Do you know anyone that has a raven for a pet?
These strangely beautiful birds have a very split reputation, with some people admiring their gothic and pagan associations, whereas others are actually scared of crows as a result of horror literature and films portraying them to be bad omens and sinister birds.
Regardless of your personal view on ravens, it’s likely you’ve wondered whether or not you can actually have a pet raven?
Technically, you can keep a raven as a pet, however, legally you cannot have a raven as a pet in the United States without a necessary permit. This is because these birds are often native and migrate to certain US areas so native breeds of raven are illegal to own. You can keep an imported raven from Europe, Africa, or Asia as a pet though as long as they do not migrate to a US based area.
Ravens are highly intelligent creatures and rank alongside other well-known creatures such as a dolphin and chimp and with such a high level of intelligence, you could assume that they would be very easy to train and keep as pets.
That assumption would only be partly true and in this article, we cover whether you can keep a raven as a pet and what you need to consider when looking into this possibility.
Can You Have a Raven as a Pet
Ravens are not a normal type of bird or potential pet, they are rarely domesticated and have such special needs that people liken their characteristics and attention needs to that of a human baby rather than a pet bird.
We are making that point early because looking into a pet raven is a very big commitment which will take up a significant portion of your time and energy, so it’s not a decision to take lightly!
With that said, there is one initial stumbling block when it comes to owning a pet raven and that is the fact that it’s illegal to keep a raven as a pet in the US without a relevant permit. Therefore, in order to keep a pet raven, you would either need to obtain a permit or purchase a raven from overseas that is non-native to the US.
The latter usually comes with a significant monetary cost, and if you are prepared to go ahead and get a raven as a pet, there are also a few factors that you will need to take into consideration:
1. Wild Animals
Firstly, and arguably most important, is fact that ravens are wild birds and are not domesticated. While they can share similar features with a parrot, the two are very different in terms of their characteristics, needs, and behaviors.
They are scavengers, omnivores, social creatures, and also migrate and all of these factors (except for maybe the omnivore part which can be rectified by feeding) make them very difficult to keep in isolation, or worse, a cage.
Trying to tame a raven from adulthood is almost impossible and raising a raven from birth is the best option but still raises countless difficulties (dietary needs, space requirements, attention) which we cover shortly.
It’s therefore always worth keeping in mind that they are wild animals and assuming they can be treated the same as a domesticated cat, dog, a caged bird would be a mistake.
2. Dietary Requirements
A good thing about keeping a raven as a pet is that their dietary requirements are based on the fact that they are scavengers and omnivores. They will basically eat anything that you feed them including meat, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts.
This is perhaps the best part about owning a raven as a pet, though they can be very troublesome to deal with at times, you can always ensure that they have a well-balanced diet without needing to worry about any specific dietary requirements like you have to with other breeds of bird.
3. Size & Aggression
Ravens are one of the largest birds which means keeping them as a pet will pose issues on a few different levels. Firstly, they need a significant amount of room in order to spread their wings and they do not like being locked away in cages or small spaces.
Most people keeping ravens as pets (or feeding local ravens to keep as companions without actually taking ownership of them) will have outdoor aviaries that are large in size and offer the raven plenty of flight space.
Secondly, adult ravens in particular can be violent and defensive if you try to take them into captivity later in life. By this point, many will have formed bonds with their own group and it’s very unlikely that they will take to a human owner.
This means that it’s almost always better to get a raven from birth and raise them so that they recognize you as an owner and become more docile and comfortable around you.
While ravens are not naturally aggressive, they are very defensive. It’s not uncommon for them to bite humans when they feel threatened and as a result of their large overall size, their beak is in proportion to that size meaning the bites are not little pecks!
As we’ve already covered, you cannot have a raven as a pet unless it’s a non-native breed from outside of the US, and for native breeds, you need to have a special permit that is only for rehabilitation.
These permits are not easy to obtain as ravens are protected under the migratory bird act of 1916 so you would need a good background in animal care and a reason for obtaining one as they are not given out lightly.
While it’s not too serious of an offense and there are relatively few instances of people being prosecuted (whether that because it’s not strictly policed or because not many people actually keep them as pets) it’s still an offense that could leave you open to prosecution if you keep a raven illegally.
Another interesting fact about ravens is that they can mimic sounds and words and while their vocabulary is not as developed as parrots, it’s still an impressive feature and something that leads many to want one as a pet.
Teaching a raven a word to speak to them really helps to strike up a bond, though their high level of intelligence takes this a step further and if you teach them the word for certain food types, they can even learn to ask for a particular food when they want it.
Just so you are aware, the ability to mimic a word is not the only noise you will get with a raven, they are prone to letting out sharp calls to other ravens which can be very loud and also frequent which your family and neighbors may not appreciate.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about trying to keep a raven as a pet is their high level of curiosity. Their curiosity ties in with their intelligence and if they are left alone in a room, they will quickly start to explore.
The issue with this is that their exploration and curiosity is often quite messy, they have a skill of being able to get into closed objects like cupboards and draws and will pry open anything and everything (like in this video below).
They are also well known for taking a liking to shiny objects and this means that jewelry, keys, ornaments, or any sort of valuable object that is shiny are likely to catch their attention.
This curiosity therefore often leads to a significant amount of mess and/or damage being caused as they hunt around and it can also result in valuable items easily going missing as a raven will tend to hide it in an act of claiming it for its own.
We’ve kept this point for last as it’s perhaps the most important and that is ravens are high maintenance pets with specific needs. They are highly intelligent and some can even learn to mimic words or learn how to behave in order to get something they want.
Ravens require a significant amount of attention as pets, otherwise, they get bored very easily which often leads to destructive or hostile behavior. They are also noisy and are known to throw “tantrums” when they don’t get their own way.
We’ve already made this reference but a pet raven is like having a baby and their special requirements often test the patience of even the best bird rehabilitators. Exercise, food, their own space, and stimulating tasks are just some of the things that will keep you busy on a daily basis with a pet raven.
It would be very difficult to own a pet raven, technically you can have a pet raven but the barriers make it difficult as a result of the legal implication of needing a permit or having to pay a substantial price for a non-native raven ($2,000 – $6,000).
** It’s worth noting that leaving food and decoy ravens in your yard is a good way to attract local ravens and you could actually form a companionship this way and strike up a bond with local ravens without the hassle of trying to get one as a pet.
You then also need to consider the fact that they are not easy to look after and require a level of attention and care similar to that of a human baby!
Therefore, it is possible to have a raven as a pet but it’s a big commitment that needs serious consideration so keep in mind some of the points we’ve listed earlier if you do indeed want a pet raven.