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Don’t Let Your Blueberries Go to the Birds!

June 10, 2013

Having trouble keeping birds out of blueberries? Yep, it’s about that time when the fruit begins to turn from green to pale gray and then suddenly dots of deep purple-blue cover the shrubs. And, we humans aren’t the only ones watching for the day those sweet orbs are ready to devour. All sorts of wild birds are out there keeping an eye on our crops, too.

Blueberries ripening

Blueberries ripening on the shrub in June.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to keep those hungry winged beasts out of your blueberry patch. All it takes is a bit of temporary netting. And now’s the time to wrap your shrubs in this simple, near-invisible material.

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Here’s how & when to work with it:

Although netting could go up earlier in the season, when shrubs are in bloom, we tend to wait until the fruits are a bit more formed. Blooms tend to easily break free from the bushes under the simplest touch, and without those flowers, no fruits would form. Not-quite-ripe berries, on the other hand, are usually more tightly attached to the shrubs, and while fragile, don’t seem to break off as readily. So, that’s when we put out the netting.

Blueberry flowers

Blueberry bushes flowering for pollination; next comes the fruits!

Covering a blueberry bush in netting is fairly simple. Unroll (or if you’re recycling last year’s netting, untangle) your netting, so it will roll out relatively easily. You don’t want to be struggling with it a lot as you’re putting it over the delicate branches and fruit.

Carefully drape the netting over the entire bush or patch, taking care to tuck the edges of the fabric around all of the fruit. If possible, cover the plant all the way to the ground or some wily birds will hop under the netting and gorge themselves from underneath.

And, that’s about it.

Blueberries under bird netting

Blueberries ripening safely under bird netting

Keep an eye on the patch and the netting. Some dingbat birds — especially new fledglings — may still try to get to your fruit, tangling themselves in the netting along the way. We caught a young robin in our netting a few years back and were able to set it free. We have heard tales of other gardeners finding dead birds strangled in netting. Such is the cost of living in the great outdoors, I suppose.

When your fruit is ripe, and you’re ready to harvest, carefully lift the netting away from your fruit to pick. Or, duck under the netting as you go. As the fruit becomes more ripe, its attachment to the branch also weakens with the intent being to release the seed-filled fruit to the soil where it may form a baby plant. So, try to disturb the netting only minimally to reduce the risk of breaking off ripening fruit.

After your harvest is over, you’re free to remove the netting and store it for the following year. Or, move it from the finished blueberries to other fruit that ripens later — perhaps a late season blueberry patch, goji berries or even your blackberries. If you don’t get to removing the netting right away, don’t worry about it. It’s easy enough to take off your plants when you’re raking up leaves in autumn.


  1. Vicki says:

    I thought maybe putting a cage around my raised raspberry patch with chicken wire and covering the top with netting. Will that work to keep the birds out? Or maybe even smaller fencing? Netting gets so tangled in the bush, that I find it a pain to work with.

  2. Vicki, let us know how that works out for you. It sounds like a lot of work to set up and a lot of stuff to wrestle with during harvest. But, it could be the right option for you. Good luck!

  3. Jimmy says:

    Unroll (or if youโ€™re recycling last yearโ€™s netting, untangle) your netting, …..ha…you said a mouthful there. If someone could come up with a way to store it back the way it came, they would be a millionaire

  4. Yep, Jimmy…there’s a market for tangle-free netting for sure!

  5. Crystal says:

    I tried this last year, it ripped every berry and flower off my bushes. I had to collect from the ground, and lost a lot of un-ripened berries. This year I plan to build a protective barrier around the plant.

  6. That’s too bad. You’ve got to be very careful and gentle when working with bird netting. And, timing to put the netting out and take it down is important so you don’t damage your flowers & fruit. Sorry you lost so much! Good luck in 2014!

