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The Secret to Deterring Bush Turkeys!

You’ll remember my tirades about bloody bush turkeys.  Well, all this time I have been trying to discourage them (or is it only one – they all look the same to me).  I have had success in preventing them from building a mound and have gotten a lot of exercise in the process!  But I have not yet managed to rid myself of them completely.

The most surprising thing is what was most effective in their deterrence.  Would you believe a big green rubbish bin?!

To explain:  In desperation I put all sorts of obstacles around the place to stop them scratching and nesting.  I put a fence around the mound so they couldn’t get in, then I disturbed the mound, then I put a silver tarpaulin over it.  All that helped, but didn’t stop them, and I had to admire their persistence.

Fence around mound and tarpaulin

Fence around mound and tarpaulin

Next I put down weed matting to stop them scratching on bare earth and mulch.  That worked too.  But they started scratching further into the garden and bringing earth and mulch from further away.

Fence halfway across the garden. Prevents "earth moving".

So I put a fence through the garden dividing it in half.  That worked too.  But they found a new place to scratch!

So I put chicken wire on the ground as a barrier over which they could not scratch.  That worked too.

That only left the paddock next door and underneath the plumbago bushes – which I can’t fence.  I have managed to cut down a lot of weedy bushes in the paddock and use them as preventives to scratching, but, like I said, I have to admire the turkey.  They keep finding ways and places I haven’t seen.

My hero. Rubbish bin Man.

Anyway, one of the obstacles I used to deter scratching was my rubbish bin.  I put it over a place they like to scratch and also used it to create a barrier between the mound and they dirt they had scratched up for it.  It worked – but much better than I thought.

The first time I moved the bin was to have it emptied, and, since the turkey(s) hadn’t been active for a few days I thought my troubles were over and I put the bin back where it belongs.  Next day the turkey was back, scratching!  So I put the bin back in position again.  No turkey!

Coincidence?  Maybe.  Required further testing.  Which I did yesterday.  Took the bin out to the kerb and sure enough, this morning, turkey-lurkey was back.  I put the bin back in position and – no turkey!  At least, not near the mound – which it keeps desperately trying to get earth onto but cannot because of the fence.

So today I spent the day rushing in and out of the house chasing it away.  Finally, I got really smart and waited for it to return (a matter of a few minutes) and then shoed it away.  It got so that as soon as I moved a little it ran.  Then, I only had to stand still and when it caught sight of me, it ran.  Aha! Thought I.

For my next trick I got a pair of trousers and a white t shirt and put them on a coat hanger and hung them in a tree.  So far so good.  No turkey.  Hopefully the clothes will move with the breeze.

The turkey is still in the paddock next door, scratching, I can hear him (it’s the male that builds the nest) but he’s not in MY yard.

So, the big secret is a green rubbish bin.

The second good tactic is to train the turkey to fear you (not hard), then impersonate yourself with a scarecrow.

I would prefer that it end up in someone’s casserole because the damn things will breed whatever I do, and protected or not, they are a pest.  However, at least I can prevent my garden from becoming a breeding ground.  I have plans for when breeding season is over (December).

There is also some good that has come out of this.  The garden is well weeded.  Everything that can be uprooted, has been so I am now rid of a particularly virulent creeper.

I also have a wonderful mound of top soil that I can redistribute around the garden when the time is right.

And when the mound scratching time is over, I am going to plant the whole area with some grassy, shrubby things that the turkey has not been able to scratch up – lomandra.

What a shocking mess. This is bare earth covered with tree limbs and old creepers to deter scratching

Old tyre holding down chicken wire.

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25 comments to The Secret to Deterring Bush Turkeys!

  • I hope you’d write more pieces. It’s positively worth reading.

  • Peter

    I had been looking for ways of discouraging brush turkeys for years, and at the suggestion of the late Rick Natrass, I placed a couple of standard wall mirrors up against trees, fence etc. Being very territorial, and not being over-endowed with brainpower, the male bird spent so much time chasing away the other male bird that he thought was usurping his territory, that he gave up in disgust, and moved away, to a new territory, I presume!

