Watching For Wildlife On the Farm, Part 2: Birds!

Birds will find their way into your farm outbuildings, and your best best is to discourage most of them from nesting. Here are a few things you can do.

by Anna O'Brien
PHOTO: Cosmin Nedelcu/Pixabay

Last month we discussed some common mammals hobby farmers might encounter on their property. This month, let’s give mention to another type of frequent farm wildlife encounter: birds.

Birds, Birds, Birds

Barns and other farm structures are no stranger to birds. Outbuildings serve as prime nesting sites for a variety of winged inhabitants, including:

  • barn swallows
  • wrens
  • house sparrows
  • pigeons
  • starlings
  • barn owls
  • numerous other species

Our barns and sheds so frequently house birds that they tend to become just part of the animal milieu. While many avian species are helpful to have around for bug control, sometimes birds on a farm can become a nuisance.

Nesting sites mean the accumulation of bird droppings, which can spread disease and cause corrosion of equipment. Some species are destructive when building nests, impacting insulation and wiring.

Read more: You’ll encounter wildlife on any farm. Here’s what to keep in mind when a mammal shows up.

Barns as a Buffet for Birds

Wild birds also see barns as an easy food source. As discussed last month, trash and uncovered grain will attract all kinds of animals, including some birds. Birds can easily contaminate large stores of exposed feed with droppings as well.

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So how do we deal with birds in the barn? The first step is to accept that you will not be able to “bird-proof” your barn completely. This is not only impractical and unnecessary, but not worth the frustration and effort.

The goal should be to discourage and thereby limit the number of birds that call your barn home. You live with the rest.

Limiting is accomplished by employing a variety of tactics. No one tried and true method works in all situations. Here are some tips to help reduce birds in your barn:

  • Keep your barn clean! Sweep up spilled grain and collect and remove trash often.
  • Keep feed inaccessible via sealed containers.
  • Discourage bird entry into barns with wide, open doors by installing plastic strips in the doorways. These allow people/animals/equipment in, but prevents birds from flying in and out.
  • Discourage roosting by placing netting underneath rafters.
  • Install porcupine wires at sites used for frequent roosting or nesting. These work to prevent larger birds from nesting but not smaller birds such as starlings or sparrows.
  • Consider “employing” some barn cats. Depending on the size of the barn, install cat walks along the rafters to aid in feline patrols.

Read more: In the battle for cherries, it’s orchardist versus the birds.

A Note About Protections

One final note on wildlife protection. Almost all birds in the United States are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The unprotected exceptions are few enough to easily list here: the rock pigeon, European starling and the house sparrow.

A few other game species including but not limited to geese and ducks are also unprotected during hunting season, but hunting licenses are required.

This means that any lethal method (direct or indirect) to remove birds, other than the three species listed, from your property is illegal.

If you have a severe issue with birds on your farm property, call your local Department of Natural Resources (DNR). If, in working with professionals, you’ve concluded that protected birds do need to be removed/harmed on your property, a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit can be obtained from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Staff from this office will provide instructions on how to qualify and apply for this permit and how to use it.

Some FWS offices may also have equipment that can be loaned for humane bird removal purposes.

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