  7. Mike says:

    I covered my strawberries with netting like this. 15 minutes it had captured one bird and killed another. This netting is almost invisible and birds fly right into it. I took it off and threw it away. I’ll look for another deterrent or accept some lost berries

  8. Jim Heflin says:

    Build a in closure using 1×2’s and wire netting. Take 1×2-8ft and cut to height drive these into ground like stakes. Make several square or rectangular frames that are small enough to manage by yourself. Get some z brackets from hardware store attach to 1×2 that you drove into ground and hang frames on them. Repeat for the top just make wide enough to lay on top of sides. They store easily and last for years

  9. Ozzie says:

    Thanks for the post on netting. For berry bushes. I also have stopped using netting when I found a dead chipmunk tangled in netting around strawberries. I felt so bad about that. I have seen so e products for pop up screen tents for protecting plants, but I have not wanted to go to the trouble or expense. For now, I am just sharing with nature and trying to harvest what we can!

  10. Mark says:

    Tried bird netting and it was awful. Catches on the bush and is extremely difficult to remove. Rolling up, storing and untangling is another problem. Tried building a support from plastic 1/2″ tubing made into an “X” and drape the bird netting over the tubing to keep the netting off the bush. But the best solution I have found Tulle. Bought 50 yds of 108″ wide tulle and it can be easily cut with scissors to the desired size and draped right over the plant. Doesn’t catch nearly as much as the bird netting and is easy to remove and is tangle free.

  11. MarktheArch says:

    I agree with the awful part. Tried this and it does NOT work. If you’re ready to actually pick some berries for your self you can’t move the netting or it will rip off any berries and branches its contacted too. I haver 40 blue berry bushes and still not sure what to do. Mt landscaper suggests giving it up and sharing with the birds. probably what I’ll do. we have an added level of difficulty her in the mountains of NC… bears! This comes under the # third world problems.

  12. MarkTheArch says:

    OMG… That’s it….. I’ve cornered the market in Tulle!

    The holes look too small to let birds or the 7 year locusts in or the berries to get tangled in. You have to be able to take it on and off… different parts of the bush get ripe at different times. Thank you, Mark. haven’t need tulle for 30 years since ours kids were in Ballet!

  13. Patty says:

    Tulle might be the answer, but you would need to be sure the bees have finished their work before putting up the tulle.

  14. julie says:

    Plastic bird netting is a very bad idea for anything unless you are going to make an all out effort to make a very solid framework on which to secure the netting leaving no openings for birds to enter. If not, birds will get in and get trapped and either get tangled in netting and break a wing or a leg as they fight to free themselves, or they will simply die of heat exhaustion and dehydration. this is no way to treat wildlife. A much better and permanent solution is to buy hardware mesh, which is much more stable and easier albeit a bit more expensive, and attach it with a staple gun to a wood framework. You can then create a door to enter your enclosed blueberry patch.

  15. Julie, that’s a creative way to go. Thanks for sharing.

  16. James Cobb says:

    I use bird netting for my blueberries and yes, it catches on the branches somewhat, but it’s not a problem. My 7 plants are in a 6-1/2′ diameter circle so it’s easy to just lift up the netting a little and reach under or get completely under it. I really don’t mind most birds getting some berries, but I dislike Mocking birds and their bad behavior, so they are why I use the netting and they seem to be the only ones that get caught up in it. I’m on the verge of building somewhat of a cage around it. Hopefully by next year. A 16′ hog panel would fit perfectly around and it’s 4-1/3’high. It’ll help keep the limbs confined and make it easier to walk around. My yard is a jungle. My plan is to use pvc pipe. 4 10′ pipes pushed 2′ into the ground with 45s on top going to a center cross fitting. That way a 20′ diameter net would drape over it beautifully and the hog panel is real easy to reach into. I could even open it up a little wider, thus having a small door to climb into the middle if necessary.

  17. Thanks for chiming in James. Your new cage method sounds really interesting. Keep in touch to let us know how it works out!

  18. Mary Troutman says:

    I use the bird netting and it worked out fine. I only have three bushes. Of various sizes. On my biggest bush I took 4 bamboo 6 foot poles and hammered them into the ground around the bush about a foot out. That will keep netting from tangling in the bush as bad. Then took two lengths of plastic tubing crossed each other to make a dome in an x shape. Used some tape to hold it together at the top. Placed the end into the bamboo and tape to hold, place netting over and used landscape hooks to hold it to the ground to keep birds out. Just used tubing on the smaller bushes. I never had so many blueberries. I could actually freeze some last year.

