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Crow (raven??) depredation  RSS feed

 
Posts: 79
Location: Northern Puget Sound
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Lost at least 2 meat chickens to crow (or raven) attack.  Might have lost 1-2 more, can't tell yet.  Getting some netting figured out.  But what else do you all recommend?

Assuming carcasses are not salvageable.  One was definitely too torn up.  Other is marginal but not thinking it's worth the risk.
 
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:Lost at least 2 meat chickens to crow (or raven) attack.  Might have lost 1-2 more, can't tell yet.  Getting some netting figured out.  But what else do you all recommend?

Assuming carcasses are not salvageable.  One was definitely too torn up.  Other is marginal but not thinking it's worth the risk.



Sorry to hear of your loss. I've never heard of crows going after adult chickens. Ravens could definitely kill chickens, but they (like so many other things) are opportunists and go after the easiest targets. We have a couple living just across the road from us in a woodlot, but they've never been a threat. However we NEVER leave the hens unattended. If they are they are locked in their run/garden which is protected by both rigid roof and aviary netting.

Using a good aviary netting over the run/chicken area is the only way to dissuade aerial predators in my experience. Again sorry to hear. Good luck
 
Andrew Mayflower
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The 2 dead chickens were close to if not over 3lbs.  Wife witnessed it killing one of the chickens.  She saw 2 presumably Ravens working together.
 
Bobby Reynolds
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:The 2 dead chickens were close to if not over 3lbs.  Wife witnessed it killing one of the chickens.  She saw 2 presumably Ravens working together.



Ah, three pounds is bigger pullet/cockerel territory. Yes, they could be easy targets for either crows or ravens. I though you were talking 6-8 lb birds.

Again, netting is the only solution I've found effective. Perhaps others will have different suggestions? Good luck!
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Yeah, they're about 5.5 week old Freedom Rangers.  

Struggle I'm having is that I have them in some Premier One electric netting so we can move them every few days.  Covering that with some type of netting will make it a lot harder to move around the yard.  Plus the sometimes irregular shape also makes netting more challenging.

Any suggestions on how to make it reasonably easy to protect my nuggets?  Or do I need to suck it up and deal with the netting?
 
pollinator
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My only predator loss on my commercial sheep farm thus far has been from a Crow, and this is thick with coyotes. It is hard to protect from the sky...

A person does have the right to protect their livestock, and luckily Raven and Crows are very smart birds. Send a few down the 12 gauge highway and they figure out really fast that there are better places to hunt.
 
garden master
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What your wife witnessed may have been an attack by a vulture.

There are several kinds and one of them will go after live animal.  I saw a kitten being picked up by one.

The young ones do look like crows or ravens.
 
Anne Miller
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Adult and juvenile






https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_vulture
 
pollinator
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I would caution, in strongest terms, not to draw attention to yourself as the source of harm to any corvid. They are hyperintelligent for birds and remember faces.

If you try to send one down the 12 gauge highway and miss, or one of its friends sees you do it, you will be putting yourself at risk. They are fully capable of coming back in number to show you what they think of your meddling.

Oh, sure. You can just keep shooting them, but what will likely happen is that they will take vengeance. If they don't attack you directly, they will probably attack anything they associate with you, including the chickens. These things will attack sheep, pecking out eyes and tongues. I have seen crows swoop down on a person, working in pairs, although in that particular case, the person was too near to a fallen fledgling crow just getting his wings. I have no doubt about the kind of damage they could inflict on a person's eyes with those beaks.

I have seen crow or raven "shrines" set up to draw them to a particular place, usually just a bit of shelter, maybe a bird bath with some shiny bits and a carcass of some kind placed regularly, a sheltered place to perch with food, drink, and entertainment. Were they to see you making one of these, and dropping the occasional bit of carrion or roadkill there for them, and if they were to then see you tending your chooks, it isn't at all unlikely that they would shift their predation elsewhere.

I would be cautious. Were some species of corvid intent on recreating that iconic scene from Hitchcock's "The Birds," it would not be a laughing matter.

Oh, and don't let them see that movie. It might give them ideas.

Let us know how it goes, and good luck.

-CK

 
Andrew Mayflower
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It got another chicken this morning while I was in the shower.  Staying home from work today until I have netting up.  Home Depot apparently has 14x45' rolls, though not in stock at the local store.  Looking for another source.

Will also get birdshot.  I have a couple 20ga shotguns, even have an extra full choke for one if I think I need the range.

Noted on the risks of retribution.
 
