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The Owl Pages
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Tree Child

Story by Ellen Ensley Created 2002-08-06
Page 4 of 19

Chapter 4 - What to Feed a Raptor?

Our main concern had to be the owl's diet. Many owls brought to veterinarians, or rehabilitation facilities, are brought in suffering from malnutrition. Sushi certainly didn't look malnourished. But, we had to be sure he had the proper diet in captivity, or we could do him serious harm.

Fearing that I was a bad "mommie", I obtained the proper vitamins recommended for owls. Next, a small white mouse was purchased from the pet store. We were supposed to dip this mouse in the vitamins and feed it to the owl. Although I knew this day was coming, I didn't have to like it! It was live food time. I took the newly purchased mouse, with trepidation, to the shop for Sushi's first live feeding.

Of course, I fell in love with the charming little mouse, with its pink eyes and wiggly nose. It was so little and so cute…how could anyone feed it to an owl? Steve gave me that LOOK. The LOOK that said, "You're the one who wanted to raise a carnivorous bird." But, he didn't say anything.

Steve promptly picked up the mouse and plopped it unceremoniously into a large cardboard box. While I covered my eyes and cringed, the owlet was set on the side of the box. Everyone waited for the owl to get the mouse. Nothing happened! Although Sushi found the mouse interesting, and watched it with curiosity, he didn't eat it. Didn't even attempt to eat it. Sushi thought we put it there to entertain him while he patiently waited for his catfood, and live minnows.

That confirmed it. I was a bad mother. Sushi didn't know that a mouse was food. I couldn't bring myself to put the mouse in a blender and force feed the bird a bloody mess. So, the tiny mouse was named "Dinner", and became the shop mascot, until it escaped and lived happily ever after, never having to live up to its name.

My worries increased. Was I harming the owl? Sushi couldn't live in the wild if he didn't know how to hunt, kill, and eat live food. Canned catfood doesn't run wild in the woods. Friends would tell me the owl would never fly, or learn how to hoot, because I couldn't teach it like its mother could.

There was so much I didn't know about raising an owl. The first time he produced an owl pellet, I thought he was dying. An owl pellet is regurgitated matter, usually including bones, skulls and fur. Sushi made these horrible hacking noises, and suddenly an oblong ball of "yucky" stuff appeared in his beak. He calmly dropped this glop on the floor. Steve gave me that LOOK. The LOOK that says, "Messy, isn't he?" But, he didn't say anything.

"both epilepsy and madness were treated with various forms of owl preparations" - The Encyclopedia of Superstitions

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