Effect of Declawing on Behavior of Farmed Emus

  • Glatz, P.C. (Pig and Poultry Production Institute, South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Received : 2000.08.16
  • Accepted : 2000.10.19
  • Published : 2001.02.01


The behavior of declawed emus in a farm environment has not been described despite its importance in the husbandry and welfare of the emu. This study examined whether declawing of emus causes chronic pain resulting in permanent changes in the locomotor and general behavior of declawed yearling emus compared to emus not declawed. One group of 40 emus were declawed on the day of hatch by removing the distal phalangeal joint using a Lyon beak-trimming machine. Another group of 40 emus not declawed were the controls. Declawed emus one year of age were allocated to a paddock $250m{\times}125m$, while the control group was placed in an adjoining paddock of the same dimensions. One hour video records of individual emus from each treatment were made from 08:00 and 17:00 h over 2 periods; firstly when food and water was available and secondly during a period when food and water was not available after being withdrawn overnight. Inactive, ingestive, posture change, grooming, aggressive and locomotor behaviors were monitored from the videotape. There was no behavioral evidence to indicate loss of locomotor ability of declawed emus or to suggest declawed emus were suffering from severe chronic pain as indicated by declawed emus engaging in significantly more bouts (p<0.05) and time of searching (p<0.05). Declawed emus also engaged in less stereotype pacing (p<0.05) indicating they were under less stress and not as frustrated as control birds which engaged in more step pushing behavior (p<0.05). Modelling analysis showed that pecking behavior in birds was most closely related to foraging behavior. Birds subject to pecking attacks demonstrated higher levels of stereotype behavior presumably as a method to cope with stress. The behavioral evidence in this study would indicate that declawing does not compromise the locomotor ability of emus and has the benefit of improving the social structure in the groups by reducing stereotype behavior and aggression.



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