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.
When one of her male emus went broody, wildlife rehabilitator Foxfeather Zenkova was unsure if the eggs, which were fairly old, would hatch.
This emu has taken over the duck coop and is now diligently siting on goose eggs. I just watched a chicken run in, burrow under him, lay an egg, and leave. pic.twitter.com/v6VVavCLIv
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) May 12, 2022
The emu, named BB-8, diligently sat atop his clutch of eggs, which included a few from other birds on the farm.
Two weeks later, our emu is still carefully sitting atop his nest of adopted goose, duck, and chicken eggs.. he may actually hatch something. 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. pic.twitter.com/hQsgnn03SZ
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) May 27, 2022
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. pic.twitter.com/re7BUOoTC7
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) June 2, 2022
After over a month of incubating the eggs, a single baby emu emerged from under his dad's feathers!
For everyone wondering how the broody male emu is doing, he had quite an extreme surprise for us this morning! pic.twitter.com/u3pxIhGh7h
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) June 23, 2022
The best dad and his tiny child. pic.twitter.com/teggWmFwxq
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) June 24, 2022
And then there were two…and then four.
Oh nooooooo pic.twitter.com/c4ihGHBGJY
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) June 27, 2022
They had to be laid after I checked, I dont think it would be possible for him to roll them into this small coop himself. I'm pretty boggled.. he must have been hiding eggs in an alternate dimension
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) June 28, 2022
In total, BB-8 hatched six healthy little emu chicks, a job well done.
Good morning from BB-8 and too many tiny emus!
You can hear him hissing and growling, the babies hiding behind him because the dogs were with me as I was doing morning chores.
Any dog could be a dingo and is not to be trusted (if you're a new emu dad, anyway). pic.twitter.com/RrxzGcTIaj
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) June 28, 2022
Now he's leading the babies around the farm, showing them what's good to eat and drink.
Tiny emus, big adventure! Today is the first day dad has taken them away from the nest to explore. pic.twitter.com/zNg3N2zAqs
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) June 29, 2022
Baby emus tasting water for the first time (dad is hovering in the background).
Baby emus hatch with yolk still in their bellies, so they don't need to start eating or drinking for a few days. This allows all eggs to hatch before dad moves the family to find food. pic.twitter.com/qODtGi18rp
— Foxfeather Zenkova (@foxfeather) June 30, 2022