Sharing compost with the crows

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I bet lots of you with outdoor compost piles will feel my pain when I say that crows and other animals often get the lion’s share (so to speak) of our kitchen scraps.

We tend to save scraps for a pretty long time–several weeks, at least–and then make a nice big pile with large quantities of straw, manure, and/or grass clippings. To the crows, it’s as though we laid out a buffet complete with linen napkins and the good silver. They eagerly accept the "invitation." Soon we’ve got scattered straw, a deflated pile and no kitchen scraps in sight.

Unpiled.

Oh well, we usually say. The crows aren’t our enemies. (Somehow, marauding neighborhood dogs, who also enjoy the smorgasbord, are more irritating.) We halfheartedly try various strategies to conceal the goodies, which never work. And so it goes.

After this happened again last week, we agreed that we felt almost glad to give the crows our veggie scraps. They’d been unexpectedly helpful when a hawk came to bother our chickens. I heard a commotion in the chicken run and stepped outside to see the hens cowering under the coop, while a hawk stood on the ground nearby, then flew ten feet up into a small tree. It gazed at me with absolutely no fear or shyness. "Hey!" I said ineffectually.

Along came nine crows, who hectored and harassed that hawk right off the property. Wow, thanks, crows! I don’t know why they did it; I think they consider the chicken run their own private territory, because they like to land in there and make overtures toward the hens’ feed trough.

It feels like an old story: To benefit from the presence of bodyguards, you put up with a certain amount of bad behavior on their part. I’d rather lose kitchen scraps than hens.

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