How to Keep Birds from Blueberries

rob from njMay 24, 2011

We have a backyard blueberry patch that has become quite productive. Unfortunately, we don't get to eat the berries as the birds will strip the plants bare.

Last year we made a frame with bamboo and formed a cage with bird netting but that worked out poorly.

I had to rescue several birds and chipmunks from the netting, a couple of birds weren't so lucky and they still found their way inside and ate most of the fruit.

Has anyone come up with a way to deter determined birds from blueberries?


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I lose a few berries to the local birds every year, but I think less than 10% of the crop, so I guess I am lucky in that regard. There must be enough other food sources around to keep the birds from being totally focused on the blueberry crop. If I ever have to set up framework, and cover the shrubs, I will use non-woven row cover material. We use this to protect seedlings in our garden-it works great, and it allows sunlight to pass through, so the plants continue to grow.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 7:34AM
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I have a two foot high fence around my blueberries and then on top of that make a bird netting cage similar to yours. I had a few birds get in last year but it was just because I hadn't tied it down well enough. I don't think there's much alternative. Just try to make your netting more birdproof!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 7:44AM
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rob from nj

Thanks for the advice.

I'm thinking of using a repellent that uses Methyl Anthranilate.

Anyone have success with one?

I've only been able to find it in gallon sizes online. I think a pint or quart would be better for me. Any sources?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 9:59PM
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I drape old remnants of bird block (from years gone by) across my BB containers. The birds are completely repelled by it.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 11:35PM
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rob from nj

That's a lot tighter mesh than the netting we were using.

I think the birds had found that they could slide through the seams or under the bottom even though we had it weighted to the ground with bricks.

It might work though - Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 5:56AM
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I just had to plant enough so that there's plenty for me and the birds - I still begrudge them every one they take, but I don't have the time or inclination to fool with netting them.
Planted 25 additional bushes this spring

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 7:16AM
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LOL- same experience here, including the bamboo frame. plus, add a big black dog who would pounce on the birds caught in the netting, and a husband who would mow over the edges of the netting where it touched the was just a disaster. the birds are relentless, and blueberries seem to be their #1 target once they know they are there. hence i actually got some berries the first year or two before they were aware. finally bit the bullet and made an actual berry cage this year 12'x6'x6', wood frame with stapled on netting with a hinged door for access. I can get in and walk all around the plants. the other issue I had with plain netting is if you seal it so perfectly they can't get in, this makes harvesting a pain as you must unseal/reseal every time. the berries are not all ripe simultaneously as I have early-mid-late season varieties.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 7:29AM
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rob from nj

We actually made a bamboo frame all around the blueberry patch, used zip ties to attach it and had a roll up door so we could get to the plants easily.

So you made a wooden frame and stapled the bird netting to it or some other material? We may go that route.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 8:45AM
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I hammered in metal posts every 6 feet, zip tied wood posts to them. Screwed wood crossbars all along top and bottom and across the width. Bottom bars are fairly snug to the ground so when I put the netting on, I could fish it underneath to keep anything from sneaking under. I used a heavier gauge plastic netting than some of the cheaper bird nets. Basically I used nylon twine to stitch panels together on the ground, then put it on the frame and stapled it to the wood posts & rails. Door frame was made from the scraps and attached with hinges between 2 posts. hooks and bungee cords keep the door closed snug. Your roll up netting door for easy access was probably your weak point for bird entry too.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 12:31PM
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I had the same bird problem with blueberries and strawberries. The robins are the badguys!!! what I did was planted mulberry trees everywhere around my gardens. The mulberry fruits around the same time as the blueberries and strawberries. The birds would rather be up in a tree eating than on the ground. And it works...good luck! JOHN

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 12:52PM
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robj: regarding the methyl anthranilate, the cheapest way to get some is to buy unsweetened grape Kool-Aid. Four packages to one gallon of water. Thoroughly wet plants. Depending on rain or heavy dew, reapply as needed.

I got this info from some university site which I have forgotten. I tried it, but I can't say I had a very good test. Three sets of mockingbirds nested in the privacy hedges that close in my backyard and everything in the yard has been under tremendous pressure to feed the two hatchlings in each nest!!! Can't wait till the little buggers fledge and go away :-)

Anyway, the Kool-Aid is cheap (or "cheep", in my case) and you can gauge the effects without going after the pure chemical and then wondering how you will get rid of the excess.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 1:28PM
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rob from nj

Thanks for all the suggestions, especially the grape Kool-Aid information.

I feed the birds all winter and we provide nesting boxes in our yard.

