If you've ever felt the frustration of watching birds eat the sunflowers, fruits or vegetables in your garden, you've probably thought about making a scarecrow. While they may seem like an old-fashioned idea, they are actually fairly effective in scaring off crows, blue jays and other birds that might take a bite out of your plantings. Even if you don't have a garden, a scarecrow can provide a fun, decorative element to your front lawn or porch.
Go With a Theme
Traditional scarecrows made with an old plaid shirt and overalls have a definite charm. However, they can look a little old fashioned and outdated. To give your scarecrow a more modern look, use a theme to dress it. Create a fireman scarecrow by using a yellow rain slicker and a child’s toy fireman’s hat. You can make a doctor scarecrow with a lab coat, scrubs and a toy stethoscope. For an even more contemporary spin, create a scarecrow version of your family’s favorite actor, musician, professional athlete or other celebrity. If you have old clothes lying around the attic that might not seem like traditional scarecrow wear, such as a prom dress, you can use them for inspiration as well.
Because your scarecrow is left outdoors, it is exposed to rain, wind and other elements. To help it stand up to poor conditions, you can use weatherproofing materials to help create a more durable scarecrow. Place its stuffing inside a sealable waterproof bag, such as a plastic garbage bag, to prevent moisture damage. When attaching the head and loose accessories to the main body, use wire to secure the items so they do not blow away when the wind picks up. You can also use weatherproof materials like nylon and synthetic rope for the scarecrow’s clothing, hair and other parts to ensure that they will stand up to inclement weather.
The main problem with scarecrows is that birds eventually catch on that they are not really people after awhile. To keep birds away from your garden as long as possible, attach noisemakers to your scarecrow to help frighten them off. Tie a string of soda or soup cans to the scarecrow’s arms so they rattle in the wind or bang against one another if a bird tries to land on the figure. You can also attach metal pie pans to the front and back of the scarecrow so they clang together when the breeze hits.
Make It Move
To give your scarecrow an added kick, both as a decorative garden item and practical device to ward off birds, you may want to animate the figure. If you are technically savvy, you can use a 12-volt motor like those used to power your car’s windshield wipers so the scarecrow can move on its own. However, even if you do not have technical knowledge, you can still add some life to your scarecrow. Attach some simple pivots and hinges to its frame so the arms and legs can move. With hidden strings tied to the extremities, you can amuse your children by sitting behind the scarecrow and making it wave a hand or kick a leg.
Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on BobVila.com, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.