How to Keep Birds from Eating Grass Seed Without Losing Your Mind

Maintaining your home’s lawn or starting one anew is never easy. While seeding or re-seeding damaged areas is more cost effective than laying sod, they are still strategic processes. However, both can be doubly complicated when birds begin eating your carefully-sown grass seeds. So, how can you prepare your yard for this winged threat?


As ornithologists know, you should beware ground-feeders like sparrows, blackbirds, and doves. One basic way for how to keep birds from eating grass seed is to simply increase the number sown by about half. This can help make up for those seeds that are lost to hungry neighborhood birds.

Yet, after only 1 to 4 weeks, these feathered fiends will no longer be a danger. By that time, your lawn’s new grass seeds will have fully germinated. To ensure they reach that age, you can use various combinations of proactive techniques and bird deterrents.

birds eating grass seed

Materials for How to Keep the Birds from Eating Grass Seed

  • Posts, bricks, and/or rocks for mounting and securing
  • Mulch straw, peat moss*, seed starter mats**, or burlap sheets***
  • Bird netting with stakes
  • Seed covers or germination blankets
  • Clear construction tarp with large nails or PVC piping
  • Coated grass seeds

*Peat moss is a less risky alternative to straw for mulching because there are no invasive seeds. It also decomposes more quickly into your yard’s soil. The main barrier is peat moss’ higher cost.

**Seed starter mats can be used for mulching on hillsides. Their stronger form will not move downhill as easily as straw, preventing your work from being easily undone.

***Burlap sheets are another mulching option in windy regions. Unlike straw, they can be easily anchored with wire pins. Yet, they offer much the same benefits for protecting soil and seed, though they will need to be removed after germination.

Step-by-Step Protection for Your Grass Seed

# Step 1: Cover the Seeds with Soil

Start by applying the seeds as instructed by their manufacturer. Then, use your rake to mix the applied grass seed into the topsoil. Burying them under around ¼ inch of soil will make it less likely that birds will be able to find them.

At the same time, the added protection will help the seeds germinate more quickly. This video breaks down the basic steps for this initial part of how to keep birds from eating grass seed.

# Step 2: Apply a Soil or Lawn Topper

Depending on your soil’s condition, you might also want to apply a seed or lawn topper. In particular, you should use your aerator to break up compacted soil and drop seeds into the resulting holes. Applying soil and topper lightly will help the seeds retain moisture and stay out of sight of avian predators.

For instance, This Old House looks at how to use this method to resuscitate a patchy lawn. On the other hand, seeds in sandy soil may do just as well when simply raked to a depth of a quarter of an inch.

# Step 3: Use Pretend Predators

Knowing how to keep birds from eating grass seed also relies on what they fear. In particular, birds can be easily frightened by decoy hawks, owls, and other pigeon predators. Even rubber snakes may keep them from poking around in your newly seeded lawn.

This method is so effective that companies like Idaho Power have even used fake owls to keep birds from nesting in electrical equipment.

However, sparrows, blackbirds, and other ground-feeders can sometimes recognize a fake-out. So, regularly move your new ornaments around the edges of your lawn to simulate the real thing.

# Step 4: Set Up Distractions

Another simple way to keep birds from pecking away at your grass seeds is to install more whimsical distractions. For instance, the color and motion of pinwheels and vibrant flags will generally keep them occupied. In addition, you can use noise devices like wind chimes and lawn ornaments like wooden ducks with flapping wings.

Other options are both shiny and noisy, including metallic Mylar tape mounted on poles or CDs on fishing wire. As shown by this eHow video, these can also effectively scare the pests away.

# Step 5: Protect Seeds with Mulch

A thin layer of mulch provides an effective shield against hungry birds. Whatever type you choose, mulch helps hide grass seeds, maintain moisture, block weeds, and insulate them against colder weather.

Because it is both inexpensive and effective, straw is the most common choice. You can also make your own mulch, as demonstrated by WaysAndHow. To apply, you should rake a thin layer over 3/4 of the seeded area.

After germination, you will need to gently clear the straw from your newly-established seedlings. Note that one bale generally covers about 1000 square feet and that only seed or weed-free options should be used to prevent unwanted plant growth.

# Step 6: Provide Cover for Your Seeds

There are many other tips for how to keep birds from eating grass seed – specifically when it comes to various coverings. For instance, bird netting has long been used as an avian deterrent. You can apply this mesh shield by placing it over problem areas, using stakes to keep the netting 2 to 3 inches above ground level.

Another option is floating seed covers or germination blankets that protect seeds and maintain moisture, as shown in this video from Grass Daddy.

Last, you can place a clear tarp or cut strips over your new lawn or seeded spots, with nails, rocks, or PVC piping to hold either in place.

This will create a greenhouse effect of sorts that can be difficult to control, though. As a result, tarps should only be used as a last-ditch approach. Even then, they should only be used in the milder seasons of spring or autumn.

# Step 7: Get Inventive with Seeds

Two final steps for how to keep birds from eating grass seed are a bit outside the box.

For one, you could try using an entirely different kind of seed in the form of coated options. These are both less tasty for those pesky birds and more tolerant of drier weather. For more on their benefits and risks, see this discussion with Dr. Bernd Leinauer on his related research.

Another option is to try eliminating the need for your grass seeds by giving birds another food source. In particular, place a bird feeder on the opposite side of your home or yard from the grass seeds. That way, they have no reason to bother them in the first place!

Grow Grass & Share the Wealth of Knowledge

Knowing how to keep birds from eating grass seed is essential to growing a new lawn or repairing and maintaining an existing one. Otherwise, you’ll find that all your efforts go to waste – or, rather, to filling the bellies of your avian neighbors! 

With the above steps, you can easily adapt to your yard’s needs - and to our wily bird brethren, too. In particular, you should use the provided step-by-step process to troubleshoot which methods will best work for you.

How helpful did you find this tutorial on keeping birds away from your growing grass seeds? Tell us what you think in the comments below, and remember to share this article if you found the above tips especially helpful.

About the Author Laura Bennett

Hello, I’m Laura Bennett. I love nature especially when it comes to flowers and different kinds of plants. I started a very small garden behind my house and I named it Humid Garden. So, I created this blog to provide aspiring and inspiring thoughts about gardening for gardeners and anyone who has the intention of keeping a garden.

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