Our first introduction to rheas began in 2004 when we bought 4 rhea chicks believed to be 2 pairs, aged 8 weeks old, which turned out to be 3 females and one male, and which goes to show that you cannot sex them at that age, without the help of a Vet. We were warned then not to bed them with shavings as they will eat literally everything at that age, and that too proved to be correct, as we now have to make sure that they do not have access to flower pots and tubs as they will eat the compost, along with everything else.
We were advised to find a square of old carpet as bedding for the first 6 weeks, and we discovered that if they are let out reasonably early in the morning they will not soil the carpet, after that we use straw. We increased the flock since then with white rheas now aged 3 and a half. . The weight of the egg should average 700 grams minimum 500 grams.
In 2007 we decide to leave "Billy" with 18 eggs, and hoped that he would hatch them successfully. It was fortunate that he decided to make his nest inside his shed, so there would not be a problem at hatching time, if the weather proved inclement. The incubation period is 36-40 days, and we were very wary that he might crush the chicks so we were watching him very closely near the 36th day. We got quite a surprise on the morning of the 37th day to see him proudly walking his chicks around the shed, we watched him for a bit and he got down so very slowly to cover them, walking as if he were walking on glass. He looked after his chicks extremely well taking them out on grass on day 3, with a threatening manner when any of the other rheas looked at them. He took them inside every night and at any change of weather during the day.
After about a week, we introduced similar sized chicks that had hatched in an incubator, and he accepted them fondly 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 put our rhea chicks into the shed at night to protect them from the fox, and dogs. Since then Billy made his nest again in the same spot and hatched and reared his family as before.
Sept. 2011, our male "Snowball" decided that he would build a nest. We couldn't convince him that he should make it in the shed, so we allowed him to stay where he was. It was an ideal spot really, as it was in a corner, under a very old tree, where he was fully sheltered from all weathers. After a few hiccups where he left the nest, he finally settled on 10 eggs. We kept a watchful eye on him in case his eggs hatched in inclement weather, and what a lovely surprise we had, one lovely sunny day in September, we found him walking his lovely chicks around, 8 white and 2 grey, so 10/10!.
We feed the mature rhea on Ostrich breeder ,which we leave in a box in their house so they have constant access to food, from 9 months old.They must have a window or glass door in their house so that they can see the food, otherwise they will go out hungry in the morning, eat rubbish or too much grass, which can prove fatal. The young ones we feed on ostrich grower pellets, which we have delivered from Dodson and Horrell and we feed them ad lib. They drink a lot of water which we leave in a bucket or other large container because they scoop up the water, unlike chickens who lap it up.
The young chicks cannot produce their own body heat until they are 6-8 weeks old, so it is important that they have plenty of room to exercise to strengthen their legs. It is important that they should have the proprietary "ostrich food" .They love green vegetables, like lettuce and cabbage, so we start giving it to them at an early age, just a small amount, so they are eating out of our hands, and tame, and as they have an inquisitive nature, they run as soon as they see us coming over, to see what we have for them. They will eat almost anything that is left over in the kitchen, bread, cakes, coleslaw etc.
When they are young they require fencing about 4 feet high but for mature birds it should be 5ft. as they could make a run for it if chased by dogs.
soon after our first year into breeding rheas we decided to add our Peafowl to it, as we have kept Peacocks since 1983! We started off with Indian Blue, and later added the white peafowl, then Black shoulder, and then we bought Java green Peafowl, which we think are beautiful birds. We lost the cock bird on two occasions, and had to wait a long time before we managed to get another, as they are not easy to locate.
The new bird was only a year old. so we have had to wait until now, April 2017, for him to mature, into a most beautiful bird, we still have the lovely peahen, so we are hoping very soon to be breeding from them. We are putting some recent photographs of them, on another page.
we have also taken up breeding ornamental pheasants, and this year, 2017, we bred about 12 pairs of Golden and quite a few Lady Amherst.
we also have a pair of Swinhoe pheasants, and we are hoping to breed these this year as well, likewise yellow golden.
I will add some photographs of the pheasants that we have