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Do Fake Owls Work for Stopping Garden Pests?

Rodents and birds can cause trouble for any garden. And there are a number of ways to deal with them. A popular choice is to get a fake owl. But do fake owls work as well as they seem?

I have a squirrel near my garden. They don’t cause much trouble in the normal season, but they have a tendency to dig small holes in my garden dirt. I figure they’re either looking for something or want a place to stash their food. This became a problem when I planted my fall crop seeds. They had dug up dangerously close to the seedlings. Now they threatened the longevity of my harvest! I had to do something.

My initial thought turned to getting a fake owl. It made sense, right? Squirrels are prey animals to owls. So they should know to avoid them. But I realized that this was just an assumption I was making. So I did some research, and here’s what I found.

Do Fake Owls Work? Well, Kinda.

Fake Owls went the same way as scarecrows. They worked at first, but once the animals realized that it was an unmoving stack of sticks, they wisened up and ignored it. A study by Linfield College confirmed that certain birds were, in fact, deterred by a fake owl figure. It was specifically because it was an owl, as opposed to being a random foreign object.

The same study, however, discovered that after a few days, the birds they were testing realized the owl was fake and was no longer deterred by it. Similar tests were performed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and had reached the same results.

The Solution: Movement.

The general consensus was that animals will grow accustomed to objects in the environment. If you want to keep the fear of owls in them, the decoys need to be moving and active. This could simply be relocating the owl every day or so. Some folks will hang their scarecrows and owls by chains, allowing them to dangle and move in the breeze. Other folks buy special decoys designed to move around. Some farmers have even resorted to using those giant inflatable arm flailing tube men you see at car dealerships. And supposedly, they work wonders.

So will I get a fake owl, yes probably. They’re affordable enough to try. I just will be sure to swing them on a rope or something first.

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