~~I've edited this a bit, because my dear old friend Joy never typed for a living, plus R.A. makes it hard on her fingers. Joy's Crow is a wonderful story, and just one of the many she could tell about "exotic" animals she's raised in her country home in western Massachusetts. Enjoy! ~~J. Waldron
This spring my daughter called asking me if i would like a baby crow to care for a crow. It's been here for several months now and has grown from a fat hand full of feathers and beak to a sleek teenager, heavy on the arm squawker. It stays at night in a dog crate cage, high up on the outside porch wall. It spends days on the porch. Tree branches are woven into spaces for perches. A large dog water bowl is the "pool."
It is a very messy bird. Probably not any worse than any other bird. I can now see the allure of a cute, small parakeet with tiny little droppings, small seed hulls floating around, sweet little chirps, 3 ounces of pretty feathers. NO! This is not like that. Massive amounts of food are consumed, dragged around, sampled spit out, begged for, rearranged dipped tipped rolled played with inspected, shook, dragged. No sweet little chirps, but hilarious dialogues of thrills, near human words, caws, chipples, purrs, murmurs, squaks, going on for five minutes, loud, medium, sometimes fot, energetic, slightly musical sometimes..
When it ws tiny, I let it perch on chairs, walk around the house, interact with our two dogs and the cat who initially showed great interest, especially Jack the Cat, until it began following him. Now pained they've all got "It's following me again" expressions.
"Make it stop! Why are you squatting there with your beak open? I do not understand and lately--hey! share that roast beef with me!" Yes, it's all about food.
When the crow first came I googled crows and got a raft of information. A fairly hardy bird. Crows live in clans. Each group has it's own language, are bright live in the wild for 12 or so years. They eat meat and veggies and lots of grasshoppers. They store food for later use and, unlike squirrels, they can find their stashes. Youngster stay in the group for two years, learning the tricks of survival.
Crow's not going anywhere--and is that a tuna on rye for lunch? He is also, according to our dogs, part of their pack.. He can browse undisturbed, but no other crow can grace the ground. Outsiders are chased off--sport and duty of dogs!
Okay. This is not my story, just the lead in.
The story takes place about two or three days after we started to let crow out. Now you have to understand that having this crow come into my life was as exciting to me as having a million dollars fall into my lap--perhaps more so. I would be so envious and excited if someone else had a crow and I didn't.
Anyway, I now have a teenager crow who for obvious reasons can't be a house pet, my husband being the obvious reason, and i do have to agree. Housekeeping is last on my list of thrills. I do not need further complications in my gradual descent toward becoming the kind of person the board of health busts.
So. I move the dog cage out to our porch, and with the door closed, have devised a much bigger cage of sorts decorated with branches,swings, plastic food cups. Enter our front door thru the chicken coop please. (Yes...sorry! Watch that bird poop!)
The crow can see us. He watches t.v., chats. I can hose off the porch,things are good, when I feed it. He does eat by himself now, but still is a baby and expects to be fed by mama crow till the end of the summer. When I feed it, I throw in a made up sound that goes like this: "walka walka." I'm thinking, crow, please associate this with food and treats, so when you are flying free, you will come back to me! This was just was a "crow" word that popped into my mind and it seems to work. It can be toned up, down, whispered , crooned, barked, put into crow songs. The crow seems to understand. My family, thankfully, just ignores me if I am crow talking. I am not asking them to do chores after all.
I know I have to let my baby outside. He has to learn to gather it's own food, fly higher than the stereo, meet the local crow population--which i have been feeding to attract--hoping our bird will be adopted into the clan, taught crow things, migrate, meet, mate, survive.
I am torn. This has been such a fun time for me--selfish--wanting to have it, yet knowing it's not an animal meant to be cooped up, yet knowing his chances of being hawk food or shot are greater than becoming 2 years old.
He finally is strong enough that I feel I can open the door. and let him go. I wait for my grandsons to share in the momentous day. I am welled up. We are ready. I say my goodbyes; we open the door. Crow leans to the open door, cocks his head, eyeballs the lawn, and goes back to playing with his toys. He wolfs down wet dog food, hops down for some floor crumbs, squats and opens his beak wide to be fed. I'll have that grape now... My grandson offers to throw him out. I say no, close the door. I'll try again tomorrow. Crow still needs me--one more day!
I do start leaving the door open and he finally goes outside, and the "walka walka" works! He comes back! I am ecstatic, but then find out he comes back every time the dogs go out, every time we go out, every time the cat sneaks out. Sometimes he comes back and messes up the porch just to get us to come out. He walks in the house behind the dogs. He visits us thru the windows when he sees us go from room to room. He greets the car when we come home, swooping 6 inches over our heads. He tells tall tales from tree branches. He comes to his perches on the porch and just yaks on and on thru the screen. He bathes daily in the dog dish, steals stuff out of my pockets. He adores Carl and hangs out with the grandkids, he screams at the postman for standing on his porch, eats my summering house plants on the deck, collects food and stuffs it in the log cracks for later. He shares his hard boiled eggs, sometimes with the dogs, sometimes running from them, squawking mine, mine, mine!..
Yes, it turns out he comes back to "Hey! Where are you? Wanna treat?" Turns out we are his clan.