    Believe me it works, and there has been no attempts at mound-building for some years! However, I am now looking for a way of discouraging the female, who at the moment is demolishing the rest of my garden nightly in her endless search for whatever is tasty (for a turkey) among the mulch and leaf litter in my garden.

    Any more ideas?

  • kleverklikk

    I’m going to write another blog on this, so look in the tag cloud for “turkey” and find my next article.

  • We have developed an all natural solution that deters the Bush Turkey from building its mound. Simply splash over the mound and immediate area and the bird will give up and relocate. It is called Kings Bush Turkey Solution.

  • Lyall

    Citronella oil will keep them away

  • Chris

    I have found that simply putting a tarpaulin over a substantially built nest works very well. However is has to be kept there a few weeks otherwise the crafty bird will return to check that it’s still there and if not, continue with construction. After a while I can replace all the nice mulch purloined from around my fruit trees !

  • phil

    Great article; however I need to add to it. I have 2 green wheely bins in the yard and they use them to sit on whilst they terrorise my dogs and chickens. the turkeys aren’t bothering to nest, they are attacking our chickens and sending the neighbourhood dogs into a frenzy.
    We have been in our home for close to 20 years and until 6 months ago never had turkeys. This is an unfortunate result of a lot of development and little help from council and authorities with assistance in relocation, etc.

  • kleverklikk

    This is the first time I’ve heard of turkeys being aggressive! I agree it has a lot to do with the development of land for houses.

    My turkeys only arrived about 4 years ago. I think they were dumped here by operators who remove them (for money, at $250 per turkey) from nearby “wealthy” suburbs and dump them in our “poor” suburb which has plenty of undeveloped bushland.

    Turkeys are a protected species and only licensed operators are allowed to remove them. They must also be released no more than 25ks away from their original site. Our suburb is lovely and close to the suburbs that can afford removal! My theory is that that is how those bloodly pests have arrived in my yard.

    Legal or not, the best deterrent I have found so far is a slingshot. Any turkeys that come into my yard are “trained” to run very fast as soon as they hear a window being opened (because they know this will be followed by a sharp sting from a puzzling source).

  • Sera

    Wow thank you! I am going to put our bin out there now. We have not stopped chasing this turkey for over a fortnight now. We ran out of ideas until I just read this. Once December arrives, we too will be planting in that area so there is no more mound/nest. Your blog is insightful and very relevant! I hope others are also aided by your information. Thank you again from myself and my partner :)

  • kleverklikk

    By now you will have tried the rubbish bin idea. It did help for a while but they are extremely persistent and nothing actually deters them.

    What has finally worked for me is to put chicken wire on the ground where they are trying to scratch a mound. I have had to use a LOT of chicken wire and cover a very large area so that they can’t scratch up the soil into a mound.

    The other thing you have to do is cover the area where they want to build a mound so that it is shaded. Bush turkeys are very very fussy about the amount of sun and shade the mound will get. So if you shade the mound they won’t build there. I have built a sort of tent with a tarpaulin over the mound. It is important not to just lay it flat on the ground – they will just scratch dirt over the top of the tarpaulin!!! You have to put a pole in the middle and then anchor the tarpaulin on the ground – just like a tent. Then they can’t scratch dirt over the ‘tent’ or under it.

    I’ve always wanted to try a large beach umbrella to see if that would deter them (because of the shade it casts) but have never had the chance – plus where they want to build the mound in my yard there isn’t really room.

    You can also buy motion detecting sprinklers which will come on when something moves near them. Turkeys hate sprinklers. The sprinklers are available on the internet. I think they would be good – also to keep cats away if you have that problem.

    Anyway, so far so good. I have been fighting them now for 4 years. I thought they might be washed away in the flood – but no. They’re survivors. I read that you have to keep them away for 3 years for them to finally stop being drawn to a site.

    Best long term deterrent is to grow shady trees and spiky shrubs and use lots of chicken wire. Either that or just bow to the pressure. I also use a slingshot – which is quite fun. They RUN when they see me coming!


  • GrannyMab

    I am having a dreadful time with bush turkeys. I remove everything that would encourage them to build a nest, but the major problem is that they repeatedly pull all the plants out of their pots. Not seedlings, large potplants and destroy them. Any suggestfions?


