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Have you ever spent your weekend seeding a new lawn only to watch birds eat the whole thing? It’s not a good feeling!
The best way to keep birds from eating grass seeds is to use physical deterrents like scare rods and bird tape. The metallic tape reflects the sun and hums in the wind scaring the birds away. It’s effective, cheap, and easy to put up. For extra protection, you can also cover the seeds with straw or floating netting.
Other methods I go through include motion-activated sprinklers, providing alternative food sources, and natural, homemade bird repellents.
Bird deterrents can be split into two types, those that use noise and those that use visuals. The best products, like bird tape, combine both methods.
Bird tape, otherwise known as mylar tape, uses a combination of reflection and noise to scare birds away and stop them from eating your seeds.
The iridescent material shines in the sun and startles the birds, and the tape makes a humming noise in the wind so will also work at night.
Place two posts at either end of your lawn and tie the tape between them. Make sure to leave it loose enough that it can move in the wind. If you have any trees, you can also hang some strips off the branches, or from your fence.
I’ve also used and liked these reflective owl cut-outs. As well as being shiny and making noise, they have the added benefit of being shaped like a predator.
Birds prefer to eat their meal in silence and don’t like loud random noises.
If you have any poles in your yard, you can tie tin cans to them, and they’ll clang in the wind. Or you can hang a bunch of tins off a tree branch that overhangs the lawn.
If having noisy tins in your yard doesn’t appeal to you, then consider investing in some wind chimes. We might find their pleasant jingles nice and relaxing, but birds certainly don’t. An ultrasonic bird repeller makes a noise audible to birds, but not to humans. These innovative devices will keep birds away without disturbing your peace and quiet.
Shiny moving objects
Birds hate shiny, reflective objects such as helium balloons, brightly colored flags, and garden pinwheels. All these things will move around in the wind keeping birds from eating your freshly sown grass seed.
Sparkly holographic pinwheels work best. I like this metal pinwheel because it’s more durable than plastic pinwheels, and you can install it as a permanent fixture.
A DIY idea is to string CDs across your lawn.
Hanging a small metal screw or even a pen next to the CD will mean it makes a bit of noise in the wind too. Placing the CD’s 1-2 feet apart will ensure proper coverage.
Cover the grass seed
When you seed a lawn, it’s advisable to lightly rake the grass seed after you lay it so it mixes with the top layer of soil. This should provide the grass seed with some level of coverage, but to be extra safe, you can always add a second layer of protection.
Here are three different ideas for things to cover grass seed with.
Mulching your grass seed is an excellent way of keeping birds away.
Straw or hay is best because it’s easily raked away once the seeds have germinated. Just make sure the straw is weed-free otherwise you might end up having to get rid of a lawn full of weeds.
Spread the straw evenly over the entire area, leaving around 1/4 of the soil uncovered so water and sunlight can still penetrate. If you live in a particularly windy area, then you might have a problem with the straw being blown away.
I like to use EZ-straw because it’s coated with an all-natural, biodegradable tack that helps to hold the straw together. This means it can withstand harsher weather conditions.
Burlap sheets are another very popular grass seed covering.
They’re thick enough to hide the seeds from birds but will still let light, water and heat pass through. Burlap is really good at retaining moisture, which is essential for new grass seedlings. If you live somewhere where the soil tends to dry out quickly, burlap is a solid option.
You can secure the burlap sheet with rocks or nails, so there’s no chance of the wind blowing it away. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can remove the burlap and store it away ready for next year, or leave it to biodegrade in your garden.
Sometimes birds are intelligent enough to be able to peck through a layer of straw, but with burlap this is impossible!
Netting is the least noticeable of all the cover options and tends to be made from durable materials like polypropylene, so it can be used and stored for years.
Netting works best if you raise it off the ground slightly so the birds can’t land.
Erect some posts around the edge of your lawn and tie the netting to them. Be careful not to leave a big gap at the edge where the birds can crawl under!
If you want to lay the netting straight on the floor, look for one with tiny holes (or use mesh). Otherwise, the birds will be able to peck through the holes. Some people combine netting and straw, using it to keep the straw in place.
Netting is useful for covering other things as well, for example, berry plants. If you’re a keen gardener, you’ll definitely get a lot of use out of it.
Provide another source of food
Birds will only eat grass seeds if they’re hungry. If you provide them with another food source away from the grass seeds, then this should help keep them away.