You'd think these ingrates would know when to stop taking.... but noooo....

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 7:06AM
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strawberryjohn - I'll agree with you regarding mulberries as a diversion crop for strawberries(though I'd rather be eating mulberries off the tree than picking strawberries, too!), but most of my mulberries are long gone well before the first blueberry ripens here.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 10:34AM
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Does methyl anthranilate work for blueberries in a smaller sized patch? I only have about a dozen containers covering about a 40sqft area. Obviously it depends on the number of birds around who sample before deciding to leave, but just asking...

I'd just assume build a box around it, but not exactly the wife's preference and certainly not since I've been pushing to move them into the front yard into a nice planter.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 11:48AM
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I have four bushes outside of Philadelphia for ~ 8 years.
Each year I get more elaborate with my netting defense. I agree with others that you need a frame. Netting draped directly on bushes will tear off the tender berries and lead to all sorts of other problems. Here is what I observed and am concentrating on this year. The birds (especially these smart brown and black ones) appear quite able to burrow right under netting and even rip it with their beaks... but they only do this at ground level. I think they can walk up to netting and try to get through. The key is to protect the penetration at ground level. So... I am using 2 feet high wire fencing ( ~ 2cm square opening kind) the is securely anchored into the ground. This wire fencing closely surrounds a standard netting frame which also goes to ground level. BTW I built my frame from (gasp) ~1.5 inch pvc piping. I painted it brown to hide it more. It still somewhat a pain to set up and take down but is faster than metal or bamboo stakes.

BTW... we have water and several bird feeders that are ~ 20ft from the berries. I never see the birds that love my berries at the bird feeders. If my metal fencing does not work I swear I am getting a pellet pistol.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 10:02PM
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I hang a ceramic owl near my BB patch, and the birds stay far away, We mainly put it up to keep the pigeons from roosting on top of the air conditioners under the roof edges, but it works very well, every two years or so, I move the owl.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 5:34AM
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Here's what I finally did after many different attempts to
keep out the birds. I first ran 5 ft. chicken wire around
all my blueberry bushes. Then I shove a short half inch post
about 2 ft. long into the ground on each side of each bush. Then I put a 5 ft. piece of conduit (10 footer cut in half) on each post.
Then I put a 10 ft. piece of 3/4 inch pvc over each bush on to the posts (this forms a hoop over each bush). Then I draped netting over the hoops letting the netting hang over the fencing. Then I tied the netting to the fencing. Do not run the fencing down to the ground as the birds will get tangled in it. Once all is secure I raise the hoops up to make the netting more tight. It is amazing how many blueberries you can get when your not sharing with the birds. I have been eating a large bowl of blueberries evey day since July 1, 2010.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 1:03PM
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rob from nj

tom -

I'm having trouble picturing this. Could you post a photo or two please?

I've been spraying with the grape Kool-Aid. The berries haven't turned color yet so I don't know if this will work.

I'm about ready for the pellet gun too. ;)

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 7:08PM
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Sorry, but I do not know how to post pictures.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 12:38PM
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tom a

There are several spots on this forum that have instructions for posting pictures. Can you give it a try? Many would like to see what you have designed...

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 10:26PM
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I will try. I won't have the netting set up until July so the pictures I will try to send are from 2008 (the one with the gate) and the other view is from 2010. Well, my lunch break is over and I still haven't conquered this photobucket. I can try again tomorrow.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 1:07PM
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These ( I hope) are the pictures of my blueberry netting. I hope this works. I do not have the netting installed yet for 2011 as it is still early here. The pictures are from 2008 and 2010. The one with the gate is from 2008 and the other is from 2010. I can take some better pictures in a couple of weeks when I set up the netting for 2011 if anyone would like.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 8:57AM
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tom_a_z5il - Please take more pictures and post them! Once my blueberries get a bit older I plan on netting them since there are TONS of birds in my yard.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 12:46PM
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rob from nj

Thanks Tom. Now I understand what you did.

I'm hoping the grape Kool-Aid and fake owl will do the trick.

Mine are just about to ripen so I'll know soon enough.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 12:55PM
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Exactly what do you do with the Grape Kool-aid?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 1:25PM
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The owl did not work for me. The very next day there was a robin within a foot of my owl. The robins also just laughed at the six scare eye balloons I put up.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 3:08PM
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I will admit that if a robin gets caught red-handed in my netting, screeching loudly to warn other robins of the peril, I do not rush to set it free and sin again.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 3:59PM
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Thanks Tom a

Those pictures helped a lot. I hope we get to see more later this year.

