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Keeping birds away from our garden fruit ranks right up there with keeping bugs from eating all our hard-earned vegetables. Last year I shared this organic insect garden spray that works really well on lots of things including basil, beans, cucumbers, and flowering plants like roses and trumpet vines. That has gone over really well with huge shares on social media and Hometalk and lots of people chiming in on the comments on how it worked for them.
So I thought I'd share a much smaller victory I've recently had at keeping birds from eating every last one of our berries. It's super easy, inexpensive, and doesn't require the netting that makes it hard to harvest and sometimes ensnares animals (readers have told me of not only birds being caught in the netting, but snakes and even a cat got tangled in one).
Our blueberries started ripening earlier than normal this year (along with everything else in our warmer-than-normal spring and summer) and by the time I noticed, the birds had already gotten most of the ripe berries, shown above. I took 10 minutes, ran in to the garden shed to get my bird scare weapons and set them up.
I waited about 3-4 days before checking and this is what our bushes looked like - bird-damaged berries only here-and-there with LOTS of untouched berries for us to pick! So, what were my weapons in the war to protect our berries?
Two things I picked up from the Dollar Store: toy snakes and shiny mylar pinwheels. Really! There's a couple reasons why they work and a couple things you need to do to keep them effective, but at least for me, they really help to keep the bird damage to a minimum with the least amount of cost and effort on my part.
How to Scare Birds Away from Berries Naturally with Dollar Snakes and Pinwheels
Dollar Snakes as Protection
- Buy a number of different kinds and try to keep to colors that are more realistic, since the idea is to fool the birds.
- ONLY bring them out right when the berries are starting to ripen.
- Lay them out randomly, but make sure they can be seen.
- Move them around every few days.
- Put them away right when harvest is done.
The most important part of this is to not let the birds get used to them, so you want to only use them during the month or so of harvest. The second most important thing is to move them around whenever you're out picking - again so that the birds don't get used to them not moving.
I've used toy snakes for about 3 years now in the berries all by themselves and they work pretty well in the beginning, but the birds probably get used to them even with moving them around. It's definitely worth it, I think, because it's so easy. You do have to warn people who come to pick, though - I've had some fun reactions to them!
However, when I added the pinwheels last year, these two in tandem worked better than I had hoped and my experience was the same this year, which meant it worked well enough that I could share it with you!
Dollar Pinwheels as Protection
- Buy the shiny mylar-type pinwheels.
- Like the snakes, ONLY bring them out right when the berries are starting to ripen.
- Attach them to stakes or fences that are near or among the rows (I use duct tape on our fence and some bamboo poles).
- They obviously work best if you have some wind - the noise when they start spinning really works to scare birds away (and sometimes people who aren't expecting it!), as well as the shiny movement.
- Again, put these away right when harvest is done.
So you can guess that like the snakes, using them only when the berries are ripening is key. Even though they're pretty don't leave them out for longer, as birds are pretty smart I've found. Keep them surprised and don't let this season's babies get used to them!
SO easy, right? And, I have to admit, kind of fun! However, I'm not going to lie and say that it will keep birds away from your berries completely, as you can see from the pictures above. To me, it looks like a bird started eating away and then was scared off by one of the pinwheels starting to spin.
There are plenty of berries left for us, since we have quite a few bushes that produce for us (nine that ripen at different times over about 1-1/2 months)- in fact, I had to ask my sister to come and pick to help us keep up with them all!
If you want to keep birds away totally, pretty much your only option is to build a structure and cover it with netting or screen. That's just too labor intensive and expensive for our nine bushes that produce for just over a month. But grabbing some snakes and pinwheels for a couple dollars and taking a couple minutes to put them up (and then put away)? That's right up our alley!