Roots 'n' Shoots: Bird Control: Visual deterents - An Update (Part 2)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Bird Control: Visual deterents - An Update (Part 2)

Feral pigeon
Bird control, is similar to pest control, where you want to minimise damaged to your crops preferably through non-harmful (not in the case of pests! J) and environmentally friendly. You can purchase many of these bird deterrents, but hardly any of them are wallet-friendly, therefore I have opted for making my own or acquire ones with minimal cost. I posted one of my DIY bird deterrent devices a while back, which was based on reflective surfaces and bird’s visual spectrum. It really works! The only problem is that it needs sunlight to work, this means that when it is overcast or raining the pigeon thieves have free range over the chicken pellets and the black-eyed bulbuls perform aerial assaults on the figs and raspberries!!! To my utmost horror!

This is basically what it looks like in the chicken coop,
on & in the chicken feeder and on the surrounding walls!!!
When they are disturbed you get this huge 'fluttering' noise
and millions of them take to the sky!!!

It is the most terrible thing you ever did witness!!!

My biggest problem is with the pigeons & chicken pellets and the bulbuls with the fruits. I find the pigeons to be a bigger nuisance as they can clean out the chicken feeder several times a day leaving none for the chickens – this means the chicken are hungry and I am wasting pellets and money on pigeon thieves! These pigeons, known as city doves or street pigeons, are referred to as ‘feral pigeons’ (Columba livia), which were domesticated from Rock doves. They readily interbreed with other pigeons and have spread across most of the globe. Many people also called them ‘flying rats’ because of their pest value and bird deterrents are constantly implemented in urban – and agricultural settings to scare them away.

Geographical distribution of the Feral pigeon,
Columba livia

I set out on a few experiments to see whether I can get a back-up deterrent for when the sun don’t shine. I looked up a few alternatives online and found the following candidates:

1) Bird nets, spikes and wires… Now this isn’t going to work, it’s not like I can line the chicken feeder with these and the bird will swoop over them in the garden… I am not fond of netting over plants as this causes damage, such as braking of branches and fruits (I found this to be very true with frost fleece, especially so when it gets wet!).

Rock Dove spikes
2)  Sound deterrents, predatory birds and chemicals… Sound deterrents will likely scare the chickens as well, so "No" to that, I don’t want to keep falcons any time soon and chemical are definitely out of the picture!

3) Visual deterrents… So we are back here, other than more reflective devices, I can place stationary figure or outlines of natural predators around the garden and maybe even on the coop roof where the chicken won’t see them… So here are a few things that I tried:

A) Scarecrow: I made a scarecrow for the chicken coop to warn off would-be thieves, but it is only a temporary scare device as the pigeons become used to it. This means moving it around each day and re-dressing it, which is too much effort. So that idea has been scratched off the list.

My sad abandoned scarecrow...
probably an example of how not to do a scarecrow...
I think I can hear the pigeons laughing...

B) Rubber snakes: These can be purchased at the toy store. Although, I find that the birds ‘know’ how close they can get to the snakes without being in the hypothetical striking range. I had one on guard at the fig tree, another on the burglar bars at the tomatoes and one on the wall next to the raspberries. The tomatoes where left alone, but the figs and raspberries were still fair game! If I put the snake into the fig tree, they merely eat the figs on the opposite side! So my snake test wasn’t very successful…

My 'red' snake...

C) Flapping owl-thing: I found this at local craft market (Garden World). It is a plastic figurine of an owl with big oogly eyes on a pole and flaps its wings when the wind blows. It is marginally effective, because the birds were still picking off the raspberries when I had about a meter away staring at the raspberries. I put it right in the raspberry pot and that seemed to keep them off of that raspberry plant, but I have three raspberries and only one owl-thing. The cats were convinced that it was edible for a while and I had to show them several times that it is a ‘dead’ figure! J

Owl deterrent
It is a garden ornament, hence why it is in better condition

D) Fruit Shield: This started out as brown paper bags over some of the peaches. The idea was to mask or hide the fruits from the birds, but the paper bags are difficult to secure to the fruits and you can’t readily check up on them to see whether they are good to harvest. Then we decided to cut out pieces of the frost fleece and only cover the raspberries and figs instead of the whole plant (which causes damage). This worked fairly well, as the fleece hid the fruits from preying eyes and even helped them to ripen! The frost fleece lasts about 1-2 months and then completely disintegrates because of the weather exposure, so always keep a pack on hand.

Brown paper bags over peaches


Fig fruit shield
Now you see them, now you don't!


The conclusion of the experimentation is that:

1) For sunny days:

Reflective CDs work the best, but only when sunlight hits them. Another bonus is that the CDs keep deterring the birds without any additional input from my side, maybe they need a bit of a fix-up after a year of working in the wind, rain and sun J (some tiles fall off and some peel). They work for both the vegetable garden and chicken coop!

I have seen many versions of the reflective visual deterrents, such as red reflective tape, iridescent hanging ornaments, pieces of strung up foil and even blown-up wine bladders!

2) Cloudy/rainy days:

Cover fruits with cut-out pieces of frost fleece to protect them when it is cloudy or raining. They will need to be replaced once a month if cloudy weather persists due to disintegration. Again these don’t need extra input after installation and they allow easy access to check on ripening fruits. It can easily be applied to fruit clusters (raspberry) or a few individual fruits like the figs/peaches, but it might be a mission to cover and check each and every tomato!


All in all, the fruit shields worked well for keeping the birds away from the raspberries and the figs, but I still haven’t found a cloudy-day deterrent for the chicken coop… I will try a few more ideas throughout the year and report again on what I have found.


Large Pigeon Trap

LOL! J
Won't it be funny if I put one of these
badboys in the garden!! I just don't know
what you would do with them all once you
caught them...

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