Emu Oil






Leicestershire Emus and Rheas
Welcome to the Leicestershire Rhea Information Page










Common Rhea - Rhea Americana
also known as 'nandu'


  • belong to the ratite family of birds along with ostrich, emu, cassowary and kiwi.

  • are all flightless birds.

  • have large wings like ostriches, that are used in courtship, mating and aggressive displays.

  • are native to South America and are often called the South American Ostrich because they are very similar although much smaller, (also smaller than the Emu) adult males being up  to 5’ tall.

  • weigh an average 25kg with the males being larger than the females.

  • come from the pampas regions of South America.  Scattered trees and shrubs provide them with shelter on the open grasslands. It is very hot in summer and cold in winter so they are well able to adapt to the UK climate.

  • are farmed in the USA and S. America for their meat. The leather, oil, eggs and feathers also have a lesser market.

  • are being increasingly farmed in the UK.   The market being mainly livestock and eggs.  Meat, leather, feathers and oil have the potential for development.

  • do not require a Dangerous Wild Animal licence.

  • can live up to 40 years.


They are omnivores, their natural diet is insects, leaves, shoots, flowers and seeds.  They browse on some grasses but it is not their main diet.   Ostrich feed is suitable and is available from some feed manufacturers.  Adults eat about ¾kg per day. 

Chicks do need a careful feeding programme up to 3 months to increase their survival rate.


They will need secure accommodation while small enough to be taken by the fox especially at night.  When fully grown they prefer to stay outside sheltering under the shrubs.  A  three sided shelter is all that is needed from severe weather conditions. It also helps to keep the feed dry in wet weather.


Stock fencing with 2 strands of plain wire above has been found to be sufficient for adults although personally I have all my stock behind a 5’ fence so that I know they are secure. It does not have to be expensive, I have 2 runs of sheep netting one above the other.  They can jump so make sure the fence line is clear of objects that can be used as take off points.  Chicks will of course need a closer mesh and ordinary chicken wire will be sufficient for the very young.


Rheas are summer breeders unlike emus that breed in the winter.  The egg laying of both is triggered by length of daylight hours.  The rhea needing longer daylight hours. 

The hen bird usually starts laying in her second summer.  The male scrapes a depression in the soil for a nest and it is he who incubates the eggs and takes responsibility for the chicks.  He will sit for 35-40 days.  Some make very protective fathers but others show no interest in their chicks. Male aggression is most common during the breeding season when he will huff, hiss, puff out his feathers and bite. I have found that some males will continue to display this behaviour throughout the year.  The females are usually docile.  I have not seen any aggressive behaviour from my females.

They can be kept as pairs, trios or groups.  They are polygamous, so the male will mate with and incubate the eggs of many females.  Groups often produce more fertile eggs as when the dominant male decides to sit, another male will move up the pecking order and mate with the females.  


The eggs, laid every other day, may be yellow when first laid but fade to a creamy colour in a few days.  Mature females can lay between 40 - 60 eggs in a year.  Egg laying usually starts around April and can continue until September.  They weigh between 450 - 700 g


Chicks need to be on heat for maybe up to 6 weeks depending on the weather.  The most vulnerable time for rheas is up to 3 months old.  They can suffer from impaction if put onto grass too soon or for too long.  They are sensitive birds and both chicks and adults can react strongly to stress. 

Should be checked regularly for worms and treated only if needed.

Rhea Info Carved Egg Gallery