Birds are truly useful creatures, aren’t they? They eat up mosquitos and bothersome insects, they wake us up each morning with their sweet songs, and they’re fun to watch.
My oldest daughter loves to spend time watching birds and identifying them in her bird book. Or, rather, getting me to identify them in the bird book for her. (She can’t yet read.) I’m happy to oblige because I’ve always been interested in birds myself. Still, though my love for birds is real and their good qualities can’t be overstated, they can also cause problems.
Their songs may make for sweet alarm clocks, but sometimes I don’t want to wake up at 5:30 a.m. (Actually, I never want to wake up at 5:30 a.m.) And while I appreciate their ability to eat mosquitos and wasps, I also prefer that they keep their appetites far away from my garden.
Birds can wreak havoc on a good crop, and it’s important to know that there are ways to prevent the damage they can cause, so let’s talk about how to keep birds out of our garden!
Birds are scared of humans, so theoretically, all you have to do to scare them away is stand in your garden. Of course, you can’t hang out in your garden all day waiting for crows to come peck at your tomatoes. You can, however, make something that looks like a person standing in your garden – a scarecrow. They’re simple to make and a fun project to work on with kids. At its most basic form, you only need a few supplies for a scarecrow:
- Two large sticks
- An old shirt
The most enjoyable part of making a scarecrow is adding your own creativity. Stuff it with straw or old rags, or leave it hanging free. Put a funny hat on it or, if you’re like us, use an old welding helmet for its head. The idea is to create something roughly the size and shape of a human; once you’ve done that, have fun with it!
Another tip for using your scarecrow is to move it around occasionally. Birds might be scared of humans, but they’re clever animals, and if your scarecrow stays still for several days, they will figure out that it’s not actually a person. Try moving your scarecrow to different garden spots every few days. He can spend a day in the peas and then a few days in the cabbage and end up with a nice tour of your garden, and the birds won’t grow fearless of him.
Though the scarecrow is a fun, tried-and-true method of scaring birds way, there are other options. One method is to tie up pie tins around the garden. The brightness and reflection from the sun will startle the birds, as will the clattering sound they make when the wind blows them into each other. Pie tins aren’t the only kitchen objects that will work for this–hanging up any sort of metallic, loud utensils should work.
Finally, consider tricking birds into thinking your garden is home to a snake. My husband always leaves a small stretch of rope or garden hose out in the rows for this purpose. Birds, like many humans (myself included), are generally afraid of snakes. If you’d like to take it a step further, you could put rubber snakes out among your plants. I would recommend moving them around in the same manner as the scarecrow. Also, be sure to inform your family if you put fake snakes in your garden. No need to give anyone a heart attack.
Scaring birds away will certainly minimize the damage they cause to your garden, but it isn’t a guaranteed method. The only certain way to keep birds away from your crops is to physically protect the plants. Bird netting (like this) works well for many crops, particularly berries. Netting can be draped over a whole blueberry bush, or you can create cages out of it with PVC pipe. I’ve also seen some more creative cages made out of sticks or two-by-fours.
I would warn you to check occasionally to be sure that birds aren’t caught in the netting. You don’t want to harm the birds; you just don’t want them hurting your crops. We have used netting for a few years now and have never had a bird get caught, but it can happen. You’ll probably be out checking your garden every day anyway, so be sure to give the nets a good look.
Birds are just like any other hungry creature in that they’re looking for an easy meal. Can you give them a food source so that they aren’t tempted to get into your garden? Here are some ideas:
- Leave one or two berry bushes uncovered as a “sacrifice”
- Plant a few crops near your garden specifically for birds
- Grow plants that naturally attract birds – just not in your garden
It’s not too hard to peacefully coexist with birds. They do so many good things for us, and they hold a special place in the hearts of all of us naturalists. Don’t let your love of our winged friends be tainted by the damage they can cause to your garden – there’s no need to let it happen.
How do you keep birds out of the garden?
Let us know in the comments!