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Do Scarecrows Really Work?

By Natalie Lyda ; Updated September 21, 2017
While scarecrows are useful as decorations they may also help protect gardens.

Old clothes stuffed full of straw and erected in the garden may add a decorative touch. However, many home farmers wonder how effective scarecrows are for actually scaring away crows, wild turkeys and other unwanted garden visitors. While the idea behind scarecrows is to fool animals into thinking that a human is present, it seems that the birds have gotten wise to the trickery of basic, old fashioned scarecrows.

Stationary Scarecrows

Traditional scarecrows are made of a t-shaped frame draped in clothing that has been stuffed full of straw or other weather-resistant materials to loosely resemble a human. While this method may work for a short period of time, birds that frequent the area will test the scarecrow over time by coming closer. This inspection will ultimately reveal that the traditional scarecrow is harmless. As other potential garden-eaters notice birds in the area of the scarecrow, they, too, will sense the lack of danger, thus making the device quickly ineffective.

Motion-Activated Scarecrows

Technology has brought new promise to the world of scarecrows, leaving the term to be loosely defined. Gardens equipped with motion-activated sprinklers will scare animals away once they enter the garden. Motion-activated devices used in combination with a more traditional scarecrow will increase effectiveness by consistently surprising animals with an unpleasant stream of water upon entering the garden.

Nontraditional Scarecrows

Some gardeners have taken to tying metallic, weather-resistant ribbon to scarecrow figures, or across garden areas in strands. The idea behind metallic ribbons is that the lightweight material will blow in the wind, reflect light and give the appearance of something constantly moving in the garden. While the motion may deter birds and other garden predators for a short period of time, animals have shown to eventually become immune to the threat of the ribbon's motion.

Predator Scarecrows

Not all scarecrows need to resemble a human. Devices resembling predators of birds and small rodents have proven to be somewhat effective as garden scarecrows. The figures, which look like snakes or owls, are placed in the garden to make birds believe that they are at risk of predation. However, like any scarecrow, users recommend changing the position of the predator scarecrows on a regular basis so that animals do not become used to the scarecrow's presence and continue to see it as a threat.