Here on our farm, we strive to live as peaceably as possible with the wildlife surrounding us.
Now, I’m far from Sleeping Beauty in the enchanted forest (although I do love my sleep), but it is relatively normal to look out my windows, and witness a doe with her fawns grazing in the grass, and enjoying leaves or fresh fruit that’s fallen from the trees. It’s equally usual to see wild rabbits and various breeds of birds in the same areas simultaneously.
An occasional skunk, coon, armadillo, or coyote can be found sneaking around at dusk or dawn. While these creatures are often considered pests and problem animals, if they mind their manners, I leave them be. But this story is about our murder of crows and how the relationship came to be.
How It All Began
I’ve had an affinity for ravens and crows since childhood. I know they’re considered by many to have a negative meaning as a symbol of death, but never you mind that.
In our area, there are several families — or murders — of crows that we’ve watched grow through the years. Last year, there were three crow chicks we could hear from their nests, and one day, when they were finally old enough to take flight, they graced us with their presence. For some reason, we started calling them the “Three Brothers.” I couldn’t tell you if they’re male or female. That’s just how the naming went down.
The Three Brothers, or sisters, or maybe both brothers and sisters, became comfortable enough that they started eating breakfast with our chickens. Initially, they’d swoop down and enjoy the scratch grains or other tasty morsels our birds abandoned to forage elsewhere. Before we knew it, we would find them enjoying a meal together with our chickens. I found this to be beautiful!
Let’s fast forward a few months.
We hatched out seven chicks, six hens, and a roo. Our laying hens aren’t exactly broody, so we use an incubator and play momma hen until they’re old enough to transition to the hen house. It wasn’t long before we began introducing them to the big open world — under our supervision, of course.
We’d let them out several times a day to learn about chicken life. They’d chase bugs, eat grit and grasses, and we’d practice cover calls, so they learned to run and take cover from predator birds. We have several hawks living on the property and surrounding woods.
As the chicks grew bigger and older, we would leave them out at a considerable brush pile with loads of cover (near our rabbits). Little by little, we started stepping away until we were inside, watching from a window nearby. It was only into the second day of this weaning practice when we noticed one of the Three Brothers watching the chicks from a tree in the distance.
This crow watched our baby birds intently, and we weren’t sure whether there was a need for concern. My partner grew nervous about the situation, and we went out to get the chicks. The routine went this way for a couple of days. On the third day, the crow finally flew down from its perch and wandered over to the brush pile. It didn’t seem to be threatening or menacing. More than anything, it appeared curious and concerned. Regardless, we went and got the chicks but decided to do some research.
What we learned was fascinating. Basically, when there are chicks running about without a protective adult rooster, crows will sometimes watch over and protect them. They sort of stand guard. You see, at the time, we had one adult rooster, and he was a passive, gentle giant. He would make the appropriate duck-and-cover calls but wasn’t an aggressive, protective, go-get-em kind of guy.
With a bit more study, we decided to see how things would play out if we didn’t interfere. I have to say, it was an incredible thing we witnessed.
The chicks were out running around, doing chicken things while the crow watched from its preferred tree. All of this was during early spring, so the windows and doors were open, and we could see and hear anything that was going on. We watched as the crow looked over the birds, but what we didn’t see was the hawk that was watching them, too. It had been waiting for the perfect moment to swoop down and make off with one of our babies.
The crow got closer and closer to the chicks, who finally nestled into the brush for a bit of a rest. We heard the hawk cry out and saw it begin to dive down when the crow flew up and chased it off. That big crow meant no harm to our chicks, and its only intention was to watch over them, and keep them safe.
Of course, we went and got the chicks after that occurrence, but we also offered the crow a nice chunk of raw meat.
After that day, we placed a perch in the middle of the field for the crows to come land on. I toss a bit of extra grain out so they can eat more, and we take some tasty morsels and place them on their perch. I’m not going to lie. I call to them as I approach with the food: “Crow, crow, crow, caw, caw, caw.” Though it’s actually more of the caw sound a crow makes than the word being said. They’re usually nearby watching, so it didn’t take much time at all for them to associate the call with fresh food and water.
I’ll tell you what, if we’re late for the feeding or what we offered wasn’t enough, the crows will call in the same pattern and fashion as I do. We went from feeding one crow to feeding a murder, and they all stuck by watching over our farm animals and pets. They love fresh, raw meat and fish the best. We even offer boiled eggs, but we avoid feeding them raw chicken or eggs because … well because we don’t want them to get the wrong idea.
While our murder of crows isn’t trusting enough to remain near the perch when we place food out, they don’t leave the property entirely as they once did. Eventually, we began hearing the sounds of baby crows again, and one afternoon we noticed the Three Brothers had three young crows with them. It’s as if they were letting the young ones know we were safe while blessing us with a glimpse of the growing family.
Some mornings we’ll see three or four different crows; other times, we’ll see more. This symbiotic relationship is incredibly beautiful. Never did I imagine I would have such a kinship with crows, but I always wanted one.
I suppose we’ll have to put a larger perch out there because, right now, only two full-grown crows can land at a time without touching one another (they like their space). If we add a few perches, they’ll be more comfortable. As for the water, they don’t seem too concerned with it. There are several fresh sources available.
Aside from the crows, we have at least one owl living in the forest along with the hawks. Interestingly enough, owls and hawks are natural enemies or predators of crows. While owls and hawks will prey on crows, a hawk usually avoids landing in a space where there are black chickens because they fear they’re crows.
I can’t say that this sort of situation will work for everybody, but I wanted to share the beauty of living cohesively with nature. As I said, I’m far from a Disney Princess, but I can’t say I never feel like some sort of woodland elf or witch in a fairy tale.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my homesteading story. Have any of you had similar experiences with crows or other wild animals around the homestead? I’d love to hear from you.
Many blessings and happy homesteading, friends!