11 Ways to Keep Birds Away from Seeds in Your Garden

Looking for some ways to keep birds out of your garden? There are quite a few humane methods to keep birds away from your garden and your recently planted seeds. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen shares her favorite humane bird-control methods that will keep birds under control so your plants can grow!

garden scarecrow ideas

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You want to grow a garden, but the birds are eating your crops. What should you do? Birds can become pests if they are eating, digging, or poking holes in your garden plants. So how do keep them away humanely without disrupting their daily routine?

It may sound silly but try to think like a bird. Birds that forage on the ground will be most affected by something at ground level, and birds eating fruits in a tree will be most affected by something dangling in the tree.

Birds are wary of predators, sharp noises, and movements. But birds become accustomed to any new object that never moves. Similarly, pigeons that live in a busy city are not easily bothered by noises or movement because they are accustomed to these things.

If you do find yourself dealing with birds munching in your garden, there are several ways to cope. Birds are persistent, and if you want to keep the birds, and other animals, away from your plants, you will also need to be persistent and creative with your strategy. If that doesn’t work, plant enough to share and perhaps consider taking up bird watching as a hobby.

Traditional Scarecrow

Scarecrow in a fenced flowering garden. The scarecrow is dressed in a plaid shirt, gray trousers, a dark blue warm jacket and a gray beret. The scarecrow has two round eyes, a nose and a mouth.
A classic scarecrow is a great option to repel birds from your garden.

A traditional scarecrow is the first thing you might think of to repel birds from your garden. You may have an image of two long sticks crossed and tied, dressed in overalls, gloves, a plaid flannel shirt, and a hat.

Perhaps there’s a burlap bag with a face painted on it and some straw stuffing poking out of the holes. But scarecrows come in all shapes and sizes – you can get pretty creative and have some fun when making a scarecrow!

Farmers have been using scarecrows for many generations. Scarecrows were traditionally used in fields to scare the crows away from the corn crop. Scarecrows today are often used for decorative purposes, particularly fall decorations and Halloween props. To humans, they may look cute, funny, or even a bit creepy. But do scarecrows really work to scare away the birds?

Birds are sensitive to anything that looks like eyes, so if your scarecrow has a face, make sure it has nice big wide-open eyes. Also be sure that if your scarecrow is wearing a hat, the hat does not cover the eyes. Place the scarecrow near the plants you are trying to protect so it can “watch” over your plants and the birds will be sure to see it.

Birds will eventually get used to just about anything that doesn’t move. If you want to use a scarecrow effectively, you will need to do more than just set it up and walk away. Give it some accessories that will wave in the wind, like perhaps a billowing cape or a few dangling shiny streamers. Move it around every day or two so it doesn’t stand in the same location for too long.

Fake Owls

Close-up of a fake owl in the garden, next to blooming orange zinnias. The owl is large, plastic, black with orange round eyes and white elements.
You can also use fake owls as a scarecrow.

If you want to try a fake owl or another raptor, you will have plenty of options. You can buy inflatable owls, hard plastic owls, and even owls with robotic turning heads, flapping wings, and glowing eyes. Some of these fake owls are very realistic looking, while others give an exaggerated impression of a predator bird nearby, watching.

If I were a small bird, I might be wary of going near the owl or hawk perched on the garden fence. If the predator never moved, however, I would get used to it and start to ignore it.

Place your fake owl in a location where it appears to be watching over the plants you want to protect. It won’t do any good if it’s too far from the garden that the birds don’t notice it.

Owls are natural predators of small birds, so birds are generally wary of owls. The best way to ensure the smaller birds continue to be wary of a fake owl is to move the owl around.

You could try having multiple perches for your owl and move it to a new perch every day. Other people dangle their fake owls from a rope or chain, so they sway in the breeze.

Rubber Snakes

A small fake rubber yellow snake with orange spots on its back lies on a branch in the garden. The snake looks very realistic.
Birds also avoid snakes, so it’s a good idea to put a couple of rubber ones in your garden.

Just like many people fear snakes, many birds also tend to avoid snakes, and for good reason. Snakes are known to eat both adult birds and young birds, as well as raid bird nests for eggs. Some birds will attempt to attack a snake, while others simply stay away.

In order for a rubber snake to be effective, the bird first must see it. But that doesn’t mean you should buy neon-colored snakes. Realistic-looking snakes will work best.

