Our first introduction of rhea began in 2003 when we bought four rhea chicks aged 8 weeks.
We were told they were 2 pairs, but it turned out they were 1 male and 3 females, we were warned then not to bed them with shavings as they will eat literally anything, so we were advised to find a square of old carpet as bedding, and we cleaned it out daily, although over the years we have found that if they are shut in, just overnight, if they can, they will wait until they are let out early the next morning, if not, they leave their droppings close to the door.
After two months old, we now use straw for bedding.
We have increased the flock since then with mature white and grey. Our male "Billy" produced two chicks at 2 years old, but we were told that the eggs were small and the 2 chicks were very weak, and died after days.
The following year the females produced about 30 or more eggs, and about 20 or so were fertile. Prior to this, Billy had attempted to make his nest in the field, but incubation was unsuccessful, as the nest got saturated during a rainstorm, so we encouraged him to make his next nest in the shed, by placing dummy eggs in there. The weight of the egg should average 700 grammes, minimum 500 grammes.
The next year we decided to leave Billy with 18 eggs, and hoped that he would hatch them successfully. The incubation period is 36-40 days, and we were very wary that he might crush the chicks, because of his great size and large feet, so we were watching him closely near the 36th day. We got quite a surprise on the morning of the 37 th day, when we called in on him, to see him proudly walking his 5 chicks around the shed. We watched him for a bit and he got down, very slowly to cover them, walking as if he was walking on glass. He looked after his chicks extremely well.
After about a week we introduced 2 similar sized chicks that we had hatched in the incubator, and he accepted them with preat paternal instinct, so that gradually in a period of a week, he was the very proud father of 18! We let him rear them to age 4 months. We always bolt the door of the shed at night after Billy has taken the chicks inside, to protect them from the fox or dogs.
The following year, and thereafter, he has made his nest in the same spot and was very successful with his incubation and rearing the chicks.