are maintained in separate groups. At 4-5 months juvenile emus are still very trusting of their own kind and different sizes can be blended with ease. So the whole year’s hatch is then moved simultaneously to their final grow out pen. Here they can commune with the ravens and eagles overhead and watch the mist rise off the neighbours' fields and hear the emu hens boom out their call for an upcoming breeding season. 


emu chicks (1-2 mo) in chick house run

next three photos: 
emu black heads (3-4 mo) are moved to grassed & treed runs


emu juveniles (4-5 mo) moved to their blended grow out pen

The farmer needs a change as well….

The first 6 months of the year is very hands on for emu farmers. What with collecting eggs, incubating and hatching chicks, getting specific feed for the young birds, moving them around as they grow, etc….  So it is important for the farmer to take a break and get some distance from the chores.

We treat ourselves to two such breaks: one mid-summer when we attend the American Emu Association Convention and the other in Oct Nov after our mature birds are processed.

We joined the AEA in 2013 to network with emu farmers. It was very difficult to find other emu operations in our province on the internet. Most sites that come up are for retailers of the products made with emu oil. To actually get to talk about farming practices we needed to join an organization. The AEA  has a website (albeit in need of some modernization), a members group facebook page and a yearly convention that is held in different parts of the US. We have met other farmers through these venues both just starting out and (the majority) with 20+ years' experience. We get our batteries recharged at the convention and come home with renewed enthusiasm.

The Oct Nov break takes us in our 5th wheel down to the western US states where we get some warm weather and see friends. Our trip does however always include visits to emu farms along the way. There is nothing better than onsite learning from other farmers. Here are the thank yous that I posted on facebook to the farmers that we met.



John and I decided to get out of town for some down time before egg laying starts for another season. On our way to Albuquerque we stopped in for an overnight at Wild Rose Emu Ranch in Hamilton Montana to see Clover and Joe Quinn. Wow what generous hosts. We had a great emu stroganoff dinner and talked about birds and the industry and toured the ranch. Thanks again to you both and we look forward to more good talk at next year's American Emu Association convention in Vancouver Washington.

 



Home again now and into November rains. We are starting to look for eggs but nothing yet. More thank-yous to be extended to fellow emu farmers that we visited in California and Washington.

At Bedrock Emu Works Roger and Sharon live in the beautiful mountains east of Sacramento. The area used to be a hub of some 30 large emu farms 20 years ago. We were very surprised to see a couple of emu grazing with horses on a local farm and Sharon told us that many farmers couldn't part with all their stock and kept some as pets. Our hosts treated us to a wonderful dinner and lots of emu conversation.

 


It is our second visit to 3 Feathers Emu Ranch and we feel very much at home there as Washington/Oregon states are very like Vancouver Island. Lots to talk with Tony and Janean as to how we each deal with raising emu with similar weather challenges. Processing/marketing of emu meat was a hot topic. As a mobile slaughter house is not available to us we are building our own. Thank you both and Emily for showing us a wonderful restaurant in Chehalis which is now on our go to list.

 



We always appreciate the sharing that takes place with seasoned emu farmers like Jim and Myra Glick at Backacres Emu Ranch Olympia WA. They showed us a hen that has been with them since the start some 25 years ago. She is still laying an amazing number of eggs at 30+. We got to see up close the fiberglass emu huts that were popular around the country and are still in service. Jim is actively working on re-establishing the Washington State Emu Association and we are excited about the prospects of joining.

 



Farmers by definition are always on the job. Well, where do they go and what do they do to get a well-deserved rest? According to Kitty Walker a London based freelance writer and journalist "to regain our energy, all we need to do is spend time doing what we like and love".



And I guess that’s it in a nutshell….we love what we are doing.

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