What is the width and length of the netting you are using? Where did you get it from? Any problem with birds going through mesh that large?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 10:10PM
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More on the Kool-Aid. I tried it with my blueberries but it didn't seem to help. I eventually cobbled together a structure from PVC and netted it. As Tom said, it's amazing how many berries you can pick when the birds can't get to them.

That said, someone has declared the Kool-Aid a winner with his cherries. But he is using twice the concentration I gave from the article I read (so he was using 2 pkgs/qt.) and he also is using a little soap as a wetting agent so the stuff doesn't just run off.

I may try again with my boysenberries which are always such a Medusa's tangle with the netting since here they fruit over a long period while the new canes are actively growing. They're a mess already.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 12:22AM
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I used 1 and 1/4 nylon mesh netting which was 30x117 feet. I purchased it form lee valley garden tools. Good question about the birds. The small birds, the chickadees and the american goldfinch do go in and out at will. I believe the goldfinch are eating the leaves however, a couple of years ago I had a dozen orchard orioles get in there. I had never seen them before and they were only there for 2 days. I am attempting to send more picures. An overview of the netting, a good days picking, and an orchard oriole in the netting. The amounts the small birds get is minimal. The robins would eat every berry as soon as they begin turning blue. I keep the netting fairly tight by raising the pvc hoops and I keep the netting off the ground. This has nearly elimanated birds getting tangled in the netting.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 1:13PM
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rob from nj

Well the Kool Aid and plastic owl didn't do squat. I got to eat about a dozen berries at about $3 each. I'll be making "tom" style frame before next season.

For some reason, the photos are not showing above. Let me give it a try:

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 7:07AM
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I put up the netting last week and tried to post them with no success. Imagine my surprise to see them in your post this morning. I took the pics in three steps so you would have a clearer idea. After the hoops are up I drag the netting down the center aisle then run the netting over the hoops one side at a time. I attach the netting to the chicken wire with either twist ties or hooks I made from scraps.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 12:55PM
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rob from nj

Thanks for the effort you went to post photos of your setup. Nice sized bluberry patch you have there.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 7:23PM
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My inlaws have a large patch of perhaps 40 or 50 plants. They have PVC plumbing pipe painted brown making a large frame around the patch with a few standing poles in rows in the center with coated wire connecting the center poles to the outside frame. It gets covered with a large birdnet covering sewn together of several widths of birdnetting. It is too large for them to get over the frame easily, so they invite all the family and friends who come to pick berries to help put up the net in the spring and to take it down in the fall before the trees start shedding leaves. To store, it gets loosely rolled the long way and then bundled into a large garbage can. Once it is up, there is a velcro strip for a door and the bottom of the net is held down with long strips of wood weighted down with bricks. The frame stays up year round and has so far lasted well over 10 years, perhaps 15 years or so.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 9:56PM
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antlers(IL Zone 5)

I use individual blueberry bushes in my landscape so covering them can be challenging. I am attaching a few pictures of what we call the "bird globe". Made with 1/2" PVC tubing and 6 T-connectors. Make sure the connectors angle out away from the base of the plant at a 45 degree angle to give it it's round shape. Yeah, it looks stupid but only needs to be in place for about a month or so. Without it, robins would have me cleaned out in one day. It is held down with T-bar stakes. It is easy to turn the stake and remove it for picking. I store them under my deck when not in use. So far has kept all birds out. However they do perch on it sometimes and leave their droppings on my berries. Need to add some spikes to the top.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 11:25PM
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rob from nj

They actually look pretty cool. You should patent them.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 7:37AM
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danzeb(7a long island)

Antlers: Your "bird dome" is a very nice design for individual plants. Aesthetically It's the nicest looking cage design I've seen.

I tried hanging CD's from high blueberry bushes. It worked for about two weeks until a brave mocking bird decided to chance eat some blueberries. Once he realized it was safe he came back with his friends and ate them all.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Here's what I have done with 1/2" PVC and the typical bird netting. The other containerized plants just starting to leaf out are raspberries.

