Lipstick for goats

Lipstick for goats

Friday, 20 April 2018

Murder and unkindness on the farm

Until recently I believed the black winged sods on our property were crows but they are Australian Ravens, which are of the same Corvid family but larger than a crow, otherwise similar to look at and cause the same havoc on farms.  Either way those black opportunistic vermin of the sky seem to come from nowhere at kidding time and I turn into a screaming banshee.

"Australian Raven " by Dick Daniels
When I hear their cawing at the crack of dawn I race out into the paddock in my Pj’s. They stalk amongst the kids, looking for a young weaker likely victim.    At the top of my 5 acre voice I scream ‘BANG’ at them like I had a gun.  Usually they fly off; sometimes I have to run at them “Bang, bang, Bang!!’   Don’t mess with my babies!  

Then they sit in the trees above where I feed the goats mocking me.  Swearing and yelling at them at the top of my lungs, throwing anything handy at them just does not faze them, they look down at me almost sneering, "Bring it on lady”

My neighbour lent me a slingshot to scare them away; I was never close enough to hit one and I think the stones I chose for maximum contact value were too big; they plopped on the ground well short of their mark.

Why do I hate crows and ravens so much?  The word ‘hate’ is not a strong enough word to convey my loathing of these birds.  

The name of a group of crows is quite apt – a murder.  If they are Ravens, an unkindness of ravens is just as suitable.

I have lost new born kids within a short time of their birth.  I have no idea what sex they even were.  The ravens ripped out their whole vulnerable soft belly leaving an empty cavity.  The kid’s eyes and tongues were also taken.  You will read from covid fans the birds are unjustly blamed for killing young lambs and kids; that they only clean up afterbirth and dead or moribund young, well from my experience the poor little babes were probably just born, vulnerable but alive and healthy when the Corvid attacked.

In past years I witnessed a raven ripping out the tongue of a healthy newborn kid. The raven was in the tree above just waiting its chance.  Then while the doe was occupied giving birth to her second kid, it flew down and viciously pecked the first kid on the face, when she screamed it ripped her extended tongue out.  I was horrified. I had no idea these birds would do such a cruel thing.

I was here by myself and knowing I would have to put her down but not having a gun I had to think of alternative methods to do the deed.  I was a complete sobbing mess.  Do I put her in front of the car and run her over, do I drown her, swing her head against a post? These were the realities I was facing.   I felt sick and totally incapable of doing any of these things. 

I rang my neighbour and was lucky enough to catch one of his sons at home from work.  I didn’t have to ask him to do what was necessary –after listening to my, no doubt, very upset explanation of what happened he offered to drive straight down to get her.

Ravens have also attacked the tail and anus of some of the kids aged less than a week old. I think this was more opportunistic as I believe a young fox on its first hunt had tried to unsuccessfully grab the kids by the tail, partly ripping them off, the ravens came in because of the blood.  I have two kids with no tails but they are alive and well; adults now.

Among all birds covids are the most intelligent, they have the largest brains for body size with highest capacity for memory, learning and problem solving. They use objects for tools and even form their own tools, such as spikes and hooks, to get food out from crevices.  Corvids recognise people carrying guns, they avoid traps, and they follow and harass large predators for food.

This year I tried out two scare crows in the paddock.  Unfortunately they didn’t fool the ravens for long – less than a week.

Magpies are my greatest allies!  I cheer them on, “Go Magie, Go!!’  I have watched them chase away ravens that are over half their size again.  I imagine the ravens feast on the baby magpies and the unhatched eggs.

Over spring the black sods have bred, there are now even more soaring over the paddocks.  Their cawing puts me on edge. They are probably just vocalising to each other but I can’t help worrying they may be harassing the kids or perhaps an older goat is ill and down, are they are surrounding it, strutting around it, waiting to get in for an eye?  Yes, they have taken the eyes out of my adult goat who was ill and still alive.

You can see why I am not fond of these black birds but I do respect their high intelligence.

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