Chris Kott
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Your call. But if you end up shooting, I would suggest perhaps considering walking around with a tennis racket or some other object that you can clobber them with when they dive-bomb you.

It sounds funny, but I am not joking.

-CK
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Seen it twice now.  Got a good look at it while up in a cedar tree.  Definitely a corvid, pretty sure a raven.  Not a juvenile vulture.
 
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...and that is why they are called a Murder of Crows and not a flock!  Anyway, I am surprised to hear they can take down sheep...I'm assuming it was a new born lamb?
 
Travis Johnson
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Stephan Quintavalli wrote:...and that is why they are called a Murder of Crows and not a flock!  Anyway, I am surprised to hear they can take down sheep...I'm assuming it was a new born lamb?



Sorry for the lack of details, yes it was a newborn lamb. The umbilical cord is what drew it down to peck the stomach out of the newborn lamb.

No dive bombing birds though, and I was pretty mad over the matter. I love my sheep almost as much as my wife and kids so lead flew and birds dropped. I did call the game wardens and the State Biologist said he would send me a permit to hunt the birds. I did not have the heart to tell him I already knew the law and could defend my farm from predators.

I was dealing with crows though.

I am pretty timid with the shotgun typically. I don't hunt or fish or anything, but sometimes a farmer has to make a stand against predators.
 
pollinator
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We had a red tail hawk move into the neighborhood and it made short order of the crows.  He would fly in and pick off the crow babies when mama and papa crow were out hunting.  There used to be 50 or so crows that lived in the neighborhood.  With a significantly reduced population due to the hawk predation, their numbers dwindled year after year.  Now it appears that those that remained all moved on to safer habitat.  Between West Nile virus and the neighborhood hawk, we've got no crow problem anymore.

I keep my chickens in a chicken tractor 95% of the time, so the hawk doesn't bother them.  

If I lived in the country, I'd deal with them the old fashioned way: when life gives you crows, enjoy a little target practice.
 
Posts: 206
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Crows are delicious!  Crow hunting is very challenging.  Crows are very smart, they have skills in both problem solving and simple math.  Sometimes, they seem to enjoy taunting and tricking hunters as sort of a game... and I am sure they understand the consequences... they just like to play games, even if they die.  Before America lost most of its agrarian traditions 50 years ago, or so, crow and magpie hunting were just a part of life for farmers and farm kids.  They had to protect crops and livestock... and crow was another meat that could supplement food supplies.  Crow hunting for food has fallen out of favor, which is a real shame.  I don't have any interest in sport hunting.  But, you can still buy both manual and electronic crow calls and decoys.  In the US, you'll need a hunting license and a migratory bird stamp.  The bird stamp goes to support conservation, so that is cool.  Limits and seasons are pretty liberal.  

Ed Zern was a classic outdoor writer, back when outdoor writing was an art.  He was a humorist, but this will give you an idea of the challenge crow hunting may involve:

How to hunt crows

by Ed Zern

Over the years a number of readers have written, asking me to provide them with my crow-shooting system as it appeared here a decade or so ago. As both of them are regular subscribers I can hardly afford to ignore their request, and hasten to comply.

The system is based on a study of crow behavior conducted by research biologists at Phelps University which showed that crows have a relatively high level of intelligence and are actually able to count, but only in multiples of three or less, so that the conventional procedure for fooling crows-by sending several men into a blind, then having all but one of them leave -- is not likely to work except with very young birds, if at all. Thus, even if six crow hunters go into a cornstalk blind and only five come out, the crows probably won't be fooled, as they will have counted off the hunters in trios and will realize that one of the groups is short a man; as a result they will stay the hell away from there until the frustrated gunner gives up and emerges.

My system for successful crow hunting is childishly simple, and consists of the following steps:

1. Build a blind overlooking a cornfield frequented by crows.

2. Assemble a group of twenty five hunters, all dressed more or less alike and of nearly equal height, build, and facial characteristics. All the hunters should be clean-shaven, but twelve of them should be wearing false mustaches. The group should assemble in a barn or some sort of building not less than 350 yards from the field. (It would be prudent to have a few spare hunters on hand, to substitute in cases of pulled muscles, heart attacks or other contingencies.)

3. All of the hunters should be equipped with 12-gauge shotguns, but it is advisable that these be fairly light in weight, as it is important that all hunters going to and from the blind must travel at a dead run, so that the crows will not have sufficient time for their calculations.

