A murder of crows

murder of crows

Spot the garden thief?

A murder of crows in both senses — that’s the tale of this post. But my hand was stayed, and to good effect. Read on.

A flock of sheep, a brace of coneys, a murder of crows. Well, there’s been a murder of crows in our garden the last couple of years. It’s usually about 9 individuals at a time. They find the watermelons and cantaloupes a few days before a human would deem them sweet enough — and they make a killing! Peck right down to the rind, and there’s nothing to do but kick the dirt and grind your teeth.

At Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial home to Piedmont Pine Coffins, we’re immersed in cycles of life and death all year round: the garden, some hunting, chickens and predators, etc. This summer, for example, was a fantastic success for our millions of parasitic pastured barber pole worms. Thanks to a worm-friendly wet hot June, in the last three months I’ve buried in the big manure pile 7 ewes and lambs. Half the flock.

Back to the gutted melons, which put me in mind for a “murder of crows,” if you catch my meaning. A country neighbor told us that the only way to demoralize the crows was to kill one and hang it high from the arch of the garden gate. The crows would see the corpse and, smart birds that they are, get the message to avoid the place.

I went so far as to stuff a mannequin with hay and set him in a chair with a broom for a rifle. He stayed there for a week getting familiar with the crows. The plan was to sneak out there one morning before dawn and take the mannequin’s place — but with a loaded Remington.

The crows didn’t fall for it and I never took a shot.

A murder of crows

Crows have long been associated with death, but I never knew till now about their capacity for gratitude. True story:

Last spring my wife is near the greenhouse and hears a commotion. A juvenile crow (big head, little body) keeps swooping close to the ground, and the dogs are exercised about it. Our little agile Cash Money leaps suddenly and snags the bird mid-air! Nicole runs over and saves the bird from a mauling. The crow is cage-kept and fed and allowed to heal from a bite to the wing.

When I suggest that Fate has kindly brought us our crow to hang, that idea is quickly vetoed. By Nicole.

Instead, she releases the teen bird in the garden. Which is where, I have to admit, its family might reasonably look for a lost child. Like the info center at the mall.

The crow flops around cawing, and we lose it there in the high grass after a time. The next day we can’t find it.

The watermelons, unmolested, tasted great this year.


  1. What a wonderful story of poetic justice 🙂

  2. G. says he would have kept to the Remington plan and “missed that edification.” That the crow elders clearly decided that the “upright-walking no-flying low-lifes” living at Melleray deserved a bye this year.