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Saugus farm owner raises family of emus, shares his love of animal caretaking

Posted: March 4, 2014 7:25 p.m.
Updated: March 4, 2014 7:25 p.m.

Three generations of the Quiet Rain Farm, from left, Ethan Wolf, 2, brings in a fertile emu egg to grandfather Ken Ferguson as Ken's daughter, Krysti Wolf, looks on. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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Marked by downy feathers and two curious, marble-like eyes, Edward the baby emu is set to be the friendliest emu on the farm.

At Quiet Rain Farm in Saugus, exotic animal lover Ken Ferguson and his family have been raising a mob, or family, of 10 emus for about five years.

Decades ago, Ferguson and his wife set out to buy a farm for her competitive jumping horses, and when his wife died of cancer, Ferguson made sure the dream was achieved.

But today, the farm takes on a different role: housing animals for Ferguson’s friends and family to learn about and love.

“I have always loved exotic animals,” said the retired 16-year farm owner.

When the choice came to an African tortoise or three emu eggs, he went for the unhatched birds.

“How many people have emus?” he asked with rolling laughter.

From the three black eggs, Ferguson grew his mob.

Though female emus lay the eggs, it’s the males that sit on and hatch them, much like penguins, Ferguson said.

But baby Edward’s father is a young male, and his instincts are not developed enough to provide the care chicks need for the six months after hatching.

“We found (Edward) shivering nearly to death in the corner,” Ferguson said. “So my daughter took him, warmed him in her shirt and transferred him to cage with a heat lamp.”

From that moment on, Edward has played shadow to both Ferguson’s daughter, Krysti Wolf, 26, and her son, Ethan, 2.

“He bonded to them,” Ferguson said of the 10-inch-tall bird. “He walks all over the place all day.”

While they are not dangerous birds, Ferguson said, emus aren’t typically friendly, either — unless they’re raised by people.

“This guy is different,” Ferguson said of the two-week-old bird. “He will be extremely friendly.”

And Ferguson’s grandson is just as thrilled to have found a new buddy.

“Ethan is very well-versed in emu,” Ferguson said. “He’s always looking for the baby emu.”

While the flightless birds are typically used for their meat and oil, Ferguson keeps his mob strictly as pets. He finds value in the education and beauty of being able to watch them grow, he said.

“What better way to raise a family than on a farm, experiencing babies being born,” he said. “And now all the neighbors stop and look at the emus.”

 

 

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