  • kleverklikk

    Well, this is a new one on me.

    Are you sure it is turkeys? I ask because I also have bandicoots and, now that it is so dry, they will dig up anything that is moist and cool
    looking for their food, (which I think is worms).

    If it is really turkeys the best advice I have is to cover the plants with chicken wire. Either right over the top of the plant depending on height or put it around the roots of the plant. Chicken wire seems to deter them.

    Perhaps they are still trying to build a nest? Even though you have removed everything else, there is still your lovely loose pot plant material.

    If they are still trying to build a nest, and if you know where it is, shade the area with a big beach umbrella close to the ground. They only build a nest where conditions are perfect – perfect shade, perfect sun, perfect accessibility.

    You will NEVER prevent them building a nest (not for years and years) if
    they have found a perfect spot. It is a biological imperative – they CANNOT stop building. I have successfully prevented their nest building for 4 years – and they still come and check out the spot and try to build there.

    So the only prevention is to alter the perfect spot to an imperfect one.

    They also hate sprinklers. You can buy motion detection sprinklers online – however, this could be an expensive solution – depends how desperate you are.

    Ya gotta love ‘em.

  • What truly inspired you to publish “The Secret to Deterring Bush Turkeys!
    | Baby Boomer Lifestyle and Health Club”?
    I reallytruly liked the blog post! Thank you ,Chelsea

  • Forest

    I have been following your blog all week. My. Neighbour & I have been terrorised by turkey’s all week, they have always been around but have just decided to build a mound on my neighbours property & have scratched her herb garden & pots every night this past week. Each day we have cleaned the mess & chased the blighters at every opportunity . Yesterday I came up with the idea of covering the mound with heaps of Palm fronds & the rough leaves from a Norfolk Pine. We have heaps of both. Holding thumbs, no sign of a turkey all day?! Will keep you posted

  • kleverklikk

    What truly inspired me was the turkeys themselves. I tried to find information on the internet on how to deter them. The only thing I found out is that it is illegal (yes illegal) to deter them. According to some wildlife protection law you are supposed to let them destroy everything you have worked for in your garden, all the money you have spent on plants and mulch, all the hours of sweat, all the vegies you hoped to harvest – everything is ‘theirs’. The only thing you get to do on your property is pay the rates and keep the fire risk down!

    So I figured there must be others who are looking for information on what to do to get the turkeys to move elsewhere.

    I hope your idea is successful so I am also keeping my fingers crossed for you.

    My most successful idea is to shade the area where they want to build. The mound position has to be ‘just right’. And what makes it ‘just right’? The position of the sun! So if you shade the mound they will probably get discouraged and move somewhere else. Best way to shade is via a big movable beach umbrella or tarbaulin.

    Someone else wrote to me to say that they tried my trick of a big green garbage bin on the site. That moved them on too.

  • kleverklikk

    Good luck with the Norfolk Pine. I tried covering the mound with branches too, but they just put more dirt on the top of them. It just helped them build a bigger mound!

    Good trick is to cover all beds and pots with chicken wire – looks hideous but works – so they can’t scratch.

    Also, try covering the mound site with shade via a big, huge, beach umbrella or tarpaulin. If you use a tarpaulin keep it up off the ground a bit or they will just scratch dirt over the top.

    Chasing them does not work. They don’t like sprinklers and you can buy motion activated sprinklers on line – but other things will activate them too. Like birds and cats.

    Unless you remove them physically you are stuck with them now. I have been battling for 5 years now and although they can’t build a mound anymore (due to encroaching bush changing their preferred site) I haven’t discouraged them from scratching. I’m afraid death or relocation are your only options. And death is illegal in the turkey/human world.

