Fruit has no ap-peel for Boomer

It’s trial and error for DZG’s bird keepers as they attempt to wean hand reared rhea, Boomer, off his baby food.

Keepers are trying to entice the four-month-old with a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, but the only thing he seems to like is lettuce.


Keeper Ben Vanes, pictured above, said: “As Boomer is being hand reared, he is now at the age where he needs to start coming off his grower pellets, which contain all the essential vitamins and minerals for baby birds and onto foods such as fruits, seeds, maize and plants which is what rheas typically eat.”

Armed with platefuls of nutritious sliced apple, carrot, cabbage and flaked maize keepers are trying to encourage the youngster to try the new foods, but his favourite is definitely lettuce.

Ben added: ” At the moment he won’t try anything but the lettuce and will pick up the other food and throw it on the floor.

“We won’t give up that easily though and we’ll continue working with him every day until he’s eating everything we give him.”


Boomer was hatched in an incubator and is being reared by keepers after he was abandoned as an egg.

He is currently living off-show in a nursery pen, but is able to explore the outside during supervised playtimes out on the grass by Lemur Wood.

Keepers are hopeful Boomer will eventually be reunited with the rest of the rhea flock down by the farm, but he’s still got some growing to do first, as adult rheas can reach heights of up to 1.5m – very similar looking to an ostrich. 

Ben added: “It will be a while yet until he’s ready to move down to the bottom of the zoo. He needs to be a lot bigger and off his grower pellets first and happy to eat what they eat, which is flaked maize, special formulated pellets, bread and vegetables.

“What they don’t usually eat is lettuce, so we need to get him to like other foods first.”

See Ben try and feed Boomer in his nursery pen (located next to a very noisy cockerel!) in the video below