Works great. I don't have to crawl around on my hands and knees like I used to and I get loads of berries that I never could beat the birds to before.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 11:30AM
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Ive had a similar problem with grapes, best way to keep birds from eating the grapes was to eliminate the birds. Best way I found to do that was to use rat traps with the plastic trigger holder tray thingy. Just set them among the plants and put a few ripe berries on the trigger deal and when the birds try to peck the berries, end of bird. I have nothing against birds, or rabbits, until they start eating my food, then the gloves come off and its war... If I could plant enough to share I would, but living in town, thats not an option for me.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 8:46AM
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Any plans, tips, or suggestions you have for the bird globe would be much appreciated. I've tried building the base a couple times only to have the either the pipe snap out of the T connectors, or the T breaks. I have also heated the PVC to bend it some, but same results. I love your design, it's the best I've seen.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 8:05PM
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Those globes are not built from PVC but from drip irrigation tubing and fittings. Easy to bend.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 11:07PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Steve more pictures of how you constricted the entrace would be useful. Currently I have individual boxes, but would like to build a similar structure to yours. It's difficult to lift the boxes.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 11:23PM
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If you every get over 6 plants in a row, this isn't a bad way to go. I've had to make a few modifications, but now I really like this system a lot. I'm in northern MN, so all of my plants are "1/2 High" varieties like Chippewa, Polaris, St Cloud, North Blue, Superior, etc. This means that they don't get much taller than about 3ft or 4ft. Actually, most growth that I get above 3ft gets winter killed.

The post with cross "T" is @ about 42" now. The "T" can be raised or lowered on the post to some degree. The wire is the heavier guage electric fence type wire. I have it set up so that I can easily control the tension on the wires. Higher tension when the netting is on and less when the net is off.

The hose that is holding down the netting has been replaced with 10ft sections of 1/2" rebar.

To raise the netting for picking, I place snap type clothespins ever 4ft on the wire. Then you can easily throw the side netting up on the top netting. It goes very fast and at the end of the picking season there is no framework to store.

I originally had individual cages, but storing all of that extra bulk was a problem and a waste of time. I'm much happier with this system. 2 people can put the netting on two 72ft rows (144ft total) in about 15 minutes. Taking it off is the same. Rebar placement is another 20 minutes.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 8:29AM
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Drew, the door itself is just a rectangle of PVC with a center brace, constructed using standard T and L fittings. It should be just slightly smaller than the framed opening so that small birds cannot wiggle through the gap.

Once the frame has been fitted--not glued--together you saw through in two places on the side where you want the hinges to go, and remove a section slightly wider than the thickness of an eye bolt. The eyebolt should have a screw shaft long enough to extend through a nylon washer, the PVC frame, and allow for a lock nut. The size of the eye is determined by the metal pipe that you insert into the door frame to span the cut segment.

This metal pipe is the only bad news. When I originally did this for my PVC greenhouse I was using 1" PVC and 3/4" metal conduit made a nice fit inside. Nothing I have found fits well in the 1/2" PVC I used for the net house :-( I eventually settled on a length of galvanized pipe that would fit, but it's really too loose in there. I need to turn the door around to have it open on the opposite side and I will probably reconstruct it with 3/4" PVC so I can use 1/2" metal conduit for the inside pipe. You need a good length of pipe inside the cut PVC and you screw the PVC and metal together in several places on both sides of the eye bolt to hold everything together.

Once the metal inserts with eye bolts are in place you can glue the door frame together. Then you need someone to help hold things up while you mark where to drill the holes for the eye bolts to pass through the frame of the net house.

The simple latch is made from another eye bolt.

On the inside I took a couple of galvanized connecting strips and used one as a "bolt" and another (bent into shape) as a catch. Lock nuts hold the "bolt" at the correct position.

Edit: Forgot to mention: you need to drill a series of small holes in the bottom of the door. When I had to redo the door on my greenhouse (I forget why now) I was shocked to find that rainwater had made its way in where the hinges were and filled up half the door! Of course, it never rains here any more......

This post was edited by steve_in_los_osos on Sat, Aug 16, 14 at 11:19

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 5:56PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Nice & crafty guy's!

A simple way of covering bushes without a frame work and no killing birds, no tangling, with row cover,...been using it for years now, tied together with binder clips.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 2:51PM
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It amazes me what we are willing to spend for the protection of or most loved plants.
My wife complains in an understanding voice which tends to dissapate as the fruit begins to hit her palate.
She allows it if it is in the budget.
Wives and husbands are very much like are plants.
We are willing to go to great lengths to protect them and we savor the rewards of our labors toward our love for them.
Sorry, I am just a romantic when it comes to those two loved labors.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2014 at 9:20PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Thanks Steve,

I see the hinge is not easy. I need to do something like you did as i have a large area that needs protection.
I would like to protect the raised beds on the left.

Another angle.

I really appreciate the time to explain it. It helps a lot!

I have another area with blackberries I also would like to cover.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 8:46PM
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This worked for my figs, haven't tried it yet with the blueberries. I put a very life like fake snake and a life like owl in the trees and moved them about every three days. The birds didn't get many if any of the figs.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 8:27PM
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