Dealing with Barn Birds
Anyone with a livestock barn has undoubtedly dealt with barn birds. While a casual observer may find any bird to be a pleasant site, farmers in particular know that birds can be quite bothersome. Between the nearly constant noise, damage to buildings and the potential of spreading disease, it is best to not only deal with barn birds immediately, but to also to take steps towards preventing them from returning.
The Usual Suspects
There are many types of birds that can seek refuge in your livestock barn or storage building, but certain birds are more commonly found than others. Some of the more common barn dwelling birds are:
- Swallows – These birds have a long and slender body with noticeably pointed wings. They are extremely common on farms, as they primarily feed on flies and other flying insects. Aside from constant noise and creating nests that can damage a buildings framework or siding, these birds have become very well known for their tendency to dive-bomb anyone or anything that comes to close to their nest.
- Pigeons – This breed is very well known, as they can be found any place that has some type of food to offer. Around barns, pigeons are generally found nesting in the rafters, as they prefer to nest on a flat surface. Pigeons will most commonly flock to barns to feed on grain feed that has been spilled or is improperly stored.
- European Starlings – These birds have a similar feeding tendency to pigeons, because they prefer to eat loose grain, berries and any type of leftover scraps that may come from people or livestock. European starlings tend to be tolerant of people, so they are not likely to aggressively protect their nest. The trouble with these birds however, is the fact that they are cavity nesters, often building nests inside drain pipes or holes in the walls or ceiling, which can cause serious damage if not tended to.
- Sparrows – Sparrows are close in nature to swallows but tend to be less aggressive in protecting their nest. Like swallows, sparrows feed on flying insects, but they will also feed on scraps of food and garbage that are left in the open. These birds primarily nest in caverns in walls or ceilings but they will also nest in rafters, behind shutters and under eaves if necessary. If nesting in an open area, sparrows will build their nests in a dome shape to mock the cavernous space they prefer. These nests are large and messy, which makes removing them somewhat challenging.
- Owls – While being perhaps the least common bird on this list, owls are a rather common sight on farms, especially ones with empty or rarely used buildings. Owls prefer to nest in cavities, so empty buildings are prime real-estate. These birds feed on small rodents, such as mice, voles, bats and so on, and prefer to hunt in large, open fields. With the natural tendencies of these birds, it is no surprise that they are often found living in the barn. However, these birds prefer quiet, less traveled areas, so if you actively use your barn space you are less likely to see them.
Aside from simply being a noise disturbance, birds can carry a number of diseases that can have a damaging effect on both humans and livestock. With nesting birds in the barn, you and your livestock particularly are in danger of contracting any of the following:
- Encephalitis – This can cause inflammation of the brain tissue. Symptoms can include fever, headache, neck stiffness, vomiting and in severe cases may cause hallucinations, seizures dementia and more. This is most commonly a viral infection, but it can stem from bacteria as well.
- Histoplasmosis – This is a type of lung infection caused from inhaling fungal spores found in bird droppings. Symptoms include fever, dry cough, chest pain and in severe cases may cause shortness of breath or coughing up blood.
- Salmonella – This is a type of food poisoning caused from a bacteria found in bird feces. Contracting salmonella can result in diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Often times this bacteria is ingested unknowingly by a person that has not washed their hands after removing a bird nest or coming in contact with an infected bird.
- Toxoplasmosis – This is an infection caused by a parasite often found in bird droppings. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, headache and muscle aches and pains. If left untreated, symptoms can worsen to include brain inflammation, seizures and blurred vision.
- Cryptococcus – This is an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain. This is a viral infection that can cause vomiting, confusion, hallucinations, sensitivity to light and in severe cases may lead to brain damage or hearing loss.
These diseases can affect both humans and livestock, which is why birds should always be discouraged from making your barn a permanent residence. If just one animal becomes infected with any of these diseases, not only is there a higher chance for disease to spread among your herd, but there is also the risk of passing the disease on to humans. Be sure to check your herd regularly for any signs of distress, as this could indicate an infection of some sort.
To ensure that your barn is free from birds, there are a number of preventative measures that you can take. For those that have trouble with birds nesting on flat surfaces, a simple solution is to add a sloped ridge to the eves or trusses. This turns a once inviting nesting surface into a less-than-ideal surface for a bird. Those that are handy can make these from scrap wood or other materials, but you can also purchase pre-made sloped ridges at a hardware store or online.
An even easier solution is to add bird netting. Bird netting can be used to protect crops, as well as prevent birds from entering or landing on surfaces in your barn. Adding bird netting to the underside of trusses will prevent birds from flying up into the rafters, while covering any significantly sized holes with a small section of netting will prevent birds from using it as shelter. We offer both lightweight and heavyweight Polyethylene Game Bird Netting to assist with bird prevention and protection.
For a more subtle solution, adding an ultrasonic bird controller can help keep your barn bird free. These bird controllers work by sending out sound waves that are bothersome to the birds, or by sending out distress calls to trick passing birds into thinking that there is danger in the area. We offer both types of ultrasonic controllers, such as the Quadblaster QB-4 Bird Repeller, which sends signals into the air that are unnoticeable to humans but highly bothersome to birds. There is also the BirdXpeller Pro and Super BirdXpeller Pro, which emit a series of distress calls, leading passing birds to believe that entering the area could be life threatening. All options are highly effective and reasonably priced, making it easier than ever to keep birds from negatively impacting your farm.
For those with birds constantly landing on surfaces, adding a strip of bird spikes will keep even the most determined birds from settling and nesting. Bird spikes are a long-lasting, maintenance free way to keep birds from landing on flat or curved surfaces. These spiked strips are easy to install and are capable of lasting a lifetime. We at FarmTek offer Bird-X Barrier Spikes and Stainless Steel Bird Spikes. Our Stainless Steel Bird Spikes are sold as a complete 24’ kit, while our Bird-X Barrier Spikes are sold by the foot, making them ideal for very concentrated problem areas.
There are a number of methods that can be used to prevent birds from seeking refuge in your barn. This spring take early steps to keep your barn bird free. Remove any old nests and add netting, bird spikes, electronic controllers or a number of other options to keep your barn clean and pest free.