Male Emu Unexpectedly Incubates Eggs From Different Birds and Hatches Six Chicks

Emu Dad with Baby Chick

One of the most exciting things about caring for animals is that they will always keep you guessing. Wildlife rehabilitator Foxfeather Zenkova realized this when one of her emus decided to incubate some old eggs, which led to a whole mob of little chicks. What made this different is that it was that this male emu was incubating not only emu eggs but also eggs that came from geese, chickens, and ducks.

Zenkova, who is also a conservation educator and artist, lives in Minnesota where she is restoring 98 acres of property. She is creating a grass-based farm on which to care for her animals, which include bees, yaks, and all sorts of birds, such as turkeys, vultures, geese, and emus. In early May, one of her emus, a male named BB-8, went broody and took over a variety clutch of eggs in the duck coop. “In emus, only the males incubate eggs and care for babies, the females lay eggs and bounce; that's the end of parenting for them,” Zenkova explains. The nest included goose and chicken eggs, and at least two old emu eggs (that Zenkova knew of, anyway) from winter.  Unsure if the emu eggs or any of the eggs BB-8 was incubating would hatch, Zenkova decided to share the saga with her followers on Twitter.

The diligent dad sat on the eggs for over a month, as the incubation period for emu eggs is between 46 and 56 days. On June 2, Zenkova tweeted, “Our stalwart emu dad hasn't left his clutch of duck/goose/chicken eggs; if any are going to hatch they may do so soon. I'm not sure if he can actually hatch them since the heat and humidity he offers is less than typical for incubating those others, but I've seen stranger things.” Hatched babies of any species would have been a surprise, but BB-8 knew exactly what he was doing, and continued to patiently incubate the eggs.

Twenty-one days later, on June 23, Zenkova excitedly tweeted, “For everyone wondering how the broody male emu is doing, he had quite an extreme surprise for us this morning!” In the video she posted, a single baby emu pops out from under his dad's feathers, looking around and chirping. Just three days later, two, four, and, finally, six tiny emus emerged, all curious little chicks. “He must have been hiding eggs in an alternate dimension,” an amazed Zenkova joked. In another video, where Zenkova was accompanied by her dogs, a protective BB-8 hisses and growls, sounding exactly like a velociraptor.

It's unclear what happened to some of the other birds' eggs, which have different heat and humidity incubation requirements. When one Twitter follower asked about the adopted eggs, Zenkova shared, “Most of them disappeared (I suspect eaten) but some of the goose eggs he was on were developing so I moved those under a broody goose. It was a long shot that any others might make it, the geese *might* have but have way better chance now.” Regardless, with six healthy baby emus, it's a job well done from BB-8. A couple days later, he began leading his children around the farm, showing them what's good to eat and drink. The dutiful dad is a reminder that, so often, animals know best.

You can follow Zenkova on Twitter for updates on the adorable emu family, and visit her website to find out more about her art and wildlife rehabilitation work in Minnesota.

When one of her male emus went broody, wildlife rehabilitator Foxfeather Zenkova was unsure if the eggs, which were fairly old, would hatch.

The emu, named BB-8, diligently sat atop his clutch of eggs, which included a few from other birds on the farm.

After over a month of incubating the eggs, a single baby emu emerged from under his dad's feathers!

And then there were two…and then four.

In total, BB-8 hatched six healthy little emu chicks, a job well done.

Now he's leading the babies around the farm, showing them what's good to eat and drink.

Foxfeather Zenkova: Website | Facebook | Twitter
h/t: [Neatorama]

All images via Foxfeather Zenkova.

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