The Crows

Day 294 of 365

Several times in the last week, I have seen a crow sitting on one of the garden fence posts when I go out to do the morning chores for our chickens. We have kept chickens for nearly nine years, and in these nine years, I have learned how important it is to make friends with the crows. 

Before we had chickens, we had a pair of crows who would come see us every day one summer. I put their treats in the same spot every single morning, and over time, they started to get quite close to me when I delivered the treats. It was magnificent! 

Then, one day, there were three of them. I wondered if they raised a baby or if someone else just moved in, but I was in love with these crows. I never received an official gift for my morning treats, but just seeing those crows up so close was a gift on its own. 

I realized one morning, after not seeing my crows for two or three mornings in a row, that my crows must be gone. I later learned one of our neighbors had been shooting at the crows and jays for getting into his garden. I hoped my crows were safe, but I completely understood why they may have just moved on to a different area. 

When we got chickens, the crows would come and go with the seasons, but I didn’t understand how much we needed the crows until we had our first hawk attack on our chickens. I actually came upon the attack in action. My hen died, so I was traumatized. On top of this, my most special chicken in the world, a black chicken named Poe, had died of natural causes a few weeks prior, so I was rattled, raw, and heartbroken. 

I knew that crows were very helpful to chicken keepers because they keep hawks away. I have now seen crows “mob” a hawk so many times. Crows are fierce, and I am always thankful. But the crows were not hanging around very much when we had our hawk attack. 

There is a myth that black chickens will help keep away hawks because black chickens look like crow. This myth is sold as truth online, but I know firsthand that this is a myth. 

After losing my dear friend, my familiar, my Poe and then having our first hawk attack, I thought surely the myth about black chickens was true and that the reason we had the attack was because we no longer had Poe–our only black chicken. 

I went online and found two beautiful black chickens, but they came from a questionable situation. I put them in quarantine, and they seemed a little lethargic but mostly okay. After a couple of weeks, they joined our flock. After a couple more weeks, our entire flock was sick with a devastating respiratory infection—complete with swollen eyes and rales. If you have never heard a chicken sick with rales, I assure it is haunting. I had to nurse our entire flock of nearly 30 twice a day for two months. I was exhausted. 

And then, even with TWO black chickens, we had another hawk attack. I came upon this one late and found my sweet hen dead in the snow. I shook my fist at that hawk, though I know it was just trying to “make a living,” as Ron says. People say that you shouldn’t get too attached to your chickens, but I have realized recently that telling me to not get too attached to an animal is like telling a tree to not be a tree. I was so exhausted and broken from all of it that I deeply considered giving up keeping chickens. 

Interestingly, I was feeling quite broken for other reasons in my life during this same time. My son is a cellist, and he was working with a cello teacher who was causing my son so much anxiety he started having panic attacks. He was just ten years old, and I was full of anxiety about the situation but was full of doubt about what to do.

So I was exhausted from trying to keep my poor little boy held together and from trying to keep chickens my from dying of their respiratory illness. I remember being so tired all the time that I felt like I could barely function. 

Then, I received a gift from the universe. My husband and I decided to find a new cello teacher for our son. By some miracle, the most well-known teacher in our area had openings and agreed to take on our son for lessons. I was so nervous and had no idea what to expect, but at the first lesson, I could feel the healing in the room from her cello. 

Then, at the second lesson, something magical happened. Her studio is by a river, and in December, the crows gather outside–and I am talking about a huge gathering, thousands of birds. It is my understanding that they gather in this same area by the river every year. There was even an article about it in the local newspaper. 

When we arrived for the lesson in the late afternoon, my son’s teacher and I talked about crows, and I told her how I needed crows at my own house because they help protect chickens from hawks. I told her we had just had a hawk attack and how I longed for crows. 

My son’s teacher said the crows like to come and listen to her play cello, and she said to my son something along the lines of, “maybe if we play for them, some will come to your house too.” I loved everything about this, and that late afternoon, as the sun set, she played her cello and my little boy played his cello, following along with her. I watched the crows come right up and fly by the windows. They were everywhere! I could see them darting around in the trees outside the window, and I could hear them loud with their cawing. I had never seen anything like it. 

Then, when my son and his teacher were finished playing, my son packed up his cello, and we said goodbye. As soon as we stepped out of the door, the crows BOOMED this extra loud sound that I felt in my chest. My son and I were amazed, but it only lasted for a few seconds before the crows went back to their regular volume of cawing. I have no idea what that was about, but it was powerful. 

As tears ran down my face, I took out my phone and recorded the crows. Still, what justice can a cell phone video do for something as magical as that? 

A couple of days later, flying over the chicken yard, I saw two crows. Then, I saw them again and again in the following days.

To this day, we still have crows. I am knocking on wood as I type these words, but they have never left us again. It’s been three years. We have not lost another chicken to a hawk attack. I have seen the crows mob hawks over our chicken yard at least fifteen times in the last few years, but, of course, I have no idea how many times they have helped us.

I hope they never leave, and I have been so thankful to see the crow watching me in the mornings. I can see it studying me, and it stays for several minutes with a curious eye toward me. I say hi, and it usually leaves shortly after that, but I have this hope that it can tell my soul is a kind one and that I adore it for its magnificent crow-ness. 

photo credit: Alexas Fotos, Unsplash

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