I can’t really tell you the do and don’ts of keeping an owl, all I can tell you is how it was for me and how much it has actually changed my life.
I have wished for most of my adult life to share my days with a bird of prey – I have had three different vouchers to spend days out with falconers but never actually made the time to go. I have been up to every bird of prey stand at any fairs to speak at length about how I could start the journey to share my life with one. However, I had resolved myself that I will keep a bird of prey when I get older and my life slows down so I could allocate all the time needed to care and nurture for the relationship. Never did I ever expect to be writing a blog about an owl with an owl sitting right next to me on my desk now as I type …but she is in all her beauty.
It is actually a story in itself on how I now share my office and home with an owl but in short we found ourselves looking after a rescued tawny owl which unfortunately had to be put down – words can’t explain how deeply this little tawny owl touched me and my family and the loss was terrible – during this journey we made friends with the president of the Scottish Falconers Society and he put a message out that if anyone was breeding owls and one came up he could recommend a new home where it would be loved! So, in the space of 20 days a little two week old ball of fluff arrived home with me from the breeder – a spotted eagle owl.
Words can’t explain how it felt - I was terrified, she was so fragile it wasn’t unlike bringing home your first newborn, in fact after having five children I found having a baby owl more frightening! However, it didn’t take long for her to become part of our family and fit right in – which is no small task with five children, five dogs and a cat!
She is named after a herb, as are all my daughters, dogs and cat, the owl was named Rue – this plant is one of my favourite plants (I say that about most herbs though!) and is ancient to our lands and so interlinked with magic, tradition and witch craft – when I mention witch craft I don’t mean what you think, I mean the women of the village who held the wisdom of the plants, the healers and the holders of the stories – unfortunately for them they became demonised and forced into extinction by men and church who feared their knowledge. This plant, like owls, holds wisdom, serenity and power – all wildlife love the plant Rue but she does have a sting in her tail for us humans because if you get the sap of this plant on your skin in full sun you will get a class one burn – the same with the owl, she has huge talons and a strong beak – it is always best to have a deep respect and reverence for all of nature.
So for some do’s and don’ts of keeping an owl;
Don’t wait – if it is something you feel strongly and deeply about do it now. Rue is hopefully going to live for 20 years or more and if I had waited who knows when it would have happened, this way I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to spending the next 20 years with Rue!
Don’t believe what some people and books (even the books which are tilted on how to keep owls!) say about owls being known to be not very intelligent, not loving and lazy. I can’t tell you how absolutely wrong and false these observations/advice are – she is so intelligent, in fact I call her ‘my teacher’; not loving - well she is on my shoulder now preening my hair and when she opens her wing and lets me bury berry my face inside I can now completely understand where that saying about ‘to be taken under the wing’ comes from; and lazy - that is definitely not true, if the cat takes one of her toys you should see how fast she can move to retrieve it!!
Don’t be squeamish about her diet of fresh mice and don’t be fussy about cleaning up after them – with five dogs, and what has felt like a lifetime of nappies it is now second nature to me!
Do love them like any pet but there is something about an owl which is different, you’re not frantically trying to throw balls and play etc, you are more likely to learn to sit still, listen, smell and look at what they are looking at – be far more peaceful. I have always spent my life running around but now with an owl you can’t, you have to be present and there – all the time.
Do realise that holidays abroad, travelling are a no go – this suits me down to the ground though as I love just being here at home – we did actually manage to go on a family holiday but you must hope the hotelier is as accommodating as our friends at Monachyle Mhor who hardly seemed to notice that there was an owl on me all the time!!
Do trust me when I say that I can’t believe that I haven’t always had an owl in my life and couldn’t imagine a life without one now – when I tell people that she is my true and only friend they always smile thinking I am joking however my children don’t smile because they know it to be true!!
She has figuratively and literally taken me under her wing and I couldn't be happier about it.