These narrow iron cages hang from wooden posts. Prisoners are placed within these cages alive, usually naked, and are left exposed to the sun, wind, and rain, without food or water, until they die of exposure, thirst, or starvation. Carrion crows eat their bodies, thus the name. The cages are so narrow that the prisoner inside is unable to sit or turn around. Crow cages are generally intended to hold one man, but may be forced to hold two.
When Lord Lothar Bracken rebelled against Harwyn Hoare, King of the Isles and the Rivers, Harwyn crushed the rebellion, sacking and destroying Stone Hedge, and imprisoning Lothar in a crow cage. Lothar remained in the cage for most of a year, until he died of starvation.
In 161 AC, King Daeron I Targaryen was killed in Dorne when he was attacked under a peace banner. Three knights of the Kingsguard were slain while defending him, one yielded, and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight was captured, though Aemon managed to slay two of the betrayers before being taken into custody. Lord Wyl of Wyl imprisoned Aemon in a crow cage, naked. King Baelor I Targaryen tried to obtain Aemon's release during his journey to Sunspear, but Lord Wyl refused. After negotiating peace with the Prince of Dorne, Baelor returned to Wyl, and found that Aemon's cage was now suspended over a pit of vipers. House Wyl was told to release Aemon into Baelor's custody, but instead of having his men open the cage, Lord Wyl gave the key to Baelor, who entered the pit. Singers say the snakes bowed their heads and refused to bite Baelor due to his protection from the gods, but according to maesters, Baelor was bitten six times before reaching Aemon's cage, while Dornishmen claim the king was bitten half a hundred times before using the key. The freed Aemon pulled Baelor out of the pit, then climbed out of the cage, carrying Baelor upon his back, while the Wyls wagered on how long they would last. Aemon then climbed to the top of the cage and leapt to safety.
In 211 AC, during a summer drought, Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, Prince Aegon "Egg" Targaryen, were returning to Standfast from Dosk when they encountered a crow cage at the crossroads. The two dead men inside had been forced into a cage barely large enough to hold one, and stood embraced. One man had tried to eat the other, gnawing at his neck and shoulder. The other's tongue was missing, though it was not certain if it had been eaten by crows, or if the judging lord had torn it out beforehand. While Egg wondered if the men had been outlaws, the corpses looked half-starved, and Dunk suspected they had been imprisoned in the cage for stealing food or poaching. After leaving Coldmoat on their way north, Dunk and Egg saw the crow cage again, and the corpses had been reduced to bones.
In 283 AC, during Robert's Rebellion, Lord Robert Baratheon was wounded in the Battle of Ashford, and sheltered in Stoney Sept, hiding from a royal army led by Lord Jon Connington, Hand of the King to Aerys II Targaryen. Connington's men searched from house to house, he offered pardons and rewards, and he put hostages in crow cages, saying they would have no food or drink until Robert was delivered to him. No method achieved any results, and when Robert's allies, Lords Eddard Stark and Hoster Tully, arrived at Stoney Sept, Robert defeated Jon in the Battle of the Bells, forcing the Hand to retreat.
A Storm of Swords
Arya Stark and the brotherhood without banners arrive in Stoney Sept, and see a dozen crow cages in the town's market square, containing four dead men and three dying ones. When Tom of Sevenstreams asks if this was done on the orders of Ser Wilbert, a resident of the town replies that the knight was killed by forces of House Lannister the year before, and his sons are away in the westerlands with Robb Stark. The Mad Huntsman has been serving justice in their absence. These prisoners are northmen who had been searching for Jaime Lannister after his escape from Riverrun, and had raped and murdered at Tumbler's Falls when they could not find him. One of the men has a beard covered with blood and flies, another is an old man, and the last is a man so fat that the bars of the cage dig into his skin; the dead men include one gelded for rape.
Arya is unnerved to learn that her father's and brother's men did these crimes, and when she hears the dying men begging for water, goes to help them. She fills her cup at the town fountain, but the crow cage bars are too narrow to pass it through. Harwin gives her a leg up onto Gendry's shoulders, and from there Arya can pour water through the top of the cages onto the men. The townsfolk make threats, saying the Mad Huntsman will not like this, but Harwin and Lem Lemoncloak defend Arya, saying Lord Beric Dondarrion does not approve of the practice of crow cages. The archer Anguy then puts the dying men out of their misery, shooting them with arrows.
Arya and the brotherhood stay overnight at the Peach, and the next day the Mad Huntsman returns to Stoney Sept with a captured Sandor Clegane. The Mad Huntsman intends to force Sandor into the fat man's former cage, but Lem and Greenbeard claim him for Lord Beric's judgement, and the company goes on to the hollow hill.
Egg: Who do you think they were, ser?
Dunk: Robbers. Rapers. Murderers.Dunk: There are lords and lords. Some don't need much reason to put a man to death.
Egg: It must have been something bad, for them to be left to die inside a crow cage.
You'll rot in them cages. The crows will be picking out your eyes while we're spending all that good Lannister gold o' yours! And when them crows are done, we'll send what's left o' you to your bloody brother. Though I doubt he'll know you.
Sandor: Did you leave all your courage in your kennels?
Huntsman: No, but I should have left you in a crow cage. I might still.—Sandor Clegane and the Mad Huntsman
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 29, Arya V.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 61, The Griffin Reborn.
- The Sworn Sword.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Baelor I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Daeron I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 59, Sansa IV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 34, Arya VI.