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The Care of Ravens and Crows

To you I am nothing more
than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes.
But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.
To me, you will be unique in all the world.
To you, I shall be unique in all the world


Although there is much information available online concerning behavior and biology of ravens, there is little if any works done specifically geared towards keeping these birds as pets.

I have in my life rehabbed many different species of ravens and crows. Some I was successfully able release back into the wild. It is not an easy task. The following care sheet is based on my own personal experiences with corvids, and I make no guarantee that this will work for your situation.

Ravens and crows are intelligent and by nature a difficult species to care for, much thought should be given before trying to take one of these animals into your home.

I've written this care sheet using raven throughout, though this information can be applied also to crows.

Note on copyright:

I've found this original work re-produced in several places around the internet without my consent and under various other authors' names. Everything on this web site is original content, and I am its sole creator. This information is not for reproduction, and I will take action against those who claim it as their own. If you've found this information helpful, please distribute the link, not the information.

What do I feed my raven?

In the wild, the raven is an omnivorous species, they will eat both meat and vegetation. More than half their diet however, consists of carrion and live prey, especially during winter months. In captivity, it's best to try and duplicate this diet as closely as possible. Offering a staple of a high quality dog food is common method among fanciers, but this should not be the bird's main source of protein. Cuts of meat from the grocer are taken readily, and can be provided from numerous sources (livers, hocks, hearts, snouts, turkey necks), they aren't particular. Fresh road kill can be taken and offered whole. Not only is this healthier then farm slaughtered stock, but it gives the animal the chance to exhibit the natural behavior of ripping into a whole prey and offers mental stimulation. In addition to meat sources, they'll eat just about anything. Variety is key. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a must, and whole eggs tend to be a favorite. However you choose to ration it, this is not a bird that eats prepackaged seed. They are time consuming to feed, and it is neglect to disallow them their natural diet.

What about water?

Like any living creature, ravens require fresh water throughout the day. With corvids this means you will be making frequent water changes daily. They will defecate in their water, drop meat in it, drop toys in it, tip it over for fun, and just about anything else you can think of. It will become dirty very quickly. A separate larger container is needed for bathing, and should be provided quite regularly though not permentatly due to the mess they will make in it. Ravens tend to prefer smooth, dark, round dishes for bathing. Falconry bath pans are excellent, as are large rubber bowls made for horses. I've used a large black cement mixer tray with great success, this can be found at almost any hardware store.

What kind of cage does my raven need?

A raven cannot be kept in any bird cage you'd find at your local pet store. Even the largest and most expensive macaw cage is too small for a corvid. Unlike a parrot, ravens do not use their beaks to climb and rarely their feet. They will hop, perch to perch and need plenty of room to be able to do this. Ideally, the enclosure will be large enough to allow some flight. Most likely, you will need to construct a custom outdoor aviary. The aviary must be very secure against predators and in some places West Nile Virus. If there are an abundance of predators in your area, you may want to consider getting that expensive macaw cage, and bringing your raven in from the aviary at night to roost safely in your home till morning. If this doesn't sound like an option for you, an entire indoor area will need to be set aside. While not everyone has an entire bedroom to devote to your raven, maybe you have an indoor patio room that can be modified, or a generous sized walk in closet? Whatever you decide on, the bigger the better. Ravens cannot be housed in typical cages, and will be mindlessly bored and constantly agitated.

How long do ravens live?

On average about 10-15 years in the wild, and about double that in captivity. There have been reports, however, of ravens living much longer in human care.

Should I clip my raven's wings?

You should never clip a raven's wings as you would a parrot to restrict flight. Ravens rely more on their ability to be able to glide then a parrot does. If you're concerned with your raven escaping outdoors, or leaving his flight, it may be more appropriate to shorten slightly the primary feathers to inhibit long range flying and not handicap the bird entirely. This is done primarily for safety, as a hand raised and people accustomed corvid would not fair well if escaped. In the end, you'll have to make the decision how much to clip your companion's feathers, or if at all.

How can I expect my raven to act towards me?

Ravens are not cuddly, they will tolerate petting and scratching on their terms only. They tolerate everything on their terms only. They can be moody, and like people, sometimes have a bad day or just want to be left alone. They will not always respond to you, and will more often then not challenge you. You cannot have a low self-esteem and have a pet raven.

How can I bond with my raven?

Ravens as juveniles are very curious creatures and will be naturally interested in you. It is important when they are young to be very gentle, patient, and loving to your new pet. To help the bonding experience, you can take your raven into a small or mostly empty room. Sit down on the floor and speak quietly to him, wait for him to come to you, slowly reach out for him, let him investigate you on his own. It is extremely consequential that you make an effort to form a relationship with him while young. Ravens as adults tend to not be as welcoming to new concepts and can be downright neophobic.

