BONNIE’S GARDEN – How to Keep Birds Out of Your Hanging Baskets

Beautiful blooming hanging baskets are here. They’re perfect for porches, balconies, even a shepherd’s crook in the yard. And it’s about time for the birds to move in and make them their home for the summer.

Every spring, I hang a beautiful hanging basket by my front door. And every year, I have little house wrens wanting to build nests in them. The first time it happened, I thought, “Won’t it be fun to watch the babies hatch and grow?”

The Problem With Birds in Hanging Baskets

Not so much fun–cleaning bird poop off the side of the house and watching the plant (it was a Boston fern that year) die because it was difficult to water with the baby birds in there. And it was even more fun when the first baby flew the nest, landed on the sidewalk and was promptly nabbed by my neighbor’s cat.

Every year, I keep a close eye on the basket, checking it for nesting debris every day when I walk by it. If I miss just a day or two, I’ll find a nearly completed nest in there. I hate to destroy their handiwork, but I remove the nest and take down the basket for a couple of days hoping they’ll get the message and move on. Sometimes it works after just one time—sometimes it takes several tries.

Solving the Problem

I did a little reading and looked for other suggestions on keeping birds out of my hanging baskets and here are some of the suggestions I found:

  1. You can keep on doing what I’ve been doing—remove nesting material every day and take the basket down for a day or two until they give up and move on.
  2. Buy plastic forks and sticking them in the soil of the basket—no nice level area on which to build a nest.
  3. Coil a rubber snake in the hanging basket. Move it every day or two to simulate a real snake. I’d probably make sure the head is tucked inside the pot so as not to scare the next person who knocked on my door.
  4. Attach strips of foil to the hangers on the pot. The movement and light shining off the foil will keep the birds away. Don’t know that I want strips of foil fluttering by my front door, but if it works….
  5. Hang the basket in front of a window and encourage your pet cat to nap in the window. Good idea—if I wanted to hang a basket in front of the window, instead of by my front door–where there is no window. And have you ever tried to encourage a cat to nap where YOU want? They’ll nap where THEY choose, thank you very much!
  6. I Googled “bird repellents” and got some sort of ultrasonic device—for your yard, cost of $670, for a balcony or patio sized area $70.00. Right! $70 to repel wrens from one $19.99 hanging basket…
  7. This one from Martha Stewart—hang bird netting over your hanging basket. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of putting up a pretty plant in the first place?
  8. Provide birdhouses in more appropriate locations—for more information check out the National Wildlife Federation.

So, if you have this problem, there are some choices. Maybe I’ll try the rubber snake. And next time my youngest son, the practical joker, comes by maybe I’ll ask him to check the basket for water.

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24 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – How to Keep Birds Out of Your Hanging Baskets”

  1. Thanks! There’s one more suggestion I didn’t mention–dog and/or cat hair. With four cats I have an ABUNDANCE of cat hair–enough to line the entire hanging basket with it. We’ll see how it goes….

  2. I have several hanging Boston ferns and had this problem for several years. I purchased a pack of wooden skewers, cut them in half or quarters and insert them throughout the fern. The birds haven’t tried to nest ever since!!

    • Yeah, that could work, too. Like sticking the plastic forks in there, it does’t give them a comfortable place to perch!

  3. This article is so funny, but of course I am laughing at myself. After enduring the wrens in the fern basket too, I vowed to battle the birds. A pair of robins built a nest in my gazebo last year and took territorial command of it so that we had to abandon the space as they dive bombed us and drove us back into the house. So this year when they returned, it was war. I am losing. Every morning there are 2-4 places in the eaves where they are working – I sweep it all out. Now they have upped the ante with mud. It is a mess and they don’t seem ready to cede their desire to build. Other than the snake, none of the basket ideas seem workable for eaves. The lower eaves are now stuffed with crunched up newspaper but they are working higher up where a broom can just touch. Any more recommendations?!

    • I wish I had something else to suggest. You could try shooting a sharp spray from the hose up there–I’d make sure there weren’t any babies in the nests, however.

  4. My mother in Florida used to wrap fishing line around her front porch hanging planter. If allowed the fern to grow through but kept the birds out.
    I have been using the forks for several years to keep the squirrels from throwing out the dirt from the potted porch plants in order to hide there nuts. A farmer friend from Mississippi came north for a visit and commented that growing forks must be a northern thing. He had never seen any growing in the south!

