Citronella: Can You Use It To Repel Birds?

citronella growing in the garden

You may love having the soft chirping of birds outside your window, but did you know they can cause both internal and external damage to your home? You may want to think twice about inviting them to stay!

There are many methods available to repel birds from your property, one of these being oil of citronella.

When used in conjunction with other natural essential oils like citronella oil makes for an effective bird repellant as the scent will help mask other smells that attract birds.

This is a great temporary solution, but not a long term one.

Read on to learn about additional ways citronella can be used as a repellant so you can rid yourself of your bird issue without any harm to them or your property.

* This post contains affiliate links.

Why do I Need to Keep Birds Away?

Birds, as beautiful as they are, won’t understand our way of life and the gadgets that provide us with our conveniences. Bird feathers, droppings, nests, and feed remnants can stop up our big, expensive appliances. Who wants to replace their air conditioner if they don’t need to?

Nest of birds on house

Birds can also cause damage to paint and structure, including gutters, roofing, and driveways. The list goes on and on!

They will eventually cost you more than you bargained for and it will happen very unexpectedly. After all, we don’t often think of birds and what they’re up to on the property!

Now, granted – I LOVE birds over here. However, you really need to keep them away from certain areas and there are specific types of birds like pigeons that cause quite the mess.

What Can I Do To Repel Birds From My Property Temporarily?

There are many different methods to use to repel birds from your property. Let’s take a closer look!

Use Citronella Oil To Make Bird Repellent Spray

Citronella is derived from two types of grasses. The formula from citronella and geraniol is what makes up the chemical compound of the insect and animal repellent.

As we said before, the citronella has to be used as a scent in a particular way to be a bird repellent. So, that means citronella has to be made into a spray and strategically placed where it’s most effective.

Just be aware that it’s a spray and will need to be reapplied often. Because of this, it is a big commitment to try and rid birds from your space with a scent only. However, it works well enough to buy you some time to get the complete plan together. 

So, let’s make the spray!

There are two powerful bird spray combinations that we’ll share here. The first is the citronella mix.

Mix about a cup of isopropyl alcohol with three tablespoons of citronella oil and one tablespoon of peppermint oil. You can buy these oils easily online, like this Upnature Citronella Essential Oil and Brooklyn Botany Peppermint Oil.

Please note that when we say citronella oil it is NOT the oil you use in your Tiki torches or oil lamps. We are referring to an essential oil as you would use for massage or natural health. 

The next concoction is one cup vinegar with ½ cup water and a tablespoon of chili pepper oil or capsaicin which is the active ingredient in peppers of all kinds. 

Fill a 12-ounce spray bottle with the mixture and spray wherever the birds are bothering your property the most. 

Citronella can also be used to repel flies! Read more about this in my article – Citronella: Why It Works To Repel Flies And How To Use It.

How can I Get Birds Off My Property Permanently?

First off, can birds be removed from your property for good? The short answer is yes! We will tell you, however, that there are no guarantees with anything. We are sharing what the research says about technology that has been created, put in the lab, and is known to work. 

Now we can cover the more complete method of getting rid of birds for good.

The citronella scent combinations will irritate them initially, but full bird eradication takes addressing them on three fronts.

  • Sight
  • Scent
  • Touch

Here, we’ll explain how to address these three angles and why this works with most birds.

Use things that interfere with Their Sight To Repel Birds

A bird has a very precise directional system and its sight is imperative to it. If it is disrupted, the bird will do whatever it takes to remedy that situation. In this case, it will go to greener pastures and leave your space for good.

The only time the bird gets over-determined is when your property is the best game in town for food, water, and nesting sites. 

If that’s the case, then using things like spikes can be effective and will not harm birds. They are smart and will just turn around. They’re just unable to gain traction on the roof or fence or wherever you place them. It causes an inconvenience that isn’t worth it for them. 

Bird repellent metal spikes mounted on top of a house wooden beam

If you would like to learn more about spikes, check out my other article on the best bird spikes for small birds here.

Reflective tape is also a great way to disrupt the visual compass of the bird and they won’t bother.

If you’re thinking about using a decoy like an owl or coyote, the birds are smart enough to understand that it’s not real after a while. Unless your property is not what they’re looking for they relent just due to the decoy.

Birds also despise metallic colors, so you can use specific colors to keep birds away if you’d like to go a simple route.

Take advantage of Bird’s strong sense of smell to Repel them

Any scent such as citronella and peppermint are strong scents that will knock a bird for a loop if the conditions in your area are not perfect for them.

However, as we keep reiterating; if it is a prime space, they won’t step back permanently. We’re assuming that since you’re here, that’s what you’re after. 

