Many people are repulsed by crows and have negative connotations about these birds. They also have a reputation for being bad for backyards and gardens. But that isn’t the whole story, as a family of crows are estimated to eat up to 40,000 insects a season.
Knowing that crows eat insects on this scale, could be enough for you to encourage a “murder” into your backyard as a form of pest control. But if you’re going to attract them, you need to know what to feed crows in your yard – because insects alone won’t cut it.
In this guide I will explain what to feed crows to attract them to your yard or garden, what their favorite food is, what they should eat in winter, and what not to feed them.
What can I feed crows in my yard to attract them?
I will be completely straight with you: crows will eat almost anything; they are opportunistic omnivores. However, that doesn’t mean you should feed crows anything to attract them to your yard.
Below is a list of recommended foods that crows can eat that will make them keep on coming back to your yard. I’ve left out foods that are not healthy for them, and at the end of the list you can see what you should not feed crows.
Bear in mind that whilst you could never accuse a crow of being a fussy eater, you might leave some things out and they won’t be interested. There will be an element of trial and error involved… here’s what try to feed backyard crows…
1. Your leftovers in a compost bin
Being the scavengers that they are, crows will often visit backyards where they can access trash cans and compost bins. So rather than keeping yours secure, you could instead have a compost area in plain sight for crows, and then add your leftover food scraps to it.
They will happily gobble up vegetable peelings, eggshells, and anything else organic that you might otherwise throw out with the trash.
By leaving them this dedicated food source it can also discourage them from trying to get into your trash cans and causing a mess in your backyard.
2. Seeds, nuts, worms, and fruit
Crows will often feed on things that they find out in the open or on the ground. If you think about what they would be “in the wild” it’s things like earthworms. It will also be fruit that has fallen from a tree.
Handy Hint: Here’s how you can find earthworms in your backyard to then feed to the crows.
Backyard crows also like eating nuts and seeds. Nuts are very good to feed crows to attract them. You might even get to see clever crows learning how to crack open peanuts.
Check out the video below which shows crows doing this. It’s insane.
3. Roadkill and meat (perhaps even dog or cat food)
In the wild, crows will pick at and eat animal carcasses found on roads. They truly are nature’s dustbin, as will eat anything… this can be very helpful and means rodents won’t get a chance to eat nasty things first.
If you live near a road where there is frequent roadkill, bring it to your yard (if you can stomach that of course). Roadkill is one of the best things to feed crows as you clear up a mess and keep the birds happy too.
As crows will eat meat, you can also try leaving out dog food, either wet, or dry kibble. If it’s dry kibble you are feeding crows in your yard, perhaps add water or a bit of gravy to it. I am sure crows will be very attracted by that mix!
If you do feed backyard crows cat or dog food, make sure it’s low in phosphorus and doesn’t contain unhealthy fillers – avoid the cheap cans.
4. Chafer beetle grubs
One of favourite food sources for crows are chafer beetles grubs (Rhizotrogus majalis). This invasive species originated in Europe but is now found all over North America… and crows love to eat them as grubs and will peck at lawns to find them!
This will happen in late winter through to early spring when chafer beetle grubs start feeding on your backyard lawn. This makes the grubs lovely and juicy, and very tasty to crows.
If you know you have chafer beetle grubs in your lawn, and want crows to come, don’t kill the grubs. Leave them in the grass and encourage them as they will attract crows… lots of crows!
What should you not feed crows?
Whilst it’s true you can feed crows anything your yard, there are some foods I would avoid letting them have. Here’s shortlist of what not to feed crows in a backyard if you want to respect their health and wellbeing.
- Bread: it’s not nutritious for birds and will leave them feeling full, despite them not having taken on any goodness to help them through the day.
- Sugars and salts: avoid any foods high in sugar and salt, and certainly don’t feed them cakes and candy. They love to eat popcorn, but don’t give them salted or sweet varieties.
- Seasoned meat: make sure that there’s no spice, garlics, salt, or pepper on the meat you give them. They like meat, but make sure it’s in a plain format.
- Dead rats and rodents that were possibly poisoned: crows will enjoy meats like this, but be careful if you find dead rodents, as they might have poison in them which will harm the crows.
How to feed crows in your backyard
It’s all well and good knowing what to feed crows in your yard so they keep coming back, but there are ways in which you can do it, so they make your garden a permanent home.
Establish a regular feeding routine
The first thing to consider is establishing a regular feeding routine for the crows. For example, if you throw food out on the backyard lawn inconsistently and on random days, the crows won’t get into any routine of coming back.
