14 Things Emu Birds Can Eat and 9 They Should Avoid

Emus are turning into big business in the United States, with more and more emu farms popping up regionally every quarter. These exotic birds are massive, and they can also make some massive profits since their meat, eggs, feathers, skins, and oils are all valuable.

headshot of an emu bird
headshot of an emu bird

But compared to taking care of chickens, ducks, or even turkeys, where do you start with an emu!? As with all animals, the way to good health is through their stomach.

Despite their imposing stature, emus are simply omnivores, and like all omnivorous birds, need a varied diet.

Luckily, they can eat almost, but not quite, anything. The trick right now is giving your emu a good diet since you can’t just run down to your local tractor supply and get a big bag of emu feed.

Don’t sweat it, though, because I’m here to help with a list of things that your emus can and cannot eat. Let’s get right into it…

WHAT DO I FEED MY EMUS? Feed My Pet Friday

Things Your Emus Can Eat

Ratite Feed

An ideal component of an emu diet is ratite feed. No, not rat feed! Ratite. Emus belong to a group of birds called ratites, along with ostriches.

As you might expect from their gargantuan stature, these birds need tons of protein, and correspondingly high amounts of various vitamins and minerals to support their biology.

Ratite feed is formulated for them. It’s expensive, but if you can find it or order it, get it; this is one of the most reliable foods for keeping your emus healthy and happy.

Lacking that, you’ve got some other standbys that will work in a pinch. Turkey and game bird finishing feed is a good choice because of its higher protein and calorie levels, but you must never, and I mean never, give your emus any sort of medicated feed!

Especially avoid starter feed that is intended for any other bird species. This stuff will poison them.

Give them ratite feed or game bird finishing feed in a pinch. That’s it.


Another reliable mainstay food for emus is insects of all kinds. If it crawls, walks, or flies, it dies as far as emus are concerned. Right down the hatch!

Everything from beetles and flies to larvae, grubs, and a whole lot more are on the menu as far as emus are concerned, and they will eradicate entire areas of insect life if you leave them to their own devices.

This is a natural food for them, and one that is easily digestible, but the problem is it’s difficult to get emus enough calories consistently with insects alone unless you are supplementing their diet with insects that you purchase or raise.

As always, variety is better because it ensures there will be fewer nutritional shortcomings.


Yes, emus can and will eat meat. All kinds of meat! They are omnivores so meat is a natural part of their diet…

They tend to prefer meat that comes from smaller critters; critters like ducklings, chicks, and other tiny birds, so you must keep them separate from your other flocks and well away from the fence line, or else you’ll court disaster.

They’ll also snatch up mice and other small critters, swallowing them whole, usually after stomping them.

You can feed your emus prepared meat in the form of chicken, turkey, duck, beef, pork, or just about anything as long as it’s very fresh and free of disease. As always, mind the quantity and give it to them as a component of a well-rounded diet to prevent digestive upset.


Emus love eggs, and as I alluded to above, you must keep them away from the fence line containing your other flocks: if there’s any way they can reach those long necks of theirs inside a coop or a nesting box, you’re going to be short on some eggs- believe that!

Compared to most other kinds of birds, emus are not as likely to engage in egg cannibalism, but they still will in certain circumstances, so it’s a good idea to avoid encouraging the behavior.

To do this, you can feed them eggs safely by scrambling them first and then serving them mixed in with feed or some other foods to sort of camouflage the aroma and texture of raw eggs.

Eggs contain tons of vitamins and minerals, along with lots of protein and calories, that emus need.


Emus are like so many other birds in that they absolutely love seeds. All kinds of seeds! They will happily eat seeds and seed pods from a variety of plants, and you can always supplement their usual diet with mainstays like sunflower seeds and others.

As with chickens, ducks, and turkeys, sunflower seeds are great here because they are very calorie-dense and packed to the brim with minerals, vitamins, protein, and healthy fats.

But do be cautious: the temptation is there to overdo it because they are so well-rounded nutritionally, but they are still not nutritionally complete for emus and they can’t live on seeds alone.


Like most other poultry species, grains are a good supplementary option for emus. They love oats, wheat, barley, and corn, but go easy on grains (especially the corn) because it’s very difficult for them to digest. Make sure corn is cracked, at least, to make it more digestible.

Compared to other birds that we might keep, emus don’t need extra grain in the wintertime as a warming feed because they’re unbelievably resistant to the cold. You can give them extra servings of other kinds of food to increase their calorie and protein intake and they’ll do just fine.


Emus can eat a variety of fruits, but berries are one of the best, being a great source of quick energy, a super source of vitamins and minerals, and very easy for them to digest.

Compared to chickens, emus are also able to cope with higher amounts of sugar according to their greater body mass.

Even so, don’t overdo it. Moderation is always the key when feeding any bird, including emus. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, gooseberries, and more are all great as treats or supplements.

Berries are also one of the best ways to get your emus to come to you once they get used to the taste. A sweet bribe always works!

emu seen from the back
emu seen from the back

Apples, Pears, Peaches

Apples, pears, and peaches are other kinds of fruit that emus love. They have some good nutrition to offer, yes, but they mostly serve as a treat and a good source of quickly digestible energy for them.

If your birds are struggling a bit with the heat, all of these fruits are a great way to help them combat it.

But, one word of warning: though your emu can easily eat and digest the skins of these fruits, make sure you remove the seeds and pits.

