The question on every avid gardener’s lips is how to keep birds from eating grass seed?
Seeds offer a tasty treat for birds, and if they get their beaks in, you may end up with a patchy lawn.
Fortunately, there are many bird-friendly measures you can take to keep your seeds safe. In this guide, we’ll explore 11 top tips.
Why are birds eating my grass seeds?
Before you start taking measures to stop birds eating your grass seeds, it’s best to understand why birds will eat grass seeds. Most of the birds that visit your garden are granivorous species. Sparrows, finches, buntings, pigeons, even parakeets — these are just a few of the seed-eating birds you’ll have to watch out for.
The best time to sow grass seeds is in late summer through to mid-autumn. At this time of the year, birds should have plenty of wild seeds and berries to feast on. So if there’s so much food available to them, why do birds rush straight for your freshly sown lawn?
The answer is quite simple: the seeds are easy to get to, spread out like an inviting buffet. The way birds might see it, not eating the grass seeds is a bit like attending a great dinner party and refusing to touch any food. In other words, it isn’t polite.
Nobody likes to see their freshly sown lawn disappear because the birds ate all the seeds. But at least now you know why they do it.
And with that in mind, let’s see how you can keep birds away from grass seed.
How to prevent birds from eating grass seeds
There are several ways you can protect your grass seeds from birds.
Here are a few tried and proven methods we recommend:
- Use ground covers:
— Straw and mulch
— Burlap sheets
— Transparent tarp
- Use deterrents:
— Reflective surfaces
— Noise deterrents
— Lawn sprinklers
- Use decoy predators
- Remove food sources before sowing
- Sow seeds coated in bird repellent
- Install a bird feeder
Let’s take a closer look at each of these methods to stop birds from eating the grass seed in your garden.
1. Ground covers
When sowing grass seeds, the best practice is to gently rake the lawn after spreading the seeds so that a thin layer of soil only covers them. Usually, ¼ inch of soil (about 0.5 cm) is more than enough. However, that leaves the grass seeds exposed to birds.
Granivorous birds such as sparrows and finches have excellent eyesight. They will easily pick out the seeds lying on your lawn. And once they do, a small flock can eat the seeds in an instant. As a result, the easiest way to make sure that birds won’t eat your grass seeds is to ‘hide’ them under a cover.
Sometimes known as grass seed protectors, here are several materials you can use to cover your lawn from birds, each with its benefits.
Here’s what you’ll need to know.
Bird netting is an excellent option if you want to stop birds eating grass seed. Spread the grass seeds across the lawn, rake the soil lightly, and then spread the netting on top. Use some wooden or metal stakes to lift and stretch the netting, securing it in place a couple of inches or so above the ground. If you have trees or small shrubs surrounding your lawn, you can also tie the netting to them.
Heavy-duty netting is also ideal if you’re dealing with very persistent bird visitors. It’s more durable, weather-resistant, and installing it is an easy DIY project.
Netting works wonders for keeping your lawn safe while also providing the grass seeds with enough light while they germinate and grow. When done with your lawn, you can reuse it in your garden to cover vegetables and other crops.
– Straw and mulch
Straw or mulch provides a natural, organic ground cover alternative for your grass seeds. In colder climates, they also keep the soil warm until the seeds germinate. Mulch, in particular, is also an excellent way to help retain soil moisture if you’re sowing during hot periods.
The downside to using straw and mulch is that once the grass starts growing, removing them can be difficult.
Out of the two, straw is the easiest to get rid of: use a rake to remove it from your lawn. Mulch is heavier and bulkier, and although you can use a rake for it as well, there’s a pretty good chance of you damaging young grass blades in the process.
One thing to bear in mind when using natural ground covers such as straw or mulch is that they’re not as effective as other methods. Seed-eating birds often spend time on the ground looking for food, especially when they are starving in late autumn and winter. They are used to digging the top layer of the soil, and they know that there are seeds just waiting for them underneath. So make sure to pair these ground cover alternatives with other deterrents to improve its efficiency.
– Burlap sheets
Using burlap sheets is a great way to visually hide the birds’ seeds while also protecting the grass seeds while they grow. Burlap sheets made from natural fabrics help the soil retain moisture and a constant temperature. They also allow the air to flow, preventing mold and even allowing some light and water to get through to the seeds.
