How to protect your garden from birds

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"Bloom" by byrev is licensed under CC Zero.

While not all birds are nuisances in the garden, some can be destructive, digging up seeds or feeding on seedlings and mature crops.

Some of the birds you don’t want in your garden are crows and varieties of blackbirds.

Birds to keep out of your garden

According to Rutgers Cooperative Extension, blackbirds can be nuisances to gardens. ‘Blackbirds’ include red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, starlings and other blackbirds. These birds will eat insects and small animals, but they’ll also feast on seeds including sunflower seeds, sorghum and grains)  as well as vegetables like lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and sweet corn.

Crows also may frequent your garden and eat fruits and vegetables. However, The Humane Society states that they can be beneficial since they clean up insects that are harmful to plants.

How to keep birds out of your garden

There are numerous strategies that can be employed to deter birds from feeding in your garden. Some strategies may not work for all birds, though, so it may take trial-and-error to find out what really works.

Aluminum screening. Michigan State University Extension explains how bending a roll of narrow aluminum screening into a U-shape and placing it over a row of seeds or seedlings to provide protection from birds. The screening can be held down by pushing slim sticks or heavy wire through the screening and into the dirt.

Hardware screening or cloth. Hardware screening can be cut and bent into hoops for your seeds or seedlings. Michigan State University Extension warns that the screening should have openings small enough to keep birds out, such as one-half inch.

Rutgers Cooperative Research & Extension offers the following ideas for keeping birds out of your fruits and vegetables:

Reusable plastic netting. Reusable plastic netting or even cheesecloth or wire mesh can be placed over plants or seed rows. The netting must be secured close to the crops so that birds don’t find a way through.

Paper bags. If you’re growing sweet corn, you can place paper bags over ears once pollen shed is complete, or after silks have turned brown.

Stakes and flags. Attaching pieces of cloth to the tops of stakes and placing them every 15 to 20 feet in your garden may work to ward off birds.

Stakes and string. Attaching string to stakes and running the string across your garden will help to keep birds out for a week or two. Attach streamers or cloth to the string every 5 feet or so, too.

Chemicals. Seed treatments and pre-treated seeds can protect seeds until they become seedlings. Naphthalene flakes or granules can be scattered across seed rows until seedlings begin to sprout.

The Humane Society offers a few more ideas, specifically for controlling crows:

Mylar streamers. Shiny Mylar streamers can work to scare off birds.

Fishing line. Fishing line, or even cord or fine wire, can be stretched across a garden in a grid pattern. Consider tying reflective tape or some other visible material to the fishing line so that you can avoid it.

Plastic owls and snakes usually don’t work to scare crows. However, effigies of dead crows, items like CDs or balloons with reflective surfaces and garden hoses with motion sensors typically work to frighten crows, especially if they’re used consistently and are moved around the garden area.

Have other birds that are causing problems for the fruits and vegetables you’re growing? Or have any tips for keeping birds out of your garden? Let us know in the comments below!

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Katie Woods grew up in Columbiana, Ohio. Katie likes reading, writing, enjoying the outdoors and DIY projects.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the good ideas! My mom’s garden has been plagued by crows for a couple years now, and it’s been very frustrating trying to keep them from destroying everything we’ve worked hard to plant. We’ve been looking into using vineyard netting, which seems like a good idea. As you say, we’ll have to secure it carefully, but I think it’s really a viable option for us. Here’s hoping it works!

  2. Thanks for the information! Like many other gardeners, I’ve also had some trouble keeping birds away from my garden. I guess my vegetables must be too good to resist. Still, I should find a way to keep them away from my vegetable garden. What else would you suggest to use for reusable plastic netting? The only plastic netting that I have are vineyard nets, so that seems like that should work to protect my garden from being eaten by birds.

  3. I have some resident mocking birds. Seems like they often get more tomatoes than I get. I usually do 8-10 plants of various types. To much to net. I have tried pin wheels, flags, snakes, but the birds ignore them and leave big holes in the tomatoes. Anything else I can do.

  4. Try the garden commander! It’s a cage developed by a farmer that keeps deer and wild animals out of your garden. It’s not expensive, stacks and stores easily. It expands for large traditional garden rows, and fits a raised garden bed. Best of all, it’s not expensive. Here’s a link to his website if you are interested: http://www.gardencommander.com

  5. If your having bother some birds and other flying creatures, a great way to get rid of them is with shiny and reflective surfaces. It is also 100% Harmless to the birds unlike chemicals and other alternatives. Plus these method is among the most affordable. Hope it helps!

  6. I have yet to try it this year but in the past I have had very good luck using plastic bags you get at the store and either tieing them to a stake and/or to the fencing around the garden when the wind hits it or it moves scares the birds because they get spooked easily

  7. I use fake rocks by drilling holes in them and inserting posts in the rocks with streamers on the posts. The wind blows the streamers and scares off the birds.

  8. I am having trouble with Robins eating my tomatoes.Has anyone e ver heard this before.I have always had luck with pie pans the aluminum foil type every 4 ft or so.Good luck!

    • I used a plastic pigeon/dove decoy, sold for target practice, in my veggie beds this year. Usually the robins come in and uproot seedlings looking for worms. I’m hoping it works for my tomatoes and grapes later one.

  9. Here’s what I did. My garden is approximately 50′ x 20′. I bought some cheap fencing from Lowe’s, put it around my whole garden, then hung miniature aluminum pie plates around my garden every 10 feet. The pie plates are reflective and very light, blowing and hitting against the fence with just the slightest breeze. I had no problem with animals or birds, only insects.

  10. I use the mesh food tents you use for picnics to cover seedlings until they are big enough that the birds don’t bother them. I have a raised bed with about 12” of wood sides above dirt level so the wind doesn’t blow them off but I also use a smaller rock to secure sides if I feel I need it.

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