The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Beating birds to the berries

Ripening blueberries

Berries are much simpler than tree fruit.  At least in our climate, the former are less prone to bug and disease problems, and many berry bushes start fruiting when they're a year or less old.  But berries do have two major problems --- picking time and bird predation.  People are always asking me how we keep birds out of our berries, and the truth is that we'd never had much of a problem...until this year.

This spring, the blue jays were so bad amid our strawberries that I'll admit I shot at them to get the family to move out of the yard.  It's illegal to kill a blue jay without a permit from the game warden, but you can scare the birds off with frequent shots into your strawberry patch.  I was very relieved when the jays moved on, leaving the rest of the berries for me.

Pecked blueberrySo when our blueberries started getting eaten, I thought perhaps the corvids were once again at fault.  Nope.  Mild-mannered cardinals were responsible for pecking each ripening fruit just before it became 100% sweet, ruining the flesh that they didn't consume.

At this busier time of year, Mark and I didn't have time to put much energy into the bird problem, so we waited...and it went away.  No, the cardinals didn't stop dining, but the heavier-bearing bushes began ripening their fruits, and there were soon so many blueberries present that the birds couldn't really put a dent in the harvest.

My conclusion is that, short of a voracious family like this spring's blue jays, your best bet is simply to overplant berries so that you can share with the birds.  Yes, you can rig up some kind of bird deterrent or build a frame to cover with netting, but isn't it easier just to double your planting and dine with the cardinals?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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My grandparents complained about the blueberry net they put out, because birds would get trapped under it, so it really didn't do any good. I didn't put anything out, but I still got a lot of blueberries for my two young bushes! I think maybe because I'm in a more urban area, but I also know that there were plenty of berries that got eaten by birds before I could claim them. I'm not sure if it was the humming bird who has claimed our feeder for her own or what. I don't really mind... The cats love sitting in front of the sliding glass door and bird watching. The people do, too! So much so that my husband bought us a finch feeder to go on the porch, too. The neighbors must think we're crazy. :)
Comment by Emily from Bristol Thu Aug 7 17:09:30 2014

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