However, burlap sheets are pretty light and can easily be swept away if you live in a windy area. Lucky, that’s easily fixed: use stones or bricks to weigh them down around the edges.
– Transparent tarp
Transparent tarps are ideal if you’re sowing grass late in the year and a colder climate. This transparent plastic sheet creates a mini-greenhouse effect that keeps the soil moist and warm while also allowing light to get through the grass. It is also light enough to enable the grass to grow without bending the young blades too much. Just make sure you tie it down or use some weights to keep it in place.
The downside to using a transparent tarp to protect grass seeds from birds is that it makes watering very difficult. Also, using it during warm periods is not recommended. It retains heat and can spoil the germination of grass seeds.
What is the best ground cover?
We recommend bird netting. It’s light, easy to install, and you can also use it on other parts of your garden after your grass has grown to a sufficient height. However, ground covers on their own are generally not enough to discourage birds.
Let’s take a look at some of the bird deterrents you can use with that in mind.
2. Bird deterrents
– Reflective surfaces
Most birds are afraid of shiny or reflective surfaces. For starters, they can perceive their reflection as a predator and a potential danger. Also, sunlight reflected off polished surfaces can confuse and disorient them. This is why reflective objects are an excellent bird deterrent, keeping them away from your seeds without harming them.
What can you use as a visual repellent for birds? Surprisingly, garden pinwheels are one of the best choices. Look for the ones with a shiny surface and make a bit of noise as they spin. Alternatively, you can also use reflective objects such as old CDs or cut the shiny tape into ribbons. Make sure you hang them so that they can move in the wind.
You will also find reflective bird deterrents online and in garden centers. Depending on how high-end you want them to be, some commercially available options even include built-in noise repellents.
– Noise deterrents
What sounds do birds hate? If you want to frighten birds from eating your grass seeds, using predatory bird calls is one way to do it. Most of the birds visiting your garden are small songbirds, and their natural predators are owls and hawks. Using a device that plays hooting or screeching sounds will send the birds flying.
Ultrasonic sound deterrents often make the list of methods used to scare birds away. However, there’s a bit of a debate as to how effective they are. Many songbirds can hear sounds from the same range as humans can. So if you can’t hear the high-frequency sound of your ultrasonic bird deterrent, there’s a good chance that birds visiting your garden won’t either.
– Lawn sprinklers
Motion-activated sprinklers are a very effective way to keep birds off your lawn and away from your grass seeds. They work by detecting movement and shooting a jet of water towards the target area. For most birds, the sound of the sprinkler coming on and the sudden burst of water is enough to scare them off.
These lawn sprinklers are also effective at keeping pets off the lawn, keeping the grass watered, and conserving electricity. As a result, they get an all-around thumbs up from us.
3. Use decoy predators
If there’s one thing birds are scared of, it’s not shiny tape or sprinklers, but predators. This is why decoy predators are one of the most efficient ways to keep birds from eating your grass seeds, especially when combined with ground covers.
There are many types of decoy bird predators you can find on the market. The most common ones are snakes, owls, and hawks. Some high-end options aim to mimic natural predators as much as possible by including sounds and even head and eye movement. If you’re not too squeamish, a few websites even offer dead bird decoys to enhance the scare factor (don’t worry, they’re not dead birds).
Using decoy predators can be very effective if done the right way. The trick is moving them around regularly. Birds have a good memory, and if they see a fake owl sitting in the same spot for days on end, they might stop falling for the ruse. Placement is also essential. A real owl or a hawk will never stay in the middle of the lawn, waiting for the birds to find their way into its claws.
Ensure you place these decoys in the corner of your lawn or even a tree in a spot where they’re visible but not too noticeable. Also, change their location at least once every two days to mimic their natural behavior.
4. Remove food sources before sowing
One of the main reasons wild birds keep returning to your garden is because they often find food there. Of course, a garden without songbirds can be pretty gloomy, but at the same time, a barren or patchy lawn looks just as bad. So what is there to do?
What we recommend is removing food sources from your garden two weeks before you plan sowing grass seeds. It will essentially tell the birds that there is no food available in your garden anymore, and they will use it as a cue to look for food elsewhere.