What are the difference between ravens and crows?

Physically speaking quite a lot, actually! Behaviorally, not so much. First and foremost, ravens are much larger then crows. This difference becomes very apparent when compared side by side. Ravens are about 25" tall, with a four foot wing span, while crows average about 18". To give you a difference of relative size, in general, ravens are about the size of a large hawk, crows a pigeon. Ravens have a fan shaped tail, feathers that come to a point, a heavy rough patch of feathers around the throat called a mantel, and much more heavier bills. Crows lack a mantel, have a wedged shaped tail, rounded feathers, and a sleeker bill. There's fewer differences in behavior. However, ravens differ in the way they fly, they tend to soar or glide and at much higher altitudes. Ravens will also perform aerial acrobatics in the air, diving, and somersaulting. You will never see a crow do this. Crows' vocabulary is also much more limited, there the ones you will hear making the stereotypical "caw! caw!" whilst ravens vocal ranges are extensive and generally much deeper in pitch. Some people believe ravens are also more intelligent then crows.

How loud are ravens?

They can be very loud, but do not scream as parrots do. In my opinion, their vocalization is much more interesting and even entertaining enough to not mind when they have a go at it. They are master imitators and will pick up common sounds in your household or around their aviary. Barking dogs, familiar human voices, wild songbirds are not uncommon. And yes ravens can speak english (or whatever other language you want them to learn). Once at a rehabilitation center in Nebraska, I went into the aviary of a crow and watched him go about his business for a short awhile. Just once before leaving, I made a "woooo!" sound at him. After walking a few feet away from his enclosure, the bird followed me along perch by perch, and in a last attempt to get my attention and imitating perfectly "woooed" back at me. I stayed for a little longer.

What about West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus is a virus that can cause disease in humans, birds and horses. This virus first surfaced in North America late in the summer of 1999. Ravens, along with other corvids, are highly susceptible to this virus, it is imperative that you keep this in mind if constructing an outdoor aviary in a West Nile hot spot. I recommend fitting your enclosure with a fine screen or mesh, this will greatly reduce the amount of mosquitos entering. However, no matter how secure the pen is, it is nearly impossible to keep them out by this means alone. One helpful piece of prevention advice given to me by the CDC, was to allow constant air circulation near the door of the aviary. They informed me that this deters mosquitoes from wanting to enter on their own. I took their advice and used a small portable fan that rotated itself 180 degrees. Additional precautions can be taken elsewhere around your home to make it unattractive for the pests. Do not allow standing water anywhere on your property, this promotes a healthy breeding ground for mosquito larvae. If you have a pond, stock it with fish that eat the larvae. Keep your grass trimmed short for the same reason and trim back and bushes or heavy foliage. Corvids cannot transmit WNV to humans, but they can be carries for it allowing fresh uninfected mosquitos to bite the bird and become new hosts. Prevention to stop this horrible cycle, truly is the best cure.

Is West Nile Virus common in my area?

Check here with the USGS

How can I acquire a raven?

In the United States, a reputable breeder of non-native species is the best place to acquire a raven. Unfortunately, these are difficult to find. For example, Brian Blazer, a respected breeder of several species of corvids usually has a waiting list for his birds up to a year in advance. Your best bet is to be patient. Taking a corvid by any other means (i. e. from the wild) is illegal under the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Many however, do not agree with this; siting the laws that allow you to shoot corvids, but not to care for them. Although, keeping of native species is done quite often without repercussion, please be informed that it is in noncompliance with the act.

Should I get a male or female raven?

Physically there is little difference between the sexes. Males though, are slightly larger on average. Both can be aggressive after reaching sexual maturity during their breeding season.

What kind of species are commonly available?

African White Necked Ravens, Pied Crows, Carrion Crows, Hooded Crows, Brown Necked Ravens, and hybridized combinations of the before mentioned.

How much can I expect to pay?

Non-native species range in price from $600.00 to $2,000.00 depending on what you want. Though expect to pay at least $800.00 for a Pied Crow, and up to $1,600.00 for a raven. There are also hybrids available, a cross between two African species. These usually are $2,000 and up.

Where can I acquire a non-native species?

I know of no one currently breeding pet quality non-native species in the United States.

Corvid owners personal web sites

Here's a short list of private owners.

Seven (African Pied Crow)
Zen (African Pied Crow)
Brujas (African Pied Crow)

But you must not forget you become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.

Last Updated: March 9th, 2014

Copyright © 2006-2014 Alex Komechak. All Original Material, All Rights Reserved.

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