FARMINGTON — Richard Merrow wants to share his fascination with large, mild-mannered birds called emus.

Merrow and Rita Mathon, formerly of Monmouth,  have 13 emus on their farm and a batch of eggs incubating in their Savage Road home.

It took a three-year search to find the right property to develop into Birds of a Feather Emu Farm, Merrow said.

Up to 6 feet tall and 130 pounds as an adult, the flightless emu is native to Australia and a great source of red meat, he said. 

“Yes, that’s right,” Mathon said. “Red meat like steak and hamburg.” 

She said the taste is similar to beef. It’s high in protein and low in cholesterol.

But emus are used for more than meat, she said. Fat packs around the neck area can be rendered into pure emu oil. The oil has the same Omega-3 fatty acids as fish oil. The quality of the oil is based on how the birds are raised and what they are fed, he said.

The oil also helps with healing and is good for the skin, Merrow said. After the end of his finger was amputated, he spread the oil on it every day for a few weeks.  There is no scar, he said.

The oil is also used in lotions and hair products. The feathers — two feathers per quill — are great for fly-tying, crafts and feather dusters, Mathon said. The shells can be painted and used in arts and crafts.

As president of the New England Emu Association, Merrow wants to promote and educate the public about the birds, which are grown more in Texas and the Northwest. 

He also wants to introduce established farmers to the them. It will take a while, but he hopes to encourage potential emu farmers and create a co-op to make purchasing grain and supplies more feasible, he said. 

The birds are fed specially milled grains, he said.

As a treat, they like a little clover and dandelion greens, Mathon said.

They do not graze so they take up little space. One flock of 36 birds was raised on less than a half-acre, he said. However, they do need to be fenced. The long legs on the adults allow them to jump 6 feet straight up, according to Elizabeth Thwing, author of “Amazing, Amusing Emus.”

Emus are curious birds and playful as yearlings, Mathon said. They’ll dance around and jitterbug. They love water and splashing under a hose in the summer.

Emus have an average body temperature of 110 degrees. When they hunker down together during a storm, there’s plenty of heat.

In the wild, the father sits on the eggs for up to 52 days. He does not eat, drink or relieve himself during that time. He only rises to turn the eggs. Incubators now take on the work of keeping the eggs warm and turning them.

After retiring from a career in construction work, Merrow remembered days spent on his grandfather’s farm.

“It was in my blood,” he said of his start to raise turkeys, broilers and vegetables in Monmouth.

A magazine article introduced him to emus. Fascinated and curious, he researched more about them, he said. He found a couple in Chesterville who had three adult emus they were raising as a hobby. They needed to let them go.

Now he is devoted to caring for his flock and breeding them. Mathon still works part-time at The Gym in Lewiston, she said.

Merrow plans to open the farm off Mosher Hill Road for Farm Day this summer and may introduce emu hamburgers at local fairs.

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