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How to Get Rid of Barn Swallows

I can’t help but smile when watching the aerial acrobatics of barn swallows; they remind me of a couple of phenomenally graceful kids playing a game of “catch me if you can.” But that joy can quickly fade when I happen upon the droppings piling up near the back door. I love swallows, but they can be nasty house guests!

So how do you get rid of barn swallows, anyway? There are a lot of suggestions out there, none of which is guaranteed to work. The best advice may be to take a combination approach; if one method doesn’t work, another may.
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The first thing you must do is inspect the nest to ensure that no eggs have been laid. Swallows are protected by federal law; once eggs have been laid you’re forbidden from harming the birds or interfering with the nesting site. If the nest is empty, knock it down and thoroughly scrub the area to remove all traces of the mud. Swallows are notorious for nesting in the same spot each year, or even in the same year, if they can locate the old nest site.

If the birds return, knock down the nest and clean again, then lay real-looking toy snakes around the area. Big ones work better than small ones. Snakes are a natural enemy of birds and eggs, so swallows tend to avoid them. If the snake trick fails, hang long, shiny strips of reflective tape near the nesting area, where they will twist and move in the breeze.

If you have incredibly stubborn birds that are determined to rebuild, place a fake owl near the nesting site. Buy a really scary looking owl, so it’ll have the maximum effect in minimal time. If the owl is motionless for a couple of days, they may figure out it’s harmless.

Swallows also prefer rough surfaces on which to hang their nests, so you may have some success with painting the area with a smooth or slick paint. Or, you can attach a net or curtain from the overhang of the roof to the wall of the house. It’s not pretty, but it may force them to look for a more hospitable nesting site.

If none of these suggestions works, just hose the poop off the porch every couple of days, enjoy the birds, and wait for nesting season to end. Start-to-finish, it’s only about six weeks long.

2 Comments

  1. ANT SPRAY!

    We had a terrible time with the swallows last year. They built over 100 nests on our back porch. After they left, the clean up was a total mess. Mud, droppings, parasites were all over the place. Not fun. We tried knocking down the nests at the beginning, but it was to no avail. The birds kept coming right back with a vengeance.

    This year, on the recommendation of a friend, we tried a new trick. The first day the swallows appeared, before they could even BEGIN to build their nests, I doused the entire porch with a can of regular old ant and bug spray. (e.g., Raid). For some reason, the swallows did not like the smell. They left and haven’t come back all year. All it cost was $3 and my problems were solved.

  2. I tried many things before hitting upon a solution. I purchased a mirror, about 4″square, cleaned the nesting area, and mounted the mirror at that spot. Now the swallows will not attempt to build there, they seem to be confused; they may roost near and look at the area, but they haven’t tried to rebuild there. The area is under a protected patio and they built there the year before but I didn’t want them back again.

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