A Few Tips

on

Crow Care  

 

Preliminaries:
Before you decide to tackle the job of raising a baby crow, there are a few things you should consider. For one - it is not true that a baby crow returned to the nest will be rejected by its parents!  They will even try to care for it on the ground (though obviously there, he’s vulnerable to all sorts of predators).  If at all possible, get a (big) ladder and return the little guy to his nest!  

If he's hurt, take him to the vet or try to find a wild life rehabilitation center in your area. They will know how to help him.  Baby crows, depending on their stage of growth, will need to be fed every 30 minutes up to ever couple of hours from sun up to sun down.  Do you have the time to do this?

However, lets say that there is no rehabilitation center near you that accepts crows, the bird cannot be returned to his nest and you are willing and able to care for him....    


Okay, you've got yourself a crow.  What now?

When Edgar first came to me, I’d never kept a “pet” bird (I have a problem with the cage thing).  My friend even had to show me how to feed him!  
So here’s
Tip Number One if you find yourself the caretaker of a baby crow:  you hold a small morsel of food just up above eye level but so they can spot it.  The little one will tilt his head back and open his beak wide. (sometimes, for the first day at least) you may have to gently (!) pry his beak open.) At that point you take the food (about the size of a large pea) and gently push it down his throat.  I don’t mean into his mouth – I mean down his little throat.  That’s how the mama bird does it, honest!  This will stimulate him to swallow. It will also initiate an unending series of squawks at a deafening decibel level, which roughly translates as: “Keep it coming!” and  “Faster, you Idiot!”

Don’t be afraid of getting bit.  Right now, even if he does close his beak on your finger, even though it looks big and hard and intimidating, it’s too soft to hurt you.  As clumsy as I was in feeding him – and even when he was almost grown and we’d registered that beak with the police department as a lethal weapon – Edgar never hurt me except once.  He pecked my arm in a fit of jealousy for paying too much attention to another animal. (Crows get unbelievably possessive!  Fair Warning!)  

Tip Number Two:  The Menu.  As a new “mother” I did what all new mothers do when confronted with a brand new baby: check the how-to books and the internet!  I read every formula for the optimum bird diet and tried them all.  I mixed Kashi with mashed fruit, peanut butter, egg and about 50 other ingredients.  Once Edgar got big enough to have a say in his menu (what he didn’t like, he’d spit out just like a baby) I threw most of the stuff out and this is what we ended up with:

- Peas he liked.

- Green beans and corn were okay.

- A mixture of peanut butter and mashed potatoes made with water soluble bird vitamins.  (these I rolled into pea sized balls and crammed them down his little throat in between the peas which he thought were yummy)

- Softly scrambled egg he really enjoyed - especially in the beginning.

- Then Edgar discovered cooked chicken and there was no looking back!  Everything else was tossed down his throat when he thought he was getting chicken.  (I still cherished the notion that he needed a “balanced diet”)  Steak was another food he approved of.  Almost as good as chicken.  

You'll be able to tell when he's full.  As a baby, he will simply stop squawking for more and turn his face away with his beak clamped shut (much like a human baby).  As he gets older he will still accept the food from you, but you'll see him stashing it in little hiding places where he will later retrieve it for snacking on.

Tip Number Three:  A Big Boo-Boo. The first time I fed Edgar, afterward I took an eyedropper and tried to give him water.  Do NOT do this!  I soon learned from reading and other "bird" people that you could easily get the water down the wrong way and accidentally drown the little guy.  Let him get his moisture from his food while he’s very young and then later provide a water dish.  Or, if your really convinced he's not getting enough liquid, dip a clean paintbrush in water and offer it to him that way.

Tip Number Four:  The Nursery. He needs sunshine (somehow it helps his body to absorb vitamins) and Plenty of Room to exercise his wings.  Barred cages are A Bad Thing.  Your crow can catch his feathers on the bars and truly hurt himself.  Be careful in choosing a nest!  
Perfect are little kid’s wading pools (minus the water of course).  If he's old enough, you can place tree branches around the sides for him to practice his perching and old towels or rags over newspapers on the bottom for nesting.   This also makes for easy clean-up – and you will need to do your housekeeping!  Even the mama bird tidies the nest.  If you leave the poop in there, it can make your bird very sick.  Do not use old leaves and grass clippings to line his “nest”.  This could cause him to get bugs & mites in his feathers.  Being lucky enough to have a prolific herb garden at my disposal, I was able to line one area of the pool-nest with fresh lavender and rosemary clippings which were soft and had, I reasoned, the added advantage of keeping bugs away.  But I would still change these out every other day.  Another good bedding is the recycled newspaper bedding that you buy at the pet store.  It's ever so soft and fluffy, much like an actual nest.

As he gets older and begins moving about your yard, he will enjoy (and need!) opportunities to bathe.  I have the kind of sprinklers that are inset in the lawn.  I would turn these on low and Edgar would  lay down on top of one and flop around like a fish out of water.  It was hysterical to watch!  Later I kept a wide shallow dish filled with about an inch of fresh water for him to play in.  Crows, even in the wild,  like to dunk their food in water.  I'm not sure why or what the purpose is - but they do.

Tip Number Five:  Damage Control. Prepare to have everything that he can reach to be either pooped on, rearranged, disappear, or  totally destroyed!  And you would be amazed at what he can reach!  

My daughter and me playing in the garden with Edgar.  
He loved to bring us little "Treasures" that he'd found.  
By the way -
Edgar was still a baby in all of these pictures.  
In time, he grew even larger! (I think it was all that chicken he ate!)

 

To read Edgar's Story

  2003 Rescues -   Macha and Stickers
                        

...and Some Links for Crow Lovers:
Carl Cook
is a photographer with some amazing photos of crows.  The time invested in 
photographing them has led to some marvelous Crow Tales!   

        For the Love of Crows  is a fantastic website containing information, humor,
 pictures, stories...the clipart on this page came from this site.

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