Emus are among the most impressive birds in the world. At least, going by sheer size alone! Second only to the ostrich in size, emus are tall and strong, topping out around 6 feet in height.
Native to Australia, these flightless birds are resilient and surprisingly popular as livestock, with their eggs, meat, fat, bones, and feathers all having commercial applications.
But there is a lot that is strange about them, including their mating behavior. Speaking of mating, do emus even lay eggs?
Yes, emus lay eggs like all birds. Emus will lay 5 to 15 eggs at one time and may lay up to three clutches in a single breeding season.
Compared to smaller birds like chickens that sure does not seem like many eggs, but you’ll understand why when you see them; they are whoppers!
Emus are birds that are full of surprises, and if you want to learn more about their eggs and mating behavior you should keep reading.
Emus Lay Eggs Just Like Every Bird
Emus are spectacular birds and have many unique traits even among flightless examples of their kind, but they do in fact lay eggs to reproduce, just like every other bird on Earth.
How Many Eggs Will an Emu Lay?
Emus typically lay up to 45 eggs in a single breeding season is considered very plentiful and successful by emu standards.
Emus Typically Lay Multiple Clutches in a Breeding Season
Of note, a female emu will attempt to lay multiple clutches of eggs every season. Usually, this is no more than three clutches, totaling about 45 eggs at most as mentioned above, though it could be as little as 15.
The number of eggs produced in each clutch will depend on the age, health, and reproductive status of the bird.
Female Emus Mate with Multiple Males to Fertilize All Their Eggs
When a female emu mates with a male, she will store his sperm in her oviduct. This sperm is then used to fertilize all the eggs she lays over the next several days.
Usually, a male will only provide enough sperm to fertilize 5 or 6 eggs with each successful mating, but because the female will mate with the same male several times she can produce up to 15 eggs with the same male.
However, females are highly likely to depart from their male to find a new mate after laying a complete clutch of eggs with him.
This means that in the course of a season a female emu might lay eggs fertilized with the genetic material of many males!
Fun Fact: Male Emus are the Parent that Broods Over the Eggs
Emu reproduction and parentage get even stranger from here. If you are familiar with birds at all, you likely know already that hens often become “broody” when they have a clutch of eggs laid.
Broodiness means a hen is intent on sitting on the eggs to incubate and hatch them. This is not the case with emus!
The male emu is the parent who will become broody instead of the hen, and it is he who will stay with the nest and incubate the eggs.
He will do this by sitting on them, but also turning them frequently so that they all develop evenly. This process takes around two months from start to finish.
Also, note it is at this time when the female hits the road to shack up with another male and lay more eggs elsewhere!
During this time, the male will barely move from his spot except to turn those precious eggs. He will not eat, will not drink, won’t poop, and will barely even blink. He will go without food or water for the entire duration of the incubation period!
Will Every Egg Be Fertilized after Mating?
No, not necessarily. If a female runs out of her stashed supply of male sperm or else does not mate she will lay infertile eggs.
These will not hatch, but a male emu will not be able to tell the difference and will dutifully incubate them all the same, even if he was not with the female at the time.
Interestingly, emus also engage in brood parasitism. This is when a female will sneak her eggs into another emu’s nest to be incubated and hatched.
The hapless male will not know the difference and will sit on any eggs in the clutch.
How Long Does it Take an Emu Egg to Incubate?
Emu eggs take about 8 weeks to hatch. This is a long time compared to most other birds, but emus are large birds and their eggs are correspondingly large as well.
When Do Emus Lay Eggs?
Emus lay their eggs in the spring and summer months. This occurs after pair courtship and subsequent mating which usually occurs when the weather is coolest.
How Big is an Emu Egg?
Emu eggs are massive! Second again only to the ostrich egg in size. They are roughly the size of a grapefruit and can weigh up to 1.5 pounds or 700 grams.
By mass and yield, they are about 10 to 12 times as large as a chicken egg. Pretty incredible when you think about it!
What Does an Emu Egg Look Like?
Emu eggs have a color as impressive as their size and are dark emerald green in color with a thick, hard, speckled shell with a pebbly texture. The inside of the egg is creamy white with a large yolk.
Can You Eat Emu Eggs?
You sure can, but you better be really hungry. One emu egg is enough to feed a family of four with a complete serving of egg for each.
Emu eggs can be used in any recipe that calls for chicken eggs. They can be hard-boiled, scrambled, fried, or made into omelets.
They can also be pickled or used in baking. The flavor is similar to chicken eggs but with a slightly sweeter and much richer taste.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.