Larger fake snakes will also appear scarier than smaller fake snakes, simply because of their size. Place your fake snakes in locations where the birds are likely to see them. You can hang them in your blueberry bushes or put them on the ground around specific plants.

Whenever you go out to work in your garden, move the snakes around to different locations. This will help to make them seem more realistic. Just be sure to remember where you have placed the snakes so you don’t accidentally startle yourself!

Fake Eyes

Close-up of an inflatable orange ball with multi-colored circles resembling the shape of eyes, hanging from a tree in the garden. This ball is used to scare away birds.
Use inflatable balls with bright patterns that resemble big eyes.

Birds are very attentive to anything that looks like an eye. You can buy large inflatable balls with boldly colored, very prominent eye shapes on them.

These balls come in different colors, including black, yellow, and orange. It probably doesn’t matter too much which color you buy. You can try an assortment of different colors and see if your resident birds are more wary of one color than another.

Hang the eye-like balls from trees or poles where they dangle and move with the breeze. The birds presumably see the eye shapes as a large predator and won’t come near. Try to hang them close to the plants you are trying to protect for maximum effect.

Large fake-eye balloons and balls may be effective with certain birds. They will be most effective if they move periodically rather than being perpetually stationary. If the birds seem to be getting used to the eye-balls in one location, try moving them to another location for a fresh scare.

Electronic Noise Makers

Close-up of an electronic Bird repeller installed in the branches of a ripe cherry tree, the speaker emits repelling sounds. The cherry fruit tree has many ripe rounded bright red berries and hanging dark green oval leaves with tapered tips.
Consider using electronic noise generators to scare away unwanted animals in your garden.

There are some pretty high-tech noise makers designed to repel birds. They may be solar-powered or electric. They may look like owls, or like weatherproof plastic speaker boxes. Some have motion sensors to detect nearby movement, while others emit a constant high-frequency output.

There are some noise makers that make noises loud enough to bother humans, while others make ultrasonic noises that only animals can hear. Some may also have flashing lights for added effect.

Do these high-tech devices actually work? Well… Electronic noise makers are indiscriminate and may bother more animals than just the ones you want to repel. They may repel all the birds from your yard, including the ones you are inviting to your bird feeder.

They may also affect squirrels, cats, and dogs. Some electronic noise makers may also repel your neighbors.

On the other hand, not all noise makers work to repel all birds. So, while it’s entirely possible you can buy a noise maker to repel certain pesky birds, there’s no guarantee this will prevent the birds in your yard from eating your garden plants.

If some of the other less-expensive scarecrows fail, and you are determined to deter the birds, it may be worth investing in a noise-maker device and giving it a try.

Pie Tins

Close-up of silver aluminum foil pie tins on green grass. There is a bird's feather and a few dry leaves on the grass.
You can also use glitter pie tins hanging from trees to repel birds with flashes of light.

Pie tins are cheap, shiny, and can be easily hung in trees. Hang several in your fruit trees or along fences where they can gently twirl in the breeze. If they are close enough to touch each other, they will not only create flashes of light and movement but gentle clonking sounds as they knock against each other.

Pie tins can be quite effective to deter birds from browsing in your fruit trees, but they work best when you can hang many of them.

A single pie tin may not have much effect on a flock of hungry birds. But 10 pie tins twirling around will probably cause the birds to think twice before settling in your trees. Then again, a tree full of ripe fruits is very enticing and may override a bird’s fear of pie tins.

Shiny Ribbons

Fluttering shiny ribbons around the garden to scare away birds. The garden is fenced with a low fence of wooden props and dense, thin, parallel-to-the-ground ropes. At the top of the fence, there is a rope with many thin shiny ribbons that gleam in the sun.
There are special shiny bird-deterrent ribbons that flash the light.

Shiny ribbons blowing in the breeze can also be a good bird deterrent. You can buy special bird-deterrent ribbons, but any shiny ribbon with holographic geometric patterns that catch and flash the light should work. Birds will be wary of both the erratic movement of the ribbons and the flashes of light.

One benefit of using shiny ribbons is that they are easy to install. You won’t need any sort of special post or hanger to mount some ribbons.

Simply tie them to your fruit trees, garden fences, tomato cages, stakes, or poles that are near the plants needing protection. You may even find that you enjoy looking at the shiny ribbons waving in the wind, so they can serve a decorative purpose as well.

Compact Discs

The CD hangs on an apple tree to scare away birds. Close-up of a branch with two ripe rounded green apples with pink barrels.
CDs are great for scaring away birds due to their flashing light and wind movements.