  19. Thanks for sharing your successes Mary!

  20. Laura says:

    I have used fine bridal netting closed off with clothespins and they STILL get in! I think I will have to do the wire cage. Mine are in very large pots (15 plants) and I have to water a lot and fertilize but I get tons of beautiful, huge blueberries that the birds enjoy more than me, so I am at the store buying them! I will have to build about 5 cages but at this point, I am not going to let them con me out of the berries. They do NOT share.

  21. Laura, I’m sorry to hear the birds are winning the battle. Check the comments on this post. There are many who have chimed in with their great ideas for cages. Good luck!

  22. Mary Taylor says:

    My method is to purchase a roll of wire fencing and cut it to form circular cages around each blueberry bush. When the berries are at a near-ripe stage, I drape netting over each cage and use pinch-type clothespins to fasten. The netting is difficult to handle, but this method is the best I’ve found to date.

  23. Mary, thanks for sharing. This sounds like a great way to go!

  24. Audrey says:

    I found a bolt of toile works fine 102 wide is the best fabric shops have it fantastic

  25. Mary Necel says:

    we are using bridal veil it’s 108″ wide and can be bought by the yard in most fabric stores . We staked the ends down to keep from blowing off. Currently the branches are loaded with berries!

  26. Thanks for sharing Mary. This is a great idea. We’ve seen veil material used for fruit tree netting too!

  27. Jo says:

    “..heard tales of other gardeners finding dead birds strangled in netting. Such is the cost of living in the great outdoors, I suppose.”

    No, and a disappointing attitude to be honest. It’s the cost of gardeners not pulling netting tight. Very easy to avoid.

    (Broken url removed by administrator)

  28. Thanks for your comment Jo. Unfortunately, the url you included in your post is broken & has been removed. If you have a better link to share, please comment again.

  29. Cathy says:

    What size wire mesh should I buy. For my blueberry enclosure? Will poultry mesh let birds in? Should I use 1/2โ€ x 1/2โ€ to be sure?

  30. Cathy, sight unseen it’s difficult to make specific recommendations. Chicken wire comes in several sizes, and small birds can get through many of them. Very small openings are probably your best bet. Good luck!

  31. Carolyn says:

    I have used the ‘bird netting’ that is shown. It was 100% effective at netting birds! I tried Tulle but it does not last more than one season. I have seven very old bushes.
    I do everything to keep them Bearing fruit, It is a big job! I do not wish to give the fruit over to the birds AND i do not wish to kill the birds that come to my yard.

    This year I will be using Mosquito netting from the ARMY/NAVY Surplus store.

    This netting is made to withstand the out of doors without trapping animals.

  32. Lee t. Henry says:

    well i already have chicken wire all around but not good enough so i can only think of leaving a radio on in the day see how that goes ..in a little while i am going to see if i can buy another roll of the netting i got some around not good enough well i am going to use it after the garden is done ..surround it good for next yr the protection i got i also use it to let my pole beans go up & over so works out good ..it is strong enough so in fall will put new net up & use what i got ..

  33. Charlene says:

    Mosquito netting! Great idea. We have enough from a gazebo-tent type of enclosure that we donโ€™t use. So glad I didnโ€™t throw that out! And it wonโ€™t cost me anything except the time to put it up! Thank you!

  34. Let us know how it works for you Charlene!

  35. Susan says:

    Netting is problematic for me. The birds try their best to get in, and some succeed, but can’t get out. I’ve freed most but 2 died trying to get out. Then, picking berries is also a problem without unripe berries coming off from. I’m going to build a cage with a door for next season.

  36. I use tulle…the widest I can find at fabric store. Drape and tuck and keep in place with clothes pins. A bit of a hassle during daily harvest, but it works well.
    Bird netting is too injurious to wild birds (once a hummer got stuck half in half out of mesh and fortunately I heard its cries and rescued it. I do not use any more. Also snakes can get caught and die a horrible death. Since my blueberries are in the garden landscape, permanent, hard structures are not an option. Looking online, no options are better than tulle. Tulle will last more than one season and can be laundered and stored in the shed.

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(Qualifying purchases made through affiliate &/or sponsored links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors.)