They’re very hard to digest and, more importantly, they have compounds that are precursors to extremely toxic cyanide! You don’t want to risk those poisoning your precious, and expensive, birds.

Leafy Veggies

No surprise here, emus eat all kinds of leafy veggies, including every kind of lettuce, cabbage, spinach, kale, and more.

They’re all uniformly good as sources of nutrition, and a varied serving of leafy greens several times a week is a wonderful way to improve their digestion and round out their diet.


Surprisingly enough, emus eat grass, though they cannot live on grass and they definitely won’t walk around eating nothing but that – as long as they have tastier options available.

If you have lush, rich pasture with alfalfa, ryegrass, or other nutritious varieties, they will be more than happy to nibble on it though.


Your big birds will eat a wide, wide variety of other plant matter and there’s virtually nothing that’s not on the menu. And, because emus are still straight-up wild birds at the end of the day, their instincts for avoiding harmful plants are sharp and reliable.

You shouldn’t make it a point to remove any known harmful plants from their enclosure and near the fence line to completely preclude disaster, but you generally don’t have to worry about them eating stuff that’s overtly harmful.

Pebbles and Small Stones

Don’t panic if you see your emus gladly scooping up pebbles and even some small rocks! There’s nothing wrong with them, and they haven’t gone crazy.

Emus are just like chickens and other birds in that they need grit in their diet. It just so happens that their prescribed grit is bigger, you might say.

These pebbles will take up residence in their gizzard and help them digest their food after they swallow them. Nothing to worry about, I promise!

Things Your Emu Should Not Eat

Emus can eat almost anything, but not quite everything. The following foods are no-nos.


There is nothing good about chocolate for most animals. Aside from being extremely sugary and a caloric disaster, it contains high amounts of theobromine, which is very toxic, especially to birds.

The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Never, ever give your emus chocolate, even as a joke or treat.


Cheese is delicious, no doubt about it, but your emus don’t need any dairy products. They aren’t mammals, and they aren’t really capable of properly digesting it.

At best, it’ll give them indigestion and at worst, it can cause diarrhea and other problems. Plus, most kinds of cheese contain way too much salt to be good for them.


Avocados might seem like something that would be right up an emu’s alley, but that just isn’t the case. Though highly nutritious, all parts of the avocado contain persin, another toxin which is dangerous for most animals, including birds.

The skin, pit, and other parts of the plant contain high amounts, and the flesh has very little, but it’s still just not worth the risk when there are so many other things that your emus can eat safely. Just don’t risk it!


Onions are another seemingly healthy option for emus, but you’ll be making a mistake if you give them any. That’s because onions contain thiosulfate and other related compounds which can cause a kind of anemia and severely upset their digestive system.

A few onions are unlikely to hurt them, but you definitely don’t want to make a habit of it: emus have a tendency to turn into picky eaters, refusing foods that they don’t enjoy.

If they get a taste for onions they are more likely to seek them out, and you will be more likely to give them some…

Dog/Cat Food

Dog and cat food is for dogs and cats respectively, not emus. No kidding, right?

It’s obvious, but there are sources out on the net that have proposed both of these pet foods as okay for emus because they have very high levels of protein in them. And emus need lots of protein, as we’ve learned.

That reasoning follows, but the problem is that these pet foods are nowhere near nutritionally balanced for emus, and many brands have additives that can be downright harmful to them.

If you are in a major pinch and need a protein-dense food to give to your emus, you can give them small servings of organic dog or cat food, but it cannot be a regular item on their menu. If it is, it’s bound to make them sick.

Greasy Food

I’ve seen plenty of videos that emu owners upload showing them sharing a few choice bites of “people food” with their favorite giant dino birds. It’s hilarious, sure, even heartwarming, but you are making a big mistake if you give your emus any greasy junk food.

A few tiny nibbles of most things won’t hurt an emu in the slightest, but they just aren’t capable of handling extremely fatty and cholesterol-laden foods like we are. For the record, we shouldn’t be eating this stuff either! So don’t inflict it on your birds.

Citrus Fruits

Emus can safely eat many kinds of fruit, and that includes citrus fruit, but this is one case where I think the risks outweigh the benefits.

Citrus fruits are simply too acidic to be good for emus. It can cause crop problems, gizzard problems, and severely upset their stomach, and many citrus fruits also have high amounts of sugar, too.

I’d advise against it, but if you’re going to give your emus any citrus, only give them tiny portions every once in a blue moon as a rare treat.

an emu
an emu


I would hope this one would be obvious, but sadly I am proven wrong time and time again. Never give your emus any sweet desserts or confections…

No candy, no cakes, no pies, no ice cream, no gelato, no cotton candy, no donuts. These things are all caloric abominations that are bound to make your birds gravely sick.

Aside from the apocalyptic amounts of sugar, salt, and other things that can cause sodium poisoning, fatty liver, and other problems, they are likely to result in immediate and severe diarrhea.


I know this is bound to ruffle some feathers, and I’m not sorry for that pun, but you should avoid giving your emus bread. I know; giving bread to birds is an American pastime!

Unfortunately, it’s also a harmful one. Bread is basically junk food for birds, nothing more, nothing less. That includes emus.

I see way, way too many people giving their birds loaves of bread as something to tide them over or just to bulk up their diet. This is incredibly excessive.

Giving your emus a few crusts of plain bread or a handful of crackers as something interesting to try is one thing, but this cannot become a staple of their diet.

what emus can eat

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