There are many ways to determine the sex of an emu. We have now officially tried them all, with the exception of waiting 18-24 months to see if it lays an egg. At adulthood the males and females also make different sounds with the males snorting like pigs (go figure) and the females making a boom-boom sound. I am too old to wait for these methods. So let me tell you how else it’s done.
First of all, there is a belief that newly hatched male emus will have a bullseye pattern on the top of the head while the females will not. Red Oak Farm in Tennessee has a nice primer on the subject of sexing emus along with these pictures.
Here is the male with bullseye:
Our emus did not have definitive marking on their heads but we took a guess anyway, deciding we had two boys and a girl. Sadly we lost one of the boys but still thought we had a boy and a girl.
Another method of determining gender is in coloration and growth. Females mature faster than males and ultimately get a little bigger at adulthood, weighing in at the upper range of 110-140 pounds. I have also read that, as they mature, the feathers on the neck are darker for males and lighter for females. By looking at the first picture in this post you can see that, by all indicators, we have a male and a female. Not so fast. There is another method of determing gender called vent sexing.
Here is a picture of the avian vet preparing Stuart for vent sexing. Please note that gloves were worn during the examination. I personally employ only methods of gender determination that do not require the use of gloves.
After both emus were subjected to the exam, Dr. Speer made a determination that, at this age, they both appear to be boys. By reexamining their “parts” in a few months we would be able to tell more if one or both of the “parts” were growing. They should be growing in a boy and staying the same on a girl.
Not willing to wait a few more months nor to don gloves and go “there” I decided to have the gender of Stuart and Mary Catherine determined by DNA testing. This method is not without it’s obstacles either. First, the emu must be four months old and have the hanging type feathers with bracts. And, the feathers must be pulled out with the root intact because this is where the sample for DNA is found. I decided to go for it.
I downloaded the forms and instructions from Zoogen’s website. I completed the forms, wrote my check, labeled the envelopes and went out to collect four feathers from each bird by pulling them out by the roots!
Apparently they read my mind because the first obstacle was catching them.
They made the fatal mistake of stopping to eat so I grabbed Mary Catherine.
I pulled a lot of feathers out of this poor emu until I realized they were just breaking off. I had to grab closer to the skin to get the root. Finally I got the hang of it, despite the emu’s protest, and collected all the specimens I needed from Mary Catherine.
Stuart was even dumber and went to a corner where I was able to straddle him and obtain my samples with relative ease.
I followed the instructions to the letter and sent the feathers overnight to the lab less than an hour from my home. I was expecting results in 24 hours but technical problems delayed them by one day.
After an additional 24 hours of anxious waiting, the DNA results are in! Stuart and Mary Catherine are both BOYS! Anyone have a spare, young female emu for sale?