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Main Content

Unwanted Guests

By Margaret C. Brittingham and Shannon T. Falker

Large numbers of birds in and around barns, livestock and poultry facilities, and farm buildings can cause damage and unsanitary working conditions. Birds may consume and contaminate food and water, potentially transmitting diseases to livestock and poultry.

Accumulated droppings are messy and can corrode farm equipment. Nests often plug drains and gutters, and birds may cause additional damage by destroying insulation.

You can take steps to keep birds from becoming a problem or to lessen an existing problem.

Before beginning any control program, however, be familiar with the laws protecting birds and be able to identify which birds are causing the problem.

There is no one best way to control birds around farm buildings, since each situation is different. Whatever you choose, start your control efforts early, before the problem becomes overwhelming, and be persistent. Reducing bird problems takes time.

Avoid the Problem

One of the primary reasons birds are attracted to livestock facilities is the superabundant food source they find there. Limit food and water availability by following these farm management practices daily:

  • Clean up all spilled grain.
  • Store grain in bird-proof containers.
  • When possible, use covered feeders that exclude birds.
  • Maintain the water level in livestock waterers so it is deep enough that birds cannot stand in it, but shallow enough that it cannot be reached by a bird perched on the edge of the waterer.

Exclude Birds

The best way to reduce problems in outbuildings is to exclude birds from the buildings:

  • Hang plastic strips in doorways. To block doorways that cannot be kept closed, hang strips of heavy plastic vertically in the doorway. They allow machinery and people to pass through but keep birds out.
  • Close all openings that are more than a half-inch. Block openings to lofts, vents, and eaves with wood, metal, glass, or wire mesh. Repair broken window panes.
  • Use netting. Exclude birds from roosting sites by covering the undersides of the rafters with netting.

Reduce Appeal to Roost and Nest

Try reducing the attractiveness of the roosting and nesting sites:

  • Fit roost sites with slanted metal or wooden boards at an angle of at least 45 degrees.
  • Install mechanical perch repellents (porcupine wires). These consist of sharp wires or spikes that extend outward at all angles. The spikes are fastened to a solid base and can be installed wherever birds roost or nest. The points inflict temporary discomfort, causing birds to avoid these surfaces. These materials are not effective against smaller birds, such as house sparrows, because the birds can fit between the points and use the site for nesting.
  • Install electronic bird-control devices on roost and nest sites. This device consists of a cable embedded with two electrical conductors. The conductors carry an electric charge and give birds a shock when they land on it. These devices must be maintained to be effective.
  • Use chemical perch repellents. These are sticky or slippery substances that you caulk, spray, or paint on rafters and ledges where birds perch or nest. They do not work in very dusty areas.
  • Install catwalks. Install catwalks along the rafters and ledges to allow cats access to prime roosting and nesting sites. Birds avoid these areas when cats are patrolling.