Horror movies often portray them as sinister messengers of doom, but in reality, crows and ravens are extremely intelligent birds with no inclination towards evil. Being so intelligent, would these birds make good pets? I'll examine this question in more detail below. However, the first thing you should understand is crows (and ravens) are wild animals and should not be expected to act like cats, dogs, and other animals that humans have domesticated for generations. This means that properly caring for a crow or raven will, no doubt, be very challenging—especially for the uninitiated.
The scientific name for the crow family is Corvidae—and birds of this type are commonly referred to as "corvids." Behavior-wise, there is not that much of a difference between a crow and a raven. Physically though, the differences add up. Ravens are much larger than crows with a four foot wingspan and a 25" height (a crow's height is about 18"). Ravens also differ in tail and feather shape, and have a heavier bill as compared to the sleek bill of the crow. A notable difference is the manner in which each bird flies. Ravens love to soar and glide and show off with their aerial aerobatics while crows will never be seen doing dives and somersaults in the air!
Grabbing Food on The Road...Literally
Corvids are omnivorous birds that eat both meat and vegetation. Some people prepare them meals made from dog food but, believe it or not, a good source of food for a corvid is fresh roadkill because they can actually rend the meat like they would in the wild! In captivity, crows and ravens should have their meals duplicated to closely represent what they'd eat in their natural habitat, if possible. The key here is variety. Corvids will eat practically anything.
Federal law proclaims it is illegal to keep a crow (or raven) in captivity without a special permit. Keeping a crow, even a rescued baby crow, for any length of time is against federal regulations. If federal authorities are made aware of you keeping a crow as a pet without a permit, the bird could be confiscated and you could be fined. Though some people keep corvids without a permit and have suffered no legal repercussions, please be aware this action is in noncompliance with the law.
That said, there are many stories of people who have had great experiences raising orphaned or injured birds, with some of them being rehabilitated and released back into the wild. If the bird is Injured to the point where it can never return to the wild, some people have chosen instead to keep them as pets.
The Care of Corvids
Ravens and crows are extremely intelligent animals and are very difficult to care for, so the decision to care for a corvid should never be made in haste or for the wrong reasons. For instance, why do you want a crow or raven as a pet? If your answer is that it's cool, BUZZZZ!! Wrong answer! As I've mentioned above, these animals require a lot of care, attention and a relative amount of freedom which all equals up to a lot of YOUR time!
Learn From The Experts
Still interested in taking in a crow? If so, first try looking into volunteering at a bird rehab society like shelters, sanctuaries and aviaries where orphaned and injured birds are taken. At these places, if they are willing to share their expertise and you are able to volunteer, you could learn from proper corvid care from experts. In this way, when people bring the injured birds to these shelters, you'll learn firsthand without actually taking sole responsibility. Being a volunteer will expose you to a variety of birds and the more you learn the better you'll be able to understand how to address the needs of various types of our winged friends.
Sometimes a shelter will allow young birds to be cared for (or fostered) at your residence until they are ready to be released into the wild. This is an excellent opportunity to interact with these birds while under the supervision of those who can give you the needed support and guidance.
Veterinarians sometimes receive injured or orphaned birds and they treat them but don't know what to do with them afterwards. If you have a good rapport with your vet, he or she may allow you to care for the bird, providing you have the proper credentials and experience.
Paying The Price
Lastly, if you go the breeder route for a crow or raven, expect to pay from $600.00 to $2,0000.00 for a non-native single bird and more for breeding pairs. These breeders usually breed crows that are not native to the United States which means they are not subject to US laws but fall under a different category of the law. Other breeders have special breeding permits, so the bottom line is: expect to pay a rather steep price.
Forget The Cage
Crows and ravens should NOT be confined to cages like a macaw or other parrot. Parrots use their beaks to climb and get around in a cage but a corvid needs room to hop and fly. If you intend to keep a corvid, it is best to construct an outdoor aviary that is secure and safe for your bird. A caged bird is a bored bird -- and corvids absolutely require proper mental stimulation. You may consider clipping their wings to inhibit flight but this isn't a good idea because this action will handicap your bird considerably!
Corvids can live ten to fifteen years, but their lifespans have been known to double when properly cared for in captivity.
Spread The Word
Your best bet is to spread the word that you're interested in caring for a corvid. Volunteer and learn how to handle and care for these special birds. Above all, make sure to respect them and every living creature, and eventually the right bird may fly into your life!
By Tom Matteo
About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He specializes in hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and occasionally writes about such topics as animal behavior and care. Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife Tina and his beloved cockapoo, Angel.