4. As soon as a flock of crows comes into the area, eleven of the hunters are dispatched from the old barn to the blind, running at top speed. The instant they arrive, seven of them turn around and rush back to the barn.

5. When the seven hunters get back to the barn, they are joined by six other hunters and the thirteen of them sprint back to the blind as fast as possible; on arrival there, ten of them immediately turn around and dash back to the barn.

6. Before the ten arrive, eight more hunters are sent from the barn to the blind. When they meet the ten returning from the blind all of them switch hats and false mustaches while milling around in a tight huddle, then break it up and resume running to their respective destinations.

7. As soon as the eight hunters arrive at the blind, five of them turn around and rush back toward the barn; on the way they meet nine hunters running from the barn toward the blind, whereupon the hunters divide themselves into two groups of seven, one of which runs back to the barn while the other rushes to the blind, changes hats and mustaches, leaves two of its members there and dashes back to the barn.

8. Of the twelve hunters now in the blind, nine now rush across the fields to the barn while twelve of the thirteen hunters in the barn charge en masse from the barn to the blind; on arrival they immediately turn and sashay back to the barn taking two of the three hunters still in the blind, leaving a single hunter.

9. It is, of course, essential that all this be done at the highest possible speed, so that the crows will fall hopelessly behind in their arithmetic and in the consequent corvine confusion fail to realize that a hunter is concealed in the blind.

10. Eventually, the crows will learn to count faster, so that the system must be modified occasionally to keep ahead of them. In addition to having the hunters run faster, it may be necessary to introduce false beards and quick-change toupees as well as false mustaches, and to build a second blind on another side of the field so that the traffic will be triangular instead of simply linear, requiring the crows to start working on trigonometric permutations and geometric progressions in order to cope. In severe cases the hunters may be equipped with numbered jerseys from 1 to 25 but with the number 17 omitted and two numbers 21s. (This can also be done with roman numerals, when birds are very wary.)

Well, you asked for it, readers, and you got it. Watch this space next month for an equally simple fool-proof system for outwitting that wily old woodchuck in the back pasture, requiring no special equipment other than a stuffed Guernsey cow and a milkmaid's costume. Remember -- you saw it here first!
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Well, so far the bird netting and strings we put up has kept the corvids at bay.  All heads are still attached to the remaining bodies.  Saw one crow/raven perched in the big cedar in the front of the property eyeing the meat chickens early this morning.  Flew off right away when I reacted to seeing it.  Not sure if it noticed me (I was indoors but right at the window) or just would have flown off anyway.  Couldn't have shot it between the range from the house being too long even with an extra full choke (60-70 yards) and the fact that just 15-20 yards past the cedar is a road and then another neighbor's property.  Since even bird-shot pellets can go 200-400 yards (depending on size) with an elevated shot angle that would be a no-shoot situation.  Off on the other 3 sides I can more safely shoot if I see it.  But, though I have little compunction in shooting it, I'd rather not have that be necessary as if I get rid of one it's just a matter of time until another shows up and the problem begins all over again.

What's a little puzzling to me is that it's going after my meat birds exclusively, but not the pullets.  Yet anyway.  The meaties are a little bigger even though they're a few weeks younger but there's almost as many pullets (51 meaties before the attacks vs 31 pullets).  The pullets were/are no better protected.  
 
Anne Miller
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:Well, so far the bird netting and strings we put up has kept the corvids at bay.    



Andrew, now that the chickens are being protected do you think there is a way to discourage the ravens from thinking your property is desirable?

Maybe hanging some pie plates or ribbons so that they move or make sounds when the wind blows?

 
pollinator
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You might consider a scoped .22 for a little extra reach, though of course that comes with additional concerns about taking shots in the air.  In Missouri, at least, crows are the only birds allowed to be taken with any kind of rifle, so there must be some precedent for shooting them thus, and some testament as to its likelihood of success.

I'd wager a guess that you don't even need to wage war on crows; you just need to eliminate the specific problem animals you're dealing with.
 
Chris Kott
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Corvid shrines usually feature shiny things. In my experience, corvidae are too intelligent to be fooled by pie plates, motion sensor-triggered lights and sprinklers. It might work the first time, and they might really not like the water sprays, but they will figure out that the pie plates don't do anything but reflect light and sway in the breeze, that the light isn't followed by anything dangerous (unless you start shooting in conjunction with the motion sensor light), and that the sprinkler sprays in the same place or pattern every time.

These things belong to the same family as the European Magpie, the only non-mammal to pass the mirror self-recognition test. I think the best bet is to manipulate the situation such that the corvidae in question come to the conclusion that the easier path is to move along.

