Wind turbines, goat herds and other bird scaring experiments

Short of netting much of my allotment plot – which would be prohibitively expensive – I’ve recently been experimenting with different ways of deterring birds (mainly pigeons, I suspect) from nibbling, and occasionally completely destroying some of my crops.

Perversely, I’ve never had a problem with birds on my soft fruit – which you’d imagine would be their very first target – so over the last few years have left unnetted blackcurrants, raspberries and grapes. I hasten to add that I’ve never dared leave my strawberries unnetted though – I think that would be too much like tempting fate!

On the otherhand, the birds seemed to take a real shine to my onions last year – maliciously pecking off all the leaves, meaning that most of the bulbs just shrivelled up and died. Purple sprouting broccoli and young pea shoots are another delicacy that given half the chance would be down the pigeons’ gullets, so it’s been necessary to net – or this year, to deter birds by scaring devices and other barriers.

As a kid, I can remember you used to be able to buy various plastic ‘whirligigs’ for the garden – with a merry man either enthusiastically chopping wood, winding a well, fishing or cycling. I haven’t seen them for sale for years, but anyway would rather make something for free than having to buy in (especially as I’m doing my best to stop having plastic on my plot when I can).

Moving ‘whirligigs’ provide noise and movement to scare birds

So, while they may not look quite as attractive as a bought whirligig, I’ve been trying out a couple of different scarers, and at the same time recycling what would otherwise be chucked out. Both have proved successful at deterring the birds and created some unexpected entertainment on the plot at the same time!

  1. The wind turbine
Plastic bottles converted into wind turbines and protecting a crop of purple sprouting broccoli

Making your own turbine:
This is simply a 2 litre plastic bottle with two panels cut out (but still attached on opposite sides). For best effect use some chewing gum to glue the bottle top to the bottom of the inside of the bottle. Upend on to a bamboo cane above the plants to be protected. With the slightest bit of wind, the bottle should spin happily round, creating adequate noise and movement to deter birds.

2. The goat herd

The ‘goat herd’ protecting the young shoots of pea plants

Creating your own goat herd:
Take a cleaned out aluminium tin and puncture a hole in the centre of the base with a nail. Feed a piece of string through the hole. Tie a double knot about 10cm from the inside end. Tie a metal washer or bolt to the inside end. Pull taught and tie a double knot in the end of the string on the outside of the base. The string should now not move in or out of the tin. Slightly squashing the tin means the ‘clanger’ hits the sides more frequently. Tie the tin ‘bell’ to an angled cane, or wire above the plants to be protected. Set up a series of these to create your own gently clanging goat herd!

What do you use to deter birds from eating your crops?
Do you have any novel ideas you could share? Let us know!

Published by Nick

A plotholder on Craven Vale Allotment since 2010. I'm particularly proud of my expanding vineyard, which in a good year creates litres and litres of red and white wine! I love our site for the fabulous views over the sea and Downs, as well as the wealth of wildlife that can be found here. It really is a bit of countryside in the heart of the city. I feel very lucky to have my plot.

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