Keeping emus as pets

You must have a permit to keep an emu in the Northern Territory (NT).

Emus can’t be taken from the wild.

You can only purchase an emu from a legal source, such as breeder or supplier.

If you keep an emu as a pet, you will need to retain your proof of purchase. This can be a receipt or transfer notice.

You must get a permit within 14 days of your purchase.

Parks and Wildlife staff will inspect your property. This is a condition of your permit.

You may also need council approvals.

To move emus in and out of the NT, you must have import/export permit.

Keep a record of your emu

Permits holders are responsible for keeping records of emus.

Use the supplied record book to keep and maintain records.

Handling

Emus are large, heavy inquisitive birds.

They are attracted to shiny things such as jewellery.

Emus are potentially dangerous and may peck or kick out in any direction.

The following is recommended:

  • use an experienced person to handle adult birds
  • purchase two birds and interact with them often as they grow - this will help emus become friendly adults.

Housing

You must keep your emus in accordance with the NT Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Emus need space to run and exercise.

Emus must have sufficient access to shade, shelter and water.

Emus like to bath. Consider including a pond or bathing area.

How to build enclosure

There are strict building standards your enclosure must meet.

Each bird must not have an area less than 625m2.

Your perimeter fence must be:

  • minimum 1.8 metres high
  • constructed of steel posts and cyclone fencing.

Your posts must be:

  • dug to a minimum depth of 760mm
  • no more than 10 metres between.

Stop predators from digging in by:

  • installing 600mm mesh skirt around the base of the fence, outside the enclosure
  • bury the mesh if needed.

Emus like to run along the fence. Rounding off corners in the enclosure helps reduce injuries.

All gates must be child proof and suitably locked to prevent escapes.

The substrate must be grass, dirt or other natural material.

Use gravel along the edge of the fence to prevent erosion. Emus can wear down the earth in this area as they pace along the fence.

Other things to consider

If you have space, have two enclosures.

Rest one to allow for recovery of grazing plants.

Install a gate between the two enclosures. This will help you safely move the emus.

Plant native plants inside the enclosure for birds to graze and forage on.

Feeding

Emus should have free access to adequate quantities of appropriate food.

This can include any of the following:

  • dry feed e.g. wheat/grain mix, pellets etc
  • fresh greens and vegetables fed daily, particularly for young birds
  • commercial chick rations - available from commercial suppliers.

Feed your emu every day. Remove mouldy food.

Provide fresh clean water daily.

Food can be scattered around the enclosure to promote enrichment.

Have multiple feeding points if you have more than one animal.

Hygiene and disease

Keep your emu healthy by removing waste daily.

Seek veterinary advice:

  • if your bird becomes unwell
  • for the control of internal and external parasites.

Isolate sick or injured emus to prevent spread of disease.

Remove dead emus immediately, deep burial is recommended.

Last updated: 09 September 2020

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