-CK
 
Wj Carroll
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They do like shiny things and are very curious.  If you put out an owl decoy, they might attack it.  A .22 air rifle with a scope - a new style, powerful one like a Hatsan - could give good range without damaging your neighbor's property.  That is usually what I use, because they are very accurate at 50-75 yards and fairly quiet.  If I miss, it usually doesn't spook them and I sometimes get another shot.  Sometimes, they don't even notice when one goes down, and I can take a few from a group in a tree.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Well, it's been several weeks.  I wound up putting up bird netting over the top of the electric fence.  It's been quite a PITA, but I've even been able to move the chickens 4 times since then to keep them from moonscaping the yard or overloading it with manure.  No additional losses to the ravens since I got that up either.

I think before I raise meat chickens again (and I do plan to do that, probably next year since an August trip to Hawaii will make it impractical for a second round this year), I'll totally redesign the bird netting setup.  Right now I'm using 3 of the 14'x45' bird nets tied together every 9-12" with short pieces of string to make a ~42x45' cover.  I've got probably 18 or so cedar stakes that I pound into the ground with the netting attached to them with string.  Then I set up the electric net fence underneath and herd the chickens into it.  

Next time I'll do something more like a PVC pipe hoop structure to hold up the bird nets with 2x4 or something to act as skids so that I can much more easily drag it from spot to spot in the yard.  Kind of like a gigantic chicken tractor but with no solid walls and bird netting for the roof.  Probably add a fourth bird net panel to keep the same overall width while allowing for the curvature of the hoops.  Keep it all dry fit if possible so it can be taken down for storage.  Might drill some holes through the pipe so I can use zip-ties to keep it from popping apart or something similar.  If I can get another roll of electric net fence then I can move the cover, set up the new fence and more easily move the chickens.  

Or, if I can figure out a good way to do so, I might even attach the electric netting to the structure so it all becomes one (hopefully) easy to move unit.  That would give me the protection and easy relocation of a chicken tractor, with the advantages of semi-free range/pasture rotation.  Assuming I can make it light enough to be moved without assistance while still being strong enough and durable.  
 
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We have to pasture our meat birds in a salatin tractor surrounded by another movable wire fence secured by light rebar posts. After much trial and error we found that the raven and hawk and eagle (especially eagle) population up here in Kitsap Co is just too much for our birds - too hungry and too bold. They will attack when I'm working 20 feet away in the garden.  The tractor keeps them safe from above and the movable wire fencing keeps them safe from the sides (raccoons.)

I had an eagle try to take off with a full grown runner duck about 3 weeks ago. I've had ravens kill 1 month old chicks - and quickly. I was moving their outdoor run last summer and left them without netting for 30 minutes while I pounded posts and set up the new run and in that time 2 ravens got 2 of my chicks. I was, at that point, beyond livid. And I swear they were working in tandem, although other people told me that doesn't happen.

Now we just keep meat birds in a tractor, keep a rooster for the chickens in their run under the trees and give them lots of easy shelter to hide under. All small birds live under netting until they get older. This year has been particularly bad and I'm glad the netting is working. Got a raven stuck in it momentarily last weekend, but never got my ducklings.

Other farmer's I know have worked raven and eagle predation into their farm plans and raise extra birds to make up for the loss every year.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Are you raising CRX for the meat chickens?  If mine were CRX I'd have likely done tractors of some sort.  But I went with Freedom Rangers and they seem to be doing really well with the greater freedom to move and forage that a pasture rotation gives them.
 
Lindsey Jane
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We have done both rangers and cornish cross for meat birds in tractors. I move the tractor usually every day or 2. But we do small runs - under 25 chickens a time. We usually do a run in the spring and another in late summer, early fall. Now we only do cornish cross, simply because it's easier and for us (and only us, I'm not saying anyone else should agree, so don't pounce on me, people of the interwebs) we like the taste better than rangers. We have a smaller pasture, too, and freedom rangers would just tear it up too much for the amount of meat we want and the amount of time it takes to get rangers to butcher weight.

 
Andrew Mayflower
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FWIW, it's looking like I'll get a >5lb average dressed weight in 10 weeks with those Freedom Rangers.  The one I had to butcher to salvage yesterday (9 weeks old) dressed out at 5lbs 4oz.  Had I butchered this past weekend I bet they'd have been over 4lbs maybe 4.5lbs dressed on average, and that would have been a little under 9 weeks.
 
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