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Keep your farm shop bird-free

An open-sided machine shed can be a haven for birds, and that can mean a big mess if you let it go. So, what's the best way to keep the critters from making your machinery's home their own?

There are both low-tech time-tested means as well as newer electronic tools to keep the birds out of your farm shop. They're broken into three main categories: Preventative, frightening and chemical.

Preventative measures are just that: Ways to keep birds from making themselves at home in the rafters and overhangs of a building like a farm shop. They include netting and other materials that keep the birds from being able to roost, says Charles Lee, Animal Damage Control Coordinator, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

"Maybe the key is to deny a roosting place. For example, nail up fine chicken wire or hardware cloth under the bottom chord," says Shop Talk member Jim Meade / Iowa City. "It might be a nuisance to block every single crack and cranny they could get into."

Other preventative tools include:

  1. Sticky repellents on rafters and ledges;
  2. Netting or metal coverings on outside eaves;
  3. Clear plastic strips over doorways (machinery, livestock and people can pass through; birds can not);
  4. Porcupine wires: "permanent, heavy wire prongs that stick out at different angles, making the area like a bed of nails," Lee says;
  5. Boards or metal coverings over ledges at 45-degree angles. "Make sure the ends are closed to prevent entry," Lee adds.

Preventative tools like these can disperse small numbers of nuisance birds, but you may need to step up to frightening devices, like alarms, balloons with "eyes" painted on them, and automatic gas exploders," says Lee.

"Simultaneous use of visual scare devices and noisemakers seems to be most effective. Visual scare devices must be moved frequently so birds do not become accustomed to them. With scaring sounds, use mobile sound equipment so the location of the sound can be changed. When using automatic gas exploders, elevate them above the vegetation," he says. "Birds are more willing to leave a roost they have not been using long. After detecting large numbers of roosting birds, act as quickly as possible. Some species are easier to move in the fall when they are restless and preparing to migrate. It often takes 5–7 nights or more of continuous effort for frightening programs to be effective."

Preventative tools include:

  1. Alarms
  2. Distress calls played over loud speakers
  3. Exploding shells
  4. Automatic gas exploders
  5. Tethered balloons with big 'eyes' painted on them
  6. Hawk silhouettes
  7. Water sprays
  8. Flashing lights

"I don't know if it would work for a large, long opening such as an open-faced shed or not, or if you would need more than one, and if you have power to the shed," says Shop Talk member tomtoolbag of electronic sound alarm systems.

Though there are chemical control methods available, Lee doesn't endorse them despite their efficacy. "Checmical control often does not provide satisfactory results," he says. "Because using chemical controls may result in birds dying in public places, a public relations problem may arise."

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