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How to protect your succulents from birds

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How to protect your succulents from birds

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Succulents are one of the most popular indoor houseplants. They give life to any living space while requiring minimal upkeep. One wonderful thing about succulents is that, in warm climate zone, you can also plant them outdoors and enjoy their vibrant colors shining brightly in direct sunlight. They look incredible in rock gardens and balconies and make a perfect addition to any landscape decoration. Succulents are very easy to care for and can stay beautiful without much pruning. However, when planting succulents outdoors, it's important to take precautions to protect them from potential threats like pests and sudden weather changes. One of the most damaging threats to outdoor succulents is animal eating, particularly by birds.

Bird damage to your succulent plants can be frustrating and discouraging, especially after you've put in the time and effort to create a beautiful garden. However, it's important to remember that birds play a vital role in the ecosystem and provide many benefits to your garden. Birds help control insect populations and add beauty and diversity to your outdoor space. It is therefore essential to use bird control methods that are humane and safe for both birds and plants. You don't want to harm the birds, but you also want to protect your succulent garden from damage. By implementing effective bird control strategies, you can strike a balance between creating a beautiful, healthy garden and providing a safe habitat for our feathered friends.

Signs of birds eating your succulents

If you're not able to directly observe birds eating your succulent plants, there are a few signs that can indicate it is birds causing the damage rather than other animals or pests. One clue is the pattern of the damage. Birds tend to peck at leaves and flowers, creating small holes and irregular patterns in the damaged areas. In contrast, other animals like rabbits and deer tend to leave more obvious signs of their feeding, such as gnawed stems or entire plants that have been eaten. Some birds, such as parrots or macaws, have strong claws that can leave marks on the leaves or stems of succulent plants. If you notice scratches or claw marks on your succulent plants, birds may be visiting your garden. Another sign that birds may be the culprits is the presence of bird droppings near the damaged succulents. Finally, if you've noticed birds frequently perching or flying around your succulent plants, or bird poop on your garden, it's likely that they're at least contributing to the damage.

Birds tend to peck at leaves and flowers, creating small holes and irregular patterns in the damaged areas.

It's important to note that other animals or pests, such as squirrels, rabbits, snails, or slugs, can also cause damage to succulent plants. It's essential to identify the specific cause of the damage before taking action to prevent it.

Why do birds eat your succulents?

In general, succulents are not typically a bird's preferred food. Birds are more commonly known to feed on insects, seeds, fruit, and nectar. Why are they eating your succulents? Birds may eat succulents for a variety of reasons. Birds have a varied diet, and some species may consume succulent plants as part of their natural feeding habits. For example, some birds may eat the insects that are attracted to succulent plants, or they may consume the plant material itself as a source of nutrition. Finches and sparrows may be attracted to the seeds or flowers of succulent plants. Other birds, like woodpeckers and parrots, may be drawn to succulent plants for their juicy and fleshy stems or fruits. In some cases, birds may simply be exploring their environment and may accidentally damage or uproot succulent plants in the process. Sometimes, birds may be attracted to succulent plants for other reasons, such as their shelter or nesting opportunities.

Additionally, birds may eat succulent plants when other food sources are scarce or unavailable, such as during drought or winter months. Succulent plants store water in their leaves, and birds may drink the water droplets that collect on the surface of the leaves. In arid regions where water is scarce, succulent plants can be a valuable source of hydration for birds.

How to protect your succulents from bird eating

There are several methods to keep birds away from your succulents. You can protect your precious plants without harming the birds. You may need to use more than one method to fully protect your plants. 

Install a physical barrier

Putting up a netting is a very effective way to keep your succulents out of reach of curious birds. There are a couple of types of netting available, including plastic and metal mesh netting. Plastic netting is lightweight and easy to handle, but it may not be as durable as metal mesh. Metal mesh netting is more long-lasting, but it can be more difficult to install and may require special tools. To install netting, start by measuring the area you want to protect. Cut the netting to size, leaving extra material on the edges to secure it in place. You can use garden stakes or tent pegs to hold the netting down around the edges. Make sure to keep the netting taut and free of any gaps that birds could slip through. Be careful not to damage your plants while installing the netting, and make sure to check on it periodically to ensure that it is still securely in place.

Make sure to keep the netting taut and free of any gaps that birds could slip through.
Photo: Pinterest.com

Alternatively, you can use a cage, like a ready-made chicken cage, or make your own one with chicken wire or hardware cloth to construct a sturdy frame. Make sure that the holes in the wire are small enough to prevent birds from reaching through and pecking at your plants. Place the cage over your succulent garden and secure it in place with stakes or rocks. Make sure that the cage is tall enough to allow your plants to grow and that it covers the entire garden bed.

Another option for physical barriers is using wire mesh. You can attach the wire mesh to stakes and place them around your garden bed, creating a barrier that birds cannot fly through. Make sure that the wire mesh is tall enough to prevent birds from reaching over the top and that it extends below ground level to prevent birds from digging underneath. You can also use a double layer of wire mesh for added protection.

Use a bird deterrent

One effective way to deter birds from eating succulents is to use visual deterrents. These are objects that can scare the birds away or make them feel uncomfortable around the plants. Some common visual deterrents include:

  • Reflective tape or flags: These create flashes of light and movement that can scare birds away.
  • Balloons or inflatable predators or owl or hawk decoys: These can also create the impression of predators and scare birds away.

You can also keep the birds away by using sound deterrents. These are objects that can create loud or unpleasant noises that can scare the birds away. Some common sound deterrents include:

  • Wind chimes or bells: These can create noise that can disturb birds and make them uncomfortable.
  • Ultrasonic devices: These emit high-pitched sounds that can be unpleasant for birds and keep them away from your succulents.
  • Bird distress calls: These can create the impression that there is danger nearby and scare birds away.

It's important to note that while these deterrents can be effective, they need to be rotated or moved around frequently to prevent birds from getting used to them and ignoring them.

Natural bird repellents

Natural repellents are another option to deter birds from eating your succulents. Here are two examples:

  • Prickly or thorny plants:Surrounding your succulents with other plants that have prickly or thorny leaves can discourage birds from getting too close. Some examples of plants with prickly foliage include holly, rose bushes, and cactus.
  • Spices and herbs: Birds have a strong sense of smell and some spices and herbs are known to be unappealing to them. Sprinkling cayenne pepper or chili powder around your succulents can make them less attractive to birds. Another option is to hang bunches of herbs like thyme or rosemary near your plants. Not only will they help repel birds, but they'll also add a pleasant aroma to your garden.
  • Dogs or cats: Your furry pets wandering around the garden or balcony may also keep the birds away. 

Set up a bird-feeding station and water bath

During times of drought or when the natural food sources for birds are scarce, setting up a feeding station and water bath in your garden can be a compassionate way to support the local bird population. However, it's important to position the feeding station and water bath away from your succulent plants, as birds may still become curious and accidentally damage your plants. While this method may not entirely prevent birds from eating your succulents, it can reduce their impact and provide the birds with much-needed nourishment and hydration.

Setting up a feeding station and water bath in your garden can be a compassionate way to support the local bird population.
Photo: kaytee.com

Last note:

  • You may need to use more than one method to fully protect your plants. 
  • You need to check on your plants regularly and adjust your methods as needed.
  • Finding a balance between protecting your succulents and providing a safe habitat for birds is very important. With the right strategies in place, you can enjoy a beautiful, healthy garden while also supporting the wildlife around you. 

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