Bird feeders are easy for the birds to access and easy for you to install. You just need to fill them up with some bird food. Birdbaths are more permanent but can be a beautiful addition to your yard.
Where to put the feeder depends on how much space you have. You want to place it as far away from the grass seed as possible, easily done if you have a large yard. If you have a smaller yard, consider putting the feeder at the opposite side of your house to where the grass seed is. This should help lure the birds away.
If you currently have a bird feeder near where you plan to plant the grass seed then remove it 2-3 weeks before you seed. This will make sure the birds realise there’s no food for them there anymore and encourage them to go elsewhere.
One potential downside to adding a second food source is the danger of attracting too many birds to feed. O recommend using this technique along with one of the other methods I’ve listed to deter any birds that don’t get enough food.
Scare the birds with fake predators
If birds can see a predator in your yard, then they won’t risk coming anywhere near it.
Rubber snakes, predator statues, and scarecrows are common decoys. I recommend this solar-powered owl decoy because it comes with light-up eyes and makes noises for extra scaring power.
For fake predators to be effective, you need to move them around every few days. If they stay still, the birds will quickly realize they don’t pose a threat. New grass seeds take around 2-3 weeks to germinate, so you shouldn’t have to spend too much time moving statues around your yard.
An advantage to using fake decoys is that you can re-use them year after year meaning they’re cost-effective in the long run.
Bird repellent seed and smells
One of the easiest answers to the question of how to keep birds from eating grass seed is to use bird repellent seeds. Bird repellent seeds are coated with a special coating that birds don’t like eating. However, some birds will get used to the taste of these seeds over time.
Some natural, non-toxic bird repellents include garlic, cayenne pepper, and peppermint oil. These repellents also work to keep other small pests away such as squirrels, raccoons, and even insects.
Using garlic is as simple as sprinkling a few crushed cloves around the grass seed.
To use peppermint oil, mix a few drops of it with water and lightly mist your turf. Or soak some cotton wool in the mixture and then lay this over the grass seed.
Another natural bird repellent recipe is cayenne pepper mixed with crushed red chilli pepper and water. The heat from the pepper and chillies is very effective at stopping birds from eating grass seed.Recipe for Red Pepper Spray Squirrel Repellent : Bugs & Pests Advice
You’ll see some recipes using apple cider vinegar. While this is a useful ingredient for protecting established berry plants, I would avoid using it on germinating grass seeds because it contains acetic acid. Acetic acid is a known natural weed killer that will also kill grass seeds.
Lay extra seed
Not everyone wants to cover their yard with strange shiny objects. If you fall into that group, or you like having birds in your yard, then consider laying some extra seed to account for a portion being eaten.
While this doesn’t technically keep birds from eating your grass seeds, it does stop them from ruining your new lawn.
For most people, about 40-50% extra should be enough. Be careful not to lay too much because this can mean increased competition for the grass seeds and result in a lower quality turf.
One of the most important steps in caring for grass seedlings is making sure they get enough water. Installing motion-activated sprinklers help you solve two problems at once.
Your lawn is kept moist, and the sprinklers stop birds from eating the new seedlings. The sprinkler will also work to keep most other large animals away, such as cats and squirrels.
I recommend Orbits yard enforcer. It comes with an adjustable spray that covers a 3,840 square foot area. And you can pick between different sensitivity settings depending on the size of the birds you’re trying to frighten.
Let your pets loose
Pets, especially cats and dogs, love to chase birds. Having a dog running around your yard is guaranteed to keep birds away.
It’s best to avoid having your pets run around on newly planted grass seed. This method is only practical if you have an area of the yard next to your recently laid grass seed where your pets can play.
Try to keep them off the grass when it’s wet too or you’ll end up with a bumpy lawn.
Do squirrels eat grass seed?
Yes, squirrels will eat grass seed, but only during the day as they don’t feed at night. Grass seed isn’t their favourite food either as it requires quite a bit of work for not much reward.
If you notice you have a night feeder, then it’s more likely to be a racoon.
Some of the methods I’ve listed here such as motion-activated sprinklers, or covering your lawn with netting, will also be effective at keeping other pests like squirrels away from your seeds.
Knowing how to keep birds from eating grass seed is essential knowledge for any gardener.
Without protecting your new lawn it could be ravished before the seeds even get a chance to set.
My favorite way to keep birds from eating grass seeds is to use reflective scare tape.