If you have old CDs or DVDs lying around and don’t know what to do with them, you can convert them into a decorative bird-scare. Tie the CDs to strings and let them dangle from trees and fences. You can tie one CD per string or get creative and dangle multiple CDs at different levels from the same string.

The CDs will gently turn in the breeze and provide both movement and flashes of light. This would be a quick, easy, and free (if you have unwanted CDs lying around) method to help deter birds.

Hang the CDs in fruit trees to scare birds from your fruits or arrange them around your garden fence to deter birds from entering. Of course, if there is no breeze and the CDs are still, they probably won’t have much effect.

Wind Chimes

A close-up of a wind chime hanging in a garden against a backdrop of dense green bushes and blooming irises. The bushes have dark green, smooth, shiny leaves of an oval-oblong shape. Irises are pale lilac-white.
Wind chimes can help ward off birds with their noise and movement from the wind.

Many people hang wind chimes for their own personal enjoyment. If strategically placed, wind chimes can also help ward off hungry birds. Try putting wind chimes in your fruit trees or at the corners of your garden plot. The moving parts in combination with the noise can act as a bird deterrent.

You can mount wind chimes on a hooked pole directly over or adjacent to the plants you are trying to protect. If the birds get used to the chimes, try moving them around every few days. Birds and other wildlife quickly acclimate to new additions to the landscape, even things like wind chimes with noises and moving parts.

Garden Spinners

A large metal garden spinner in a garden with a blooming lavender field. The garden spinner consists of a high metal support on which two wheels with blades resembling fans rotate.
Consider setting up a garden spinner as birds don’t get too close to moving and spinning objects.

There are a great many varieties of garden spinners. Anything from a simple plastic pinwheel to an elaborate metal sculpture can be both ornamental and functional.

Birds may not want to get too close to anything that is moving around and spinning. Like other deterrents, however, if your spinner is always in the same location, birds may simply acclimate to it and start to ignore it.

For the greatest success using garden spinners to deter birds, place them as close as you can to the plants you are trying to protect. If you have a row of colorful spinners in front of your house, and the garden is in the back, for example, the spinners will have no effect at all on the birds.

Physical Barriers

Close-up of a physical netting barrier to keep birds away from a cherry tree in a sunny garden. The netting is green, thin, with square holes. The tree has beautiful ripe rounded cherries of bright red color. The leaves are dark green, oval, oblong.
Use netting to create a physical barrier to repel birds.

The most reliable way to keep birds out of your garden is to establish a physical barrier so they simply can’t get in. Fences can be extremely effective to protect garden plots from all sorts of mammals.

You can also try “planting” a lot of branched sticks in the ground or wrapping wire around well-spaced stakes to make a physical barrier. Again, this may be effective to help protect your plants from browsing mammals, but it will do little to deter a bird.

Birds are persistent and have the advantage of being able to approach from any angle, including from above. Unless your fence has very small openings and completely surrounds your plant bedding area, birds can still access your plants. Netting or fencing to block birds will work best on smaller individual plants that you can completely surround with a fence.

Netting or fencing can be used with hoop-shaped row covers. Install the hoops in the ground over your plants and then cover them with your physical barrier material of choice. This will work well for smaller plants that grow low to the ground, as the hoops aren’t very high. Unfortunately, completely caging in your plants will not only keep the birds out, but make it more challenging for you to get in.

Bird-proof netting or “butterfly netting” is available, but may not always be the best option. While well-placed netting can physically prevent a bird from getting into a space, some types of netting have an unfortunate ability to catch birds.

Once a bird has its neck, wing, or legs tangled in netting, it is unlikely to be able to escape. Netting can also inadvertently capture other small animals, including squirrels, chipmunks, and even snakes.

If you must use netting to repel birds, use netting with very small (less than 1-cm) openings, and keep it pulled taut to prevent birds and other wildlife from becoming entangled.

Chicken wire may be a better alternative to netting. A wire fence will always be more expensive, but it will last MUCH longer, will be more effective, and will not entangle birds and other wildlife like plastic netting will.

Final Thoughts

Bird watching and feeding the birds can be a very enjoyable activity, but you don’t necessarily want the birds to eat your garden fruits and veggies. There are many ways to deter birds from munching on your plants, but these techniques may not work equally well for all situations.

You may need to get creative, stay attentive, and perhaps combine a few different scare tactics for the best results. Otherwise, simply plant some extras to share with the resident wildlife and enjoy watching the birds.

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