Are you planning to start a lush, new, green lawn from seed? If you are, do you know how to keep birds from eating your grass seeds?
Millions of gardeners don’t realize they may have to take extraordinary measures to get their beautiful green lawns started.
You get so enthusiastic about your new lawn that you don’t even think about protecting it against birds.
It’s not until you put out your seed and the birds start landing in droves that you realize there’s a problem.
Certain birds eat seeds ferociously. They pick seeds out of freshly turned soil fast. And it won’t be just one bird making a meal of your new lawn. There will be dozens. Or hundreds.
Depending on the time of year, grass seed can take up to 6 weeks to germinate. You have to protect your lawn from birds until your grass seeds germinate.
Otherwise, you will just have to go through the cost and labor of starting your lawn project all over again.
Here are a dozen ways to keep birds from eating grass seeds.
Remove bird feeders before you seed your lawn
Before you seed your lawn, you should change what birds expect from it.
Birds will keep coming back if you feed them. So don’t feed them birdseed if you don’t want to feed them grass seeds.
It will be fine to feed birds again once your grass is up and growing.
But while you are trying to get your grass seeds germinated, don’t encourage birds to keep coming around.
You should remove bird feeders and bird baths at least two weeks before you seed your lawn.
Cover your lawn
Create a physical barrier between birds and grass seeds by covering your lawn,
Before you add any additional covers to your grass seeds, rake them about an eighth of an inch (2 or 3 mm) into the ground.
That tiny amount of additional cover makes a big difference. The seeds will have soil contact. This gives them more moisture, and just a little more anchoring into the ground.
Mulch is an excellent choice.
- Birds won’t be able to see grass seeds under it.
- Young shoots of grass can easily come up through it.
- Mulch helps newly seeded ground retain moisture.
- Mulch breaks down into compost that will nourish your lawn in future months.
- Mulch prevents weed seeds from making contact with the ground. It helps keep your lawn weed-free.
- If you are trying to start a lawn in early spring, mulch helps keep the ground warm. If you live in a hot climate, and you are trying to seed rye-grass for winter lawn cover, mulch helps keep the soil cool and moist.
Is mulch too heavy to spread over your lawn? Try hay instead. Hay allows water and sunlight to reach the ground, but it makes seeds harder for birds to see.
Whether you use mulch or hay, leave about 25% of the ground visible.
Burlap works, too:
- Burlap sheets allow sunlight, moisture, and warmth to pass to the ground, but
- Burlap provides a visual barrier so birds won’t see seeds or young shoots.
Burlap works better than mulch in windy weather. Wind can blow away mulch and seeds with it.
You can tack or nail burlap to the ground and easily remove it when the seeds sprout.
You may want to consider a plastic sheet or a transparent tarp:
- Plastic sheeting keeps the ground from getting cold and soggy in early spring.
- Plastic sheeting holds heat in the ground and protects young seedlings against heavy frost.
You can use heavy objects like rocks to hold plastic sheets in place. Don’t use clear plastic sheets as a seeding cover in the summer.
The sheet will heat the ground and kill the seed.
Stake bird net over your lawn
Bird net keeps birds from setting foot on your lawn.
Just set a continuous sheet of bird net over the newly seeded area, stretch it out so there are 3 inches (7 to 8 cm) of clearance over the grass, and stake the net to the ground.
Even better: Install a soil erosion blanket. Soil erosion blankets are designed to reseed ground disturbed during construction. Easy to install, they protect grass seed and help it germinate faster.
Put up bird deterrents
Birds are cautious about situations where they could encounter predators. Putting up fake predators will scare birds away from your lawn.
Scarecrows will deter birds for a few days. It doesn’t take long for birds to learn they are not a real threat.
However, an animatronic scarecrow that makes menacing motions at unpredictable times will keep birds away longer.
Dummy predators, such as scare owls, frighten birds away better than scarecrows. The best decoy owls and hawks are painted by hand to look like they have real feathers.
They have a range of motions that they go through at random intervals. Their eyes flash red or yellow. They operate on solar power, so maintenance is easy.
Dummy predators may be programmed to make predator sounds at random intervals to scare birds away.
You may need to control the volume so the dummy bird does not disturb your family or your neighbors.
You can put up dummy predators anywhere you would hang wind chimes. Or, for that matter, just hang up wind chimes.
The inconsistent sound of the chimes blowing in the wind keeps birds on guard. But wind chimes are not as effective as dummy birds for keeping seed-robbing birds away.
Scare birds away with reflective surfaces
A low-budget approach to scaring birds off your lawn involves hanging up old compact disks as reflective deterrents.
All you need is old CDs and a twine or string. Colored twine or string is better, so you can see it. If you are concerned that twine isn’t sturdy enough, use the fishing line.
Take a foot or two (30 to 60 cm) of the twine, string, or fishing line and loop it through the center of the CD. Cut different lengths so the CDs will hang at different levels.
Three knots in the supporting twine or line or string will hold the CD tight. Then hang the other end to objects visible from your newly seeded lawn.
As the CD blows in the wind, it reflects the sun. It creates the illusion of a prism. Birds don’t like that.
The more the CD blows in the wind, the more it will annoy the birds. It can freak them out, at first.
Eventually, birds will get used to the CDs and ignore them. And take care that you don’t hit them yourself when you go out to inspect your lawn.
CDs hung from awnings can also protect decks and porches.
Put up a garden pinwheel
Garden pinwheels are decorative moving shiny objects that scare birds away.
Some are made of plastic but painted metal pinwheels last longer.
Pinwheels spin whenever the wind blows. They keep birds away, and they serve as a decoration for your lawn when it is up and growing.
Feed birds somewhere else
Redirecting bird traffic is another way to protect freshly seeded lawns.
You don’t want birds to eat seeds in your newly planted lawn, so put up a bird feeder somewhere else.
It is easier to peck seeds out of a feeder than out of the ground, so maybe they will leave your grass seeds alone.
This approach may work when you already have birds eating your grass seed. It’s not a good idea before you sow your lawn in the first place.
You should take down bird feeders a couple of weeks before seeding your lawn. This is just a method of reducing the damage.
Enlist the help of your dog and cat
If you seeded a fenced lawn, then your dog and cat can help guard it against bird-seed thieves. Birds won’t land where large potential predators are waiting for them.
And if they do, your dog or cat will get some additional exercise chasing them away.
Don’t leave your dog or cat in a large, unfenced yard unless you live in a rural area and your lawn is far away from any road.
Be careful about leaving pets where they can encounter snakes, raccoons, skunks, or raptors that might snatch them away.
Plant extra seed
If you anticipate you are going to have a problem with birds, you can always just plant more seeds.
There will always be some seed that gets blown away by the wind, rots in the ground, or is eaten by birds or mice.
If you start with more seeds than you need, you may eventually get the right amount of grass to germinate.
It can take some guesswork to hit on the grass-protection strategy that works. You may have to use more than one method simultaneously to keep birds off your newly planted lawn.
But the time and money you spend on bird deterrents are almost always less than the time and money you would spend replanting your lawn.
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