Just to add, if you’re in love with the idea of using citronella as a pest repellent, bookmark my article on using citronella to repel rats for later!

Use Bird’s Sense of Touch to Deter Them

Another way to make things irritating to the bird is to use anything that is sticky or gel-like on the feet or that gets on the beak. This will irritate them and discourage their return.

So, let’s get to the good stuff. The mother of all bird repelling mechanisms.

Use Optical Gel Bird Repellent Solution

This is a relatively new invention that has been reported to work quite well. It’s made from food-grade ingredients so that you can free yourself from birds without harming them. 

How does Optical Gel Bird Repellent Work?

This gel has been installed at airports and other commercial spaces where birds are a hazard. It emits an ultraviolet ray that appears like fire flames to a bird. This signals an emergency for them and they will stay away. 

For those birds that do get close enough to be able to smell and touch, they will get a load of horrendous smells and weird sensations under their feet if they touch it. Not to worry though, the stink is only bad for the birds! Remember, they have a strong sense of smell so you won’t smell it once it’s applied. 

What are the Benefits of Bird Repellent Gel?

  • It will never harm the birds, even if they happen to ingest it (which is highly unlikely). They can wash it off their feet in the water and they won’t spend the time they would need there for over exposure.
  • It lasts for over two years and stays effective for the duration. You must have it applied correctly by a professional installer to guarantee that. However, for now, you can experiment with it yourself. You can get the gel online and follow the directions. If you decide to do it on a grander scale, then call a professional. You can start here with Bird Barrier Optical Gel.
  • The gel will not destroy structures nor can it be seen from the ground so no one will know you’re even using it. Historical, listed landmarks use this stuff and they have to have anything they use approved.
  • You can use it on magnetic media like metal plates you can put on metal structures. It can also be attached to trees with hooks. 

What can I Do about A Minor Bird Issue?

So far, we’ve touched on the solutions for medium to major bird issues in spaces that could cause a major hazard. That’s one camp of people researching bird nuisance solutions. The other camp is those who have a more minor issue, but it’s bad enough that it needs to be addressed.

For minor bird issues, you may want to stick with scents. We will get into habitat after this as our last point. For now, here is a recipe that can be used with any of the scents on the list below:

if you are only using one scent, mix one cup of water or ¼ cup of white vinegar with 1 tablespoon of essential oil of choice. For multiples, use ½ tbsp each so as not to cancel out the smell. If you use white vinegar, that will be the prevailing scent. Some people use ½ cup of white vinegar with 1 cup of water on its own too. Experimentation is key! 

So let’s cover what scents birds hate!

Spray bottle to repel birds

Scents That Are Effective In Repelling Birds

  • Chili Pepper or Capsaicin Oil
  • Citronella
  • Peppermint
  • White Vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne Pepper

These are the main scents you need and not much more. Follow the aforementioned recipe and spray away! Again, make sure you know that you’ll be reapplying several days a week to maintain efficacy. 

Use Bird Calling and UltraSonic Equipment

One of the solutions we didn’t mention above to use in tandem with your citronella and other scents is sound. First, ultrasonic is typically the least effective. The sounds they can hear and we can’t are an irritant, but are not a failsafe or a cureall and many ultrasonic repellents don’t actually work.

However, the sounds of a bird’s distress cry for a particular species that we’re trying to scare away do work. The cry of a predator bird is also a greatly effective solution but again, if you are having a serious issue with a bird infestation it’s going to be less effective. 

Here are some sounds that pigeons hate to get you started!

That’s a Wrap! Bottom Line and Recap Time

By now you’ve figured out that citronella or anything on its own is not gonna do it for a bird infestation. A bird infestation means you’ve got more than a handful of birds at a time bothering more than one keyspace. 

You can most effectively move a nest from one place to another or discourage a small number of birds. However, an infestation is something you can’t mistake. There will be a plethora of birds and nests and poop which means a health and damage hazard that is soon to follow. 

So to recap, trying scents like citronella oil (NOT the oil for the Tiki torches which is poison and a fire hazard), mixed in the aforementioned recipe, and sprayed in the trouble areas can be an effective temporary solution.

Testing the use of a citronella-based repellent as an effective method to reduce the prevalence and abundance of biting flies in avian nests can also help you experiment and work with you until a viable solution is found.

If you find you do have an infestation, it’s time to do one of two things. First, you can purchase the optical gel bird repellent which is a bit pricier but will work most effectively and last longer. You can start small with a Bird Barrier Optical Gel or you can find a professional company and purchase their service for around $