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Bluebird House Predator Control
Putting up a bluebird house is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. When you put up a bluebird house, a commitment is made to provide as safe as possible place for the bluebirds to raise their young. If this commitment is taken seriously, both you and the bluebirds will be rewarded.

Bluebirding is a great hands-on project but, from time to time, problems may arise on your trail. Common problems on a bluebird trail include the weather, house sparrows, house wrens, and predators such as raccoons. We cannot control the weather, and sparrows and wrens may prove to be difficult, but losses due to raccoons can and should be controlled. Proper bluebird house placement can be a factor in raccoon predation. Bluebird houses placed in pastureland are less likely to attract raccoons than houses placed near a wooded area with a stream, pond, or lake nearby.

There are two definite lines of defense against raccoons. The best way is to keep the raccoon off the house. The second is to prevent the raccoon from reaching into the house once it gets in a position to try.

There are many ways to predator-proof a bluebird house. Here are some methods used by experienced bluebirders.


MOUNTING SYSTEMS
The easiest way to mount a bluebird house would be to nail it to a wooden fence post or to a tree. Although this may work well in certain parts of North America where there are few raccoons, it is generally not recommended. Raccoons climb trees and walk fence lines where they may eventually find your bluebird house. Taking the time to properly mount your bluebird houses, may take care of your raccoon problems.

A smooth clean pipe is the best mounting system to use. A 10 foot piece of 3/4 inch EMT electrical conduit pipe can be purchased for a reasonable price. It will then need to be cut down to a length of approximately 8 feet, to place 2 feet of pipe in the ground and 6 feet of pipe above. The electrical conduit is zinc plated and will keep its slick surface for many years. Other heavy round pipe will also work well. Scrap pipe found at construction sites and salvage yards can also be used. An excellent source of pipe is from overhead garage door companies. In their scrap piles from discarded doors you will find either an 8 foot or 16 foot piece of 1 inch pipe.

Most businesses will be glad to give them to you. If they are rusty, they should be sanded smooth. Flattening the bottom of the pipe with a heavy hammer will help stabilize the pipe and keep it from turning. A fence post driver is recommended over a heavy hammer for putting the pipe in the ground. There are several easy ways to mount a bluebird house to the pole:

Pre-drill two 5/16 inch holes through both the conduit or pipe and the back of the bluebird house. Use 1/4 inch bolts for anchoring the bluebird house to the pole. The drilling can be done before placement in the field.

OR

Wrap two pieces of pipe strap around the pole and screw into the back of the bluebird house on either side of the pole. Secure another small piece of pipe strap to the back top and bend it down into the pole to keep the bluebird house from turning.

OR

Place two electrical conduit hangers around the pole and screw into the bluebird house.

A method that works well for mounting lightweight bluebird houses (i.e., PVC boxes) is the use of a 5 foot piece of 1/2 inch electrical conduit slipped over a 5 foot piece of rebar driven approximately 2 feet into the ground. A conduit connector (with a longer bottom screw) at the base is used to keep the conduit from turning.

A bluebird house may also be mounted on PVC pipe. Some 2 inch PVC pipe will slip over a metal T-post, which makes a secure system when your box is located in a pasture with cattle. Mount your bluebird house high enough on the PVC so that the cattle will not have any sharp corners to rub against.

Down spouts can also be used. A 10 foot length of down spout can be cut into three 3 foot 4 inch pieces, which is attached to the back of the bluebird house. This can then be slipped over a metal T-post.

By using the above methods, raccoon predation will be greatly minimized. For added protection, substances can be applied to the pole. Rub the pole down will steel wool and apply a layer of Carnauba car wax or silicone spray. Another effective method is to apply a coating of high quality automotive grease to the pole. A mixture of 5 pounds of grease and one quart of turpentine will keep the grease soft throughout the season. Grease will eventually attract dirt and harden which may make it easier for a raccoon to climb the pole. The grease may have to be removed and reapplied if this happens. This is extra work, but it is the most effective way to keep raccoons off the pole.


POLE GUARDS
Some bluebirders prefer using a guard on the pole or post their bluebird house is mounted on.


Similar preventative methods apply to snakes and cats. Snakes can climb smooth poles, even greased ones. Snakes are more of a common problem in the southern states but some snake problems may occur all across North America. The stove pipe and cone guards are effective for snake control. Also effective is a 24 inch piece of hardware cloth placed directly under the bluebird house.

Both domestic and feral cats pose a threat to bluebirds. The hanging guards mentioned may detour a cat but they may jump as high as 6 feet. If cats are in your area, place your bluebird house as high as possible on a smooth pole.

Please do not let the possibility of predation problems discourage you from putting up a bluebird house. Mounting your bluebird house on a smooth round pipe will greatly reduce the chance of a loss to a predator. Any other preventative measures taken will provide added protection
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Visit Shaw Creek Bird Supply to see our selection of Eastern Bluebird Houses.

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