Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thieving magpies

We have thieves on the loose here on the farm.

Specifically, our eggs are being stolen -- by magpies.

For the last few weeks, we've hardly gotten any eggs from the chickens. We've also been seeing an unusually high number of magpies hanging around the house and barn. It took me awhile to connect the two.

Here, two magpies are caught red-handed (footed?), going in and out of the chicken coop, which has a long pallet in front of it to keep the cows out. I took these photos from inside the house, so they're not the clearest.

In the morning when I milk Matilda, I often hear the harsh calls of the magpies as they fly around the open-sided barn, searching for eggs. Too often, this is what we find afterward:

This particular eggshell was still warm when I picked it up, empty. Grrr.

Despite all the evidence, we still had our doubts that magpies could be at fault for stealing ALL our eggs... until Don, in the course of his work on the barn awning, found an eggshell on top the awning roof.

I like magpies, even though I'm annoyed at their thievery. They're gaudy and cheerfully quarrelsome birds. I just wish they'd leave our eggs alone.


  1. Cute post not sure of a solution.Sorry not much help here..but I like the post!

  2. If not shotgun time maybe a scarecrow? Or a ninja cat

  3. Well, ya either gotta put up some chicken wire to keep the magpies out or else it needs to be magpie season.


  4. How on earth are they carrying eggs up to the roof of the awning? Do they use their beaks to spear them like they were fish? Maybe they pierce the shell and then grab onto the edge of the hole with their beaks.

    When animals are hungry, all bets are off.

    Just Me

  5. Air Rifle target practice time:) They'll get the idea.

  6. Patrice,

    Maybe setting up an owl next to your chicken coop will eliminate your magpie problem.

  7. looks more like a trip to the farm store for chicken wire. cover any opening big enough for a magpie to get thru, except for the door the chickens use...and cover it at night. it's a bit of work putting the stuff up, but if it saves your eggs, well worth the time and effort

  8. I am sorry about the birds but what I want to comment on is the picture of your cow. My gosh I would just want to hug it all day long. I love their eye lashes! Thanks so much for all you are teaching me! I tell my husband each day what I have learned from you and a few others. Your efforts are really appreciated.

  9. yeah, i agree with the gang on this one, time to get some chicken wire to protect the run

  10. .

    Pellet rifle.

    'Nuff said.


  11. It's looks cute. color collaboration also awesome.

  12. Obviously Obama voters.


  13. They are a problem here as well, but the Gamo takes care of them and the Grackles. Not so amazingly, if you kill one the others will eat it, as Magpies are not picky.
    As far as cats go, we have a 15 pounder that holds her own against most critters but the Magpies work together and she's been chased across the yard by them after she made a valiant effort to catch one.
    They also eat the eggs and young of the Robin's and other small birds. It's heartbreaking to songbirds defending their nests against them, only to be outnumbered or outsized. We help them out as often as we can.
    Good luck, they are more than a nuisance.

  14. I found an old nest of eggs and not being sure how old, jsut pitched them over the fence in to the pasture. Later that day as I sat with my tea, enjoying a break from the days activities, I witnessed a magpie carrying one of those eggs in its beak ( had no idea it could open that far). It hopped over to the pine tree with the most needles under it and proceeded to cover up the egg with pine needles! Magpies cache too, who knew?? :)

  15. Here's one good overview:

  16. When I was a kid....a long time ago, we had a beef hanging in our barn as we did every December. Magpies were flying in the open side of the barn and eating the meat. Dad put some old squirrel traps on the roof with meat scraps. I'll never forget him coming in the house with a BEAK he had caught! The beakless magpie lived, but had to subsist on soft manure after that.

  17. In Western Oregon we don't have the problem you have with magpies, but our bluejays are also egg eaters when they can. Usually it is only one bird at first, but others soon learn from the first. One solution we have used when we used to have an egg eating hen, and it works also for bluejays,
    is to hang up some fabric, an old shower curtain is great, over the nest box area with it being loose at the bottom to allow hens access from each side. If the birds cannot see the eggs in the nest, it usually stops the behavior. Of course, if the birds have been eating eggs for long enough to have taught others their skill, it is harder to stop. Other things to try are to gather the eggs much more often for a week or so and put one treated egg in the nest as bait. Treat this one by injecting it with very hot Tabasco or chili. If these don't work, you may have to use the air gun.
    When I began to treat this problem of jays in the hen house, I did
    put up chicken wire over all the open windows, but the birds would still come in the small chicken door which I left open during the day. First I hung a bit of fabric over the chicken door
    which the chickens could easily push through. They soon learned to go in and out but when the jays also learned to do it
    I did try setting up a plastic owl inside the chicken house where it would be visible as the jays came to the little door.
    That day the eggs were untouched, but I found all my hens still outside at dusk because the owl also scared them from entering.