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How The Hen House Turns: Crows And Squirrels

on March 16, 2019 - 10:23am
By CARY NEEPER
Formerly of Los Alamos
 
In Ponderosa country like Los Alamos it is probably wise to stay home during the day. Otherwise, the crows will move in and eat up all the expensive cracked corn you have bought for your chickens.
 
I’m afraid that the crows have taken over in Los Alamos. In our early years there, we enjoyed the visit of many ravens. They came to the tall tree stump behind our back deck, where they picked up our leftover meat scraps.
 
Then one day I realized why we didn’t see ravens very often. A noisy crowd of ten or more crows were hurtling themselves up and down through the Ponderosas, screaming angrily, focused on something large and black. I caught a glimpse of the large bird as it escaped into the canyon. It was a raven.
 
That was the last raven to visit our backyard. Years before I had taken pictures of them roosting high in the trees, coming in for our occasional offerings at the stump, respecting the angry hens beneath the wire roofing of the Hen House chicken pen.
 
I don’t remember having much trouble with squirrels in the backyard. They concentrated stealing goodies from the front porch bird feeders. There we tried all kinds of tin shields, ropes, and wires to minimize their hoarding bird seed and lapping up all the peanut butter we had pasted onto pine cones. I suspect the squirrels didn’t suffer much at our expense.
 
Now I know why. Here in California, we’ve learned just how smart and tenacious squirrels are. We had to give up on the bird feeder we inherited from our neighbors across the hall. The squirrels studied our defenses, then aimed carefully when jumping onto the one space left free of spikes. It didn’t take them long to empty the bird seed into their cheek pouches.
 
When we took down the feeder, we soon learned that they knew exactly in where I stored bird seed and peanuts.
 
The squirrels (one gay, one black) spotted it in the sunroom, and proceeded to gnaw a hole in the sunroom screening to get at it.
 
We gave up. The bird feeder is now buried in our backyard tool bin. We miss the birds, but at least I feel better, having read Bill Adler Jr.s’ hilarious book “Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels, 3rd Edition Revised and Even Craftier (Chicago Review Press, 1988, 1996, 2014).

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