Skip to Content

Protect Your Blueberries from Birds & Other Animals

I love watching the hummingbirds flitting about the scarlet bee balm in the backyard. When it comes to keeping the cabbage worms in check, it’s hard to beat the local bluebird population. All in all, I enjoy the birds that visit our yard, and I go out of my way to attract them.

But when my blueberries start to ripen, those warm, fuzzy feelings toward the birds grow cold.

They can have the seed I put out and all the bugs that are trying to destroy my vegetable garden, but they may not have my blueberries. It’s infuriating seeing the crop I worked so hard to grow eaten and picked apart. And if you’re reading this, then I’m sure you know what I mean.

Thankfully, there are quite a few easy and inexpensive methods of keeping birds and blueberries apart. Let’s jump in!

When Do You Need to Start Protecting Blueberries

You only need to use some sort of deterrent while the blueberries are ripe. Like us, birds pay little attention to green berries and are only interested once blueberries are ripe. Once the green berries begin to get that first blush of blue, it’s time to protect them. Keep them protected until you’ve finished harvesting all of your berries for the season.

Naturally, this also depends on how you’re protecting your berries.

If you’re using some sort of shelter with netting, you might choose to keep it in place all year. Just be sure whatever you use doesn’t prevent pollinators from reaching the flowers in the spring and that you can easily access the bushes for pruning.

Ways to Protect Blueberries from Birds & Animals

Bird Netting

Bird netting seems to be the go-to for many folks, and it’s extremely effective at keeping birds and other animals away.

However, it’s a down-right pain to work with if you’re not using some sort of frame to attach it to. If you’re simply draping it over your blueberry bushes, you’re going to have a rough go with it.

As my partner complained while dealing with it:

  • It sags
  • It catches on everything, including the blueberry bushes
  • Every time you go to adjust it, it pops blueberries off the bushes.

Not to mention, if you’re using it loose, it’s easy for a bird to become entangled in the netting. While we don’t want them to eat our blueberries, we aren’t out to harm them either.

If you’re going to use bird netting effectively, it should be stretched taut and stapled to a frame that either houses each blueberry bush, or that is built to shelter all of them. Here’s a tutorial on how to build a bird netting frame for blueberries using PVC pipes and zip ties.

For the next few suggestions, might I suggest you hit up your local Dollar Store? These bird deterrents are all quick, easy and very cheap to use.

Grape Kool-Aid

Yes, you read that right; the purple sugary drink we all used to imbibe as kids is an effective and cheap way of keeping birds away from your blueberries. But you have to use the grape variety for it to work. Grape Kool-Aid contains methyl anthranilate. (It’s an ester of anthranilic acid and has a notable grape taste and smell, making it the perfect flavoring agent for grape drinks and candies.)

While many a small child loves the flavor of methyl anthranilate, birds hate it.

Mix four packets of grape Kool-Aid into a gallon of water and pour into a sprayer. Spray your blueberries liberally. You’ll need to reapply it each time it rains, but for about $1.50, you can make a cheap, easy and effective bird deterrent. You can also use this to keep birds from eating cherries and grapes.

Pinwheels

It seems the dollar store always has these fun childhood favorites in stock. Look for the shiny ones, as the flashing and movement are what scares birds away. Poke them in the ground around your blueberry bushes as your berries begin to ripen. Place a few in the bushes themselves.

For these to work well, it helps to move them every few days to prevent the birds from getting accustomed to them. Also, you only want to use them when you’re harvesting blueberries. Set them out when the berries start ripening, and then bring them in once your blueberry harvest is finished. Again, this keeps the birds from getting used to them.

Snakes

Yes, snakes! The toy, rubber kind that is.

I tried to convince this little fella to stick around, but he had clearly already eaten.

(Although, the real thing will do the trick as well.) Grab a few snakes and place them around your blueberry bushes where they’re visible. Opt for toy snakes that are more realistic in color.

Much like the pinwheels, the snakes are most effective if you move them every few days to keep the birds on their toes.

(It’s also polite to warn family and friends about the rubber snakes lying about the yard unless, of course, your family’s sense of humor leans more toward the practical joking side. Then, by all means, enjoy the shouts of unsuspecting blueberry pickers.)

The Dollar Store Three

While each of these does a good job on its own, you’ll get the best results when you deploy all three bird deterrents at once: the grape Kool-Aid, pinwheels and snakes.

Blueberry Bags

These mesh blueberry bags are great! You’ll need one for each bush. Simply slip them over your blueberry bushes and cinch them closed at the bottom. Some come with zippers that allow you easy access to your berries without removing the whole bag.

It’s best not to leave these on all year, as they aren’t meant for continued use in all kinds of weather. However, for the few weeks each summer when blueberries are in season, they do an excellent job of protecting blueberries from birds and other animals.

Unfortunately, the problem with all of these options is they are completely useless against humans. Yes, if you have small children or a spouse who is a blueberry fiend, there really isn’t much you can do. Except maybe plant more blueberry bushes.


Get the famous Rural Sprout newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Including Sunday ramblings from our editor, Tracey, as well as “What’s Up Wednesday” our roundup of what’s in season and new article updates and alerts.

We respect your email privacy


Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,

Tracey
[simple-author-box]