  5. Have you tried filling all the non-plant space in the pot with gumballs or small pine cones, wedging them in? I’ve done that for several years and it seems to work well for my porch pots.

    • Mary, that’s what I do to keep my indoor kitties out of my larger potted plants. I could try it in my hanging baskets–but right now I’m having fun with the rubber snake….LOL

  6. I tried all the typical suggestions, but they always found a way to tuck nest into my hanging ferns. Years ago I gave in, now allowing them to have their nest with little worry. I cut out a large hole in the bottom of the pot the ferns come in and cut off the hangers. Sink that pot into my own hanging baskets that are first lined with coconut liners then a big cheap plastic bowl. The fern pot fits nicely into the plastic bowl with enough room to put water into the bowl instead of on the plant soil. The ferns do much better with a bowl full of water to soak up. They grow so lush that I usually don’t know there’s a nest until winter clean up time. Watering may disturb a sitting mom for a minute but she comes right back.

  7. Little plastic eggs from the craft store work as well. I do it every year and it has solved the problem.

  8. Another big problem with nests is that they can become infested with bird mites! I learned this the hard way when I moved one fern leaf to see the cardinals’babies. My hand became completely covered with mites! So be careful….

  9. We have put a row of hanging Boston ferns on the front porch for a number of years, and tried everything to deter the nesting birds. They seem to like the lush ferns we grow.
    I have tried about everything mentioned above and failed.
    The last two years we have put realistic bird “decoys” in the ferns and that seems to work, as the little guys are quite territorial.

    A couple more Boston fern tips-
    The baskets are always root bound when I get them. They really need to be transplanted into bigger baskets.
    They also thrive on lots of regular watering. Daily full soak on hot summer days. I rigged up a drip irrigation system, combined with pots with reservours. A timer set to fill to run off every other day, then switched to every day in the hot months, and my ferns grow huge and lush, often with tendrils nearly to the ground. They are glorious and get frequent comments and enquiries. And the lovely thing is…. Its all automated and requires zero maintenance!

    Now to figure out how to keep the squirrels out of the tomatoes……

    • I have the solution to keeping squirrels out of your tomatoes! You’ll notice they take one bite, then drop them. That’s because they’re after the moisture content. They never start messing with them until mid-summer, when we’re hot and dry. Use a repellent containing capsaicin (Hot Pepper Wax is the one I use) and spray it directly on the fruit. The worse that will happen if you forget to rinse it off when you eat it, is you’ll get a little heat in your salad! 🙂 That said, because it’s a matter of survival for the squirrels, you need to provide them with and easily accessible water source 10 or 15 feet away–a bird bath, even a plastic saucer kept filled with fresh water.

      I actually put cob corn and peanuts out for the squirrels so I have a lot around–but this works.


  10. I recently shaved one of my dogs for his annual spring haircut. I was lazy and just swept the hair off the side of my deck. Later in the week I saw a bird coming and going to grab the dog hair and fly off with it. I’m assuming to use it as nesting material. What else would a bird do with dog hair? So I’m not sure how animal hair would work for the hanging baskets. Good luck everyone!

    • I’ve grown many plants in hanging baskets–geraniums, dragon-wing begonias, ferns–birds used to get in all of them and build nests. Not now, of course.

  11. Why not use something different in your hanging pot like geramiums. Never had that problem with them.

  12. I would also like to have suggestions fo keeping both RABBITS and DEER for consuming my beautiful HEUCHERAS!
    Thanks, nmc.

    • There are many many repellents on the market that work. What I use is a dusting of cayenne pepper on what they’re eating. That works. I also plant herbs in and around my veggie garden and flower garden–Ever notice that the main ingredients in some of your repellents are mint oil, rosemary oil, etc? I just use the live plants in pots–and it works.

  13. The great suggestion of dog and or cat hair in the basket. The birds lined their nests with the hair my dogs shake off in the yard. I put up birdhouses and that’s what I found in the nests.

  14. Bev–After doing some reading and a little experimentation, I found
    that the pet hair works best in repelling rodents–like chipmunks, etc. It smells like a predator. I don’t think birds notice scent the way that mammals do.

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