  • Forest

    Well, two days now, they have disappeared, only seen one yesterday sizing up the chook food, yes we share 8 chooks with another neighbour. I think we may be on a winner with the palm fronds. Birds are amazing, I lived in South Africa for a time & we had a big oak tree in our front garden, the poor male used to build these amazing nests & the female would come in & reject his masterpiece, this would happen five or six times until the lady was eventually pleased with his handy work. I think we may have something similar going on with these pesky turkeys. If I was a lady turkey I wouldn’t want to be putting my butt down to lay eggs o a bunch of Palm fronds & rough old Norfolk Pine leaves. Before all the greenies come out, we live on an area with heaps, I’m talking heaps of green space so it’s not as though they don’t have a place to go. I think I’m on a winner here , Palm fronds is the way to go!!!

  • Forest

    Sorry, I missed an important piece in my previous blog , the birds in South Africa were Weaver Birds, amazing creatures, google Weaver Bird nest, the most intricate construction you have ever seen. Didn’t want you to think turkey’s in South Africa were building mounds up in Oak Trees. That wouldn’t happen, not even in South Africa.

  • blue

    we have this problem they have only became a pest now there is 4 of them. we will get some chicken wire and line the backyard, i hope it will work, i think they only come down from the hill looking for food. They have messed with the plants more than once now :(

  • Catequil

    The busk turkey is the animal equivalent of a machine and you need a machine to beat them. Not only the male nest builders but also the females foraging and destroying the veggie patch. The best I have found are the motion sensitive sprays sold on Amazon – Sentinel I think they were called. They will protect valuable areas of garden and I am surprised that no one has advanced the application to give wider coverage but these have been great for me and more importantly my blood pressure.

  • ann,g

    We have a pesky bush turkey that”adopted” us a young bird ,it happily followed our chickens around unknown to us until today h’es started attacking our girls drawing blood they are terrified and I’m over it I can deal with garden damage hes likes sorrel and flowers so know the girls are locked up & hes trying to break into there pen, suggestions please ,

  • I’m in an rural area and the bush turkey I’m over it i have 3 here. I have planted out 1 acre of stock tube plants, and every day i go and check, only to find out over night they have dug them out. So I put sticks around the plants to try and deter them as well as bags, tyres and it will not stop them. Is there anyone in the wide bay burnett area that will come out to trap them and remove them to another location?

  • kleverklikk

    I discovered on Tuesday (when I had a snake in my bathroom!) that Wildlife, Qld (private organisation, Google it) will take away bush turkeys for $180.00. Rather a lot of money, however, it turns out that you only need to remove the male and females will go elsewhere. It’s not clear to me where they will go but they will at least stop building a nest.
    I think this is probably a good solution however, what’s to stop the next-in-line male turkey from taking over?

    I think that we need to start a movement to have the turkeys culled in residential areas. They have grown too numerous and destructive. Apparently 12 years ago (2002) a study found that they would become ‘endangered’. Hah! fat chance. Now they have grown to plague proportions and are a pest and danger to pets and chooks in the suburbs.
    The only deterrent to them digging that I have found is to put chicken wire on the ground around the plants i.e. give them a wide ‘collar’ of chicken wire, or even give them a ‘house’ of chicken wire. I have given up planting a proper garden. If the turkeys don’t get the plants, the bandicoots do. But I do have a lovely view of the bush so I guess it’s a compromise.

  • Susan

    After trying many strategies I erected a fairly loose netting fence – not very high (can step over it) – around the boundary, and strung twisted flash tape loosely along the edges. I also criss-crossed the tape over the patch. The flash tape shimmers in the wind and sun. After reading comments about mirrors, I added a couple of mirrors, but the flash tape and mesh barriers seem to have done the trick. The mesh won’t keep them out of course, but seems to confuse them a little by breaking up the area visually, in conjunction with the flash tape (available from Green Harvest in Maleny).

  • Melissa smith

    Hi we have moved to the beach where there are lots of nesting bush turkeys. I have a cat, I’m so worried about him catching a baby turkey. What can I do. I have 2 bells on him. And he gets locked in on sundown. Today a baby came into our yard, my cat caught it didn’t harm it thank goodness. He let it go and I caught it and relocated it to another part of the bushland on the beach. I’ve tried locking the cat in permanently, however after two weeks of constant howling day and night and losing my mind this doesn’t seem to be an option. What else can I do? The baby didn’t seem to be able to fly yet.

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