Once the grass has sprouted and is starting to grow, however, we recommend you start leaving food out for them again. After all, you don’t want to get rid of birds from your yard completely.
5. Sow seeds coated in bird repellent
Many garden centers also sell grass seeds covered in a bird repellent substance. Don’t worry: this substance isn’t toxic to wild birds. It just doesn’t taste very nice. So even if birds will pop in on your lawn to eat the seeds, the unpleasant taste will soon convince them otherwise.
You can also make your own organic bird repellent solution for grass seeds. Some tastes and smells that birds don’t like include: peppermint oil, garlic, chili, cayenne pepper, and vinegar. Use them to make a water-based solution, which you can then apply over some of the seeds you will sow.
One thing to note is that organic bird repellents will fade after a few days. Make sure to sow newly treated seeds once every 3-4 days, especially if it’s been raining.
6. Install a bird feeder
It may sound counter-intuitive at first. Having a bird feeder in your garden discourages birds from eating grass seeds. Think of it this way: it is much easier for wild birds to eat from a bird feeder than drop on the lawn to eat seeds. Finding all the food in one elevated place also makes them feel safer, as they can keep a better eye out for any predators.
The key to an effective bird feeder is keeping it well stocked and supplying birds with healthy and nutritious treats. Grass seeds may be tasty, but they’re no match for a mix of suet, mealworms, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and fruit. Wild birds spend a lot of energy every day looking for food. If the birds in your garden are well-fed, they won’t find the grass seeds spread across the lawn worth their time.
Are there any grass seeds that birds won’t eat?
Sadly, there are no varieties of grass that birds don’t like. From ryegrass to fescue, birds will find all grass seeds equally appealing. The only grass seeds they won’t eat are the ones that have been covered in bird repellent.
How to stop birds from eating your grass
Even after your grass seeds have germinated and you get a nice, new lawn growing, there’s still a chance that birds will eat the grass. Some birds, such as finches and parrots, enjoy the young blades of grass, especially in spring. Other birds will pluck the grass and use it to build nests. But in most cases, birds are simply ripping the grass out of the soil as they’re looking for worms and insects.
To stop birds from eating the grass on your lawn, you can use some of the methods we mentioned above. Deterrents such as reflective surfaces or motion-activated sprinklers are a great way to scare them off. Fake predators such as hawks and owls will also scare off the smaller birds (bonus point: they will look great next to your collection of garden gnomes).
Another solution to prevent birds from eating your grass is using bird repellent sprays. These products contain aluminum ammonium sulfate, a substance that birds dislike the taste of. It is non-volatile and easily dissolved in water, and it’s not toxic to birds. To maximize their efficiency, we recommend pairing bird repellent sprays with a motion-activated water sprinkler.
Are birds good for your garden?
Absolutely! Birds are one of the most efficient pest control options available out there. They will eat insects, slugs, caterpillars, spiders, even mosquitoes and are perfect for gardeners who don’t like using insecticides. Birds will also eat weeds, and in some cases, even small rodents and reptiles. Also, watching and listening to songbirds will work wonders in reducing stress and improving your general well-being.
Nowadays, many gardeners are actively trying to create bird-friendly gardens by planting ornamental shrubs that produce fruit and berries, colorful flowers that attract insects, and growing trees for the wild birds to nest in. In urban and suburban areas, where wild birds will often struggle to find food and shelter, your garden can be an absolute oasis for them.
Therefore, it’s vital that when you try to protect your lawn from birds, you don’t wholly discourage them from returning to your garden.
A nice grassy lawn is a fantastic place to relax, and if you’re starting from scratch, it’s essential to keep the seeds safe while they germinate. Fortunately, with the tips above, you shouldn’t have any problem with birds eating them!
Here’s a quick recap;
- It’s essential to understand why birds will eat your grass seeds — knowing this enables you to prepare preventative measures in advance.
- From ground covers to deterrents, there are many ways you can protect your grass seeds, each offering a variety of pros and cons.
- For us, motion-activated lawn sprinklers are among the most friendly and effective methods to keep the birds at bay.
- Birds provide a wealth of benefits to gardeners, so it’s best not to keep them away entirely. Try leaving a few well-stocked bird feeders to offer a more accessible, tastier alternative to your grass seeds.
With that in mind, all that’s left to do is to sow your seeds and prepare your defenses!
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