However, if you consistently put food for the crows at 9am each morning, they will know this is what to expect, and are more likely to make your backyard their home.
This might sound odd, but crows are an extremely intelligent bird, and they will quickly learn you have established a feeding routine for them. I read this great article on the Washington Post which speaks for itself.
“Many people just see crows as a natural clean-up crew that devour rodents, insects, dead animals, or discarded food in overflowing trash cans. But researchers have found that crows are not only playful and mischievous but also intelligent. They use tools to solve complex problems, and they remember faces for years and mimic sounds they hear.”
This regular pattern will also help the crows to trust you as a consistent food source. As a generalization, crows don’t trust humans. It’s no wonder really, given how we have associated them with the macabre and evil, and so treated them accordingly.
But once you know what to feed crows in your yard, and even grow to understand what their favorite food is, a bond of trust can be established.
Feed them from the optimum location
Squirrels and chipmunks will love the fact you have started to feed your backyard crows, so you need to be clever about how and where the food is left out.
And that’s one of the reasons why it can be difficult to feed backyard crows, because they tend to feed from the ground – meaning their food is accessible to all other critters too.
That means you might need to be creative and think of spots where other animals can’t get to.
But the most important aspect when feeding garden crows is to choose a location that they can spot from the air. You want them to fly over your yard and see what’s on offer.
That might be a flat roof you have easy access to, or perhaps a big bird bath or tray.
Further FAQs on feeding backyard crows
What is the favorite food of crows?
All crows are different, and you might find that the murder in your yard has a favorite food over other scraps you leave out.
This means there’s no real way of saying what a favorite food of crows is, but one thing is certain: around 70% of a crow’s diet in the wild is make up of seeds and fruit. Based on that, perhaps we make a call and say this is their favorite food.
This can include seeds and fruits such as:
- Peanuts (unsalted)
- Poison ivy
Is it ok to feed crows?
It’s perfectly ok to feed crows and once you start to gain their trust with a regular feeding routine, they will even start to recognize you and your family as their allies.
Crows are very intelligent birds which you will see once the feeding pattern is established. For example, when you throw your leftovers out into the yard, the lead crow will arrive, and call for the other crows to join the feeding.
I saw one comment on Quora which shows how intelligent crows are that you feed in your garden or yard.
“Five crows arrived in our backyard, walked around the fries we’d left out, and then to our amazement, began to stack the fries into manageable bundles that they flew away with, only to come back and stack more! They understand the concept of more and don’t just grab one fry and gulp it down.”
Feeding crows in your yard can be a fascinating and rewarding experience as you can see. It’s not like feeding other birds. You can build a relationship and study their incredible behavior.
What to feed crows in winter?
You don’t need to change what you feed crows in winter. Feeding them from your yard will certainly help them though, as water can freeze up and food sources become scarcer.
As well as the usual scraps you leave for them to eat, leave out a bowl of water too, which should be checked daily in case it ices over.
Is it ok to feed bread to crows?
Crows will eat anything, including bread. But does that mean it’s okay? Not in my opinion and left me explain why.
Bread is not toxic or harmful to crows, but it does have zero nutritional value so don’t feed it to them in large quantities. Leave a slice of bread out, but certainly not the whole loaf, as you will soon have unhealthy murder of crows in your backyard.
White bread is particularly bad for crows as it fills the bird up quickly. Because it fills the crow up, it robs them of the opportunity of seeking out food that gives them the nourishment they truly need.
I will leave the last word to the Backyard Naturalist.
“The bird doesn’t realize it has wasted an opportunity to be nourished, it has eaten its fill. It will continue going about its business, its body burning calories just the same. With a stomach stuffed full of nothing. With no calories to metabolize to stay warm or provide energy to evade predators.”
If I feed crows daily, will they become my friend and possibly tame?
Once you consistently feed crows in your backyard, then there’s a good chance they could get closer to you and could even follow you as you walk outside your property.
People have tamed crows, but I personally don’t agree with attempts to domesticate them. Crows that are native to the United States are illegal to possess as a pet.
Attracting crows to your backyard will only be a success if you know what they love to eat. The bottom line is that you can feed crows in your yard virtually anything… but there will be some foods they certainly prefer to others.
Once you discover what the best thing to feed crows is in your own backyard, they will keep coming back, and possibly become quite used to you and your family.
More backyard guides…
- Why I like having snakes in my backyard: and you should too!
- What crows are eating and pecking at in your lawn
Photo of crow in the header from https://unsplash.com/photos/lo6-s-qVXKE