Photo: mifaso (Shutterstock)
A few months ago, I endeavored to imprint myself onto a bunch of ducks so they’d think I was their mother. It wasn’t great. All the ducks did was crap all over my house, and, my god, the constant quacking. So I’m moving onto crows. Instead of a gaggle of stupid ducklings following me around, I’m going to have a ton of crows—a murder of crows—following me around like a black cloud of menace. And I will use my personal crow army to destroy my enemies.
Unlike ducks, crows are intelligent, self-sufficient animals that don’t have to be outfitted with diapers. They solve problems and communicate with one another. They’re smart—maybe as smart as a seven year-old human child. They even seem to have rituals and something like a culture. But most importantly of all, crows can recognize human faces. They will come to recognize my face as that of their master. Behold my visage ravens, rooks, and blackbirds, and heed my mighty caw, for I am Stephen Johnson, Master of Crows.
Is it legal to keep crows as pets?
It’s illegal in a lot of places to keep crows as pets. I’m planning to let the birds in my crow army live their own lives because I’m too lazy to take care of them, but if you’re planning on having an actual pet crow, you might have to hide it from the authorities, who often frown on the special love between a person and their crows.
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How to attract crows
The first step toward crow mastery is to gather your crows. These birds want a safe, quiet place to do crow stuff, and that could be your yard, especially if you live in a city or suburb. Crows who live around people are less likely to be spooked by you—rural crows are far more suspicious.
You may have to make some modifications to your yard. Crows are not going to hang out around known bird enemies like dogs and cats, so you’ll have to give your current pets away. It’s a sacrifice, but worth it. If you have any wind chimes or other noise sources, get rid of those too. Crows don’t want to be startled.
Crows like bushes and trees—places to hide and plot—so make sure your yard is verdant. Crows also like having water sources, so install a birdbath so they can clean themselves and their prey.
How to feed your crows
I would prefer that wild crows see me and immediately feel a sense a kinship, but so far, that hasn’t worked, so I had to get transactional—and that means feeding them. Crows are omnivores and will eat anything from worms to fish to garbage. They ain’t picky, but internet crow experts recommend feeding them nuts, eggs, scraps of meat, or dog and cat food. I’m going with scraps of meat because I like crows who are bloodthirsty.
Place your food in an open area that can be seen from the air, preferably with something shiny around it. Then leave it. Befriending crows takes patience. They’re cautious animals, so they won’t go near food they see a human close by, so keep your distance while you wait for the appearance of a crow. Don’t look them in the eye. Don’t move quickly. Just lurk from a safe distance and let them get used to you and your yard.
Be patient and consistent
Crows recognize patterns, and if you leave food for them at the same time of day, they’ll eventually add your backyard to their mental map of “places food comes from.” Once they show up regularly, you can try straying a little closer to the food every day. But don’t overdo it and startle them. Crows have long memories. If all goes well, the crows you attract will eventually associate you with the food and the nice environment of your back yard, and this is where the fun begins.
Your crow army and you
If all goes well, your face and kind deeds will spread like a legend among local crows, and more will land in your yard to partake in your delicious food. If the crows really like you, they will begin leaving you shiny things as tribute—bottle caps, bullets, and so on. They may even deliver a priceless diamond from the necklace of a contessa to your doorstep, setting up a mystery that can only be solved Hercules Poirot, Belgium’s greatest detective.
Crows are known to be protective
Those who have befriended local murders of crows report that crows become territorial and protective. Reddit user cranne, for instance, sought legal advice due to the possible liability from her personal flock attacking neighbors.
“My neighbor came over for a socially distanced chat (me on my porch her in my yard) and the crows started dive bombing her. They would not stop until she left my yard,” they told Reddit.
The consensus among online bird experts was that the crows were likely guarding their resources and could be dissuaded by offering food or something shiny. But I want my crows to be more selective. Luckily, there’s a way to make crows hate the same people I hate.
Teaching crows to hate your enemies
Crow research indicates the birds use their advanced perception to distinguish between good and bad humans—they legitimately like some people and dislike others—and they tell us apart by our faces.
In 2006, biologist John Marzluff and students at the University of Washington wanted to see exactly how crows use this information, so they conducted an experiment where students wore specific masks and bothered some crows by netting them and banding them. A few days later, students wearing a variety of masks walked through campus. The crows ignored all masked people except the ones wearing the masks of the people who bothered them. When they saw those assholes, they responded with “loud scolding cries and the formation of small mobs.”
That’s cool, but the amazing part is that the crows continued to menace and screech at the masked individuals for years. Even though they only saw the bad behavior once, they do not forget or forgive. Not only that, the number of crows that hated the masks increased over time. Somehow, the crows told each other “that guy sucks. Menace him.” It spread to crows who weren’t even involved in the original traumatic event. Even birds who weren’t born hated the mask-wearer.
I’m sure you can see where this is going. Once you have befriended a good number of crows, you need to get a perfectly realistic mask of your mortal enemy, say, Lifehacker deputy editor Joel Cunningham. Put the mask on, then bedevil your crows. Throw rocks at them. Call their mothers pigeons. Tell them you’re glad Brandon Lee died. Whatever you need to do to make them hate “you.”
Then sit back and rest while the crows do work. Word will spread among the birds, and every time your enemies walk the streets, crows will gather. They will glare at them. They will screech their disapproval at your enemies’ very existence. Your enemies will have no idea why, either. But there will be more and more crows every day. And it’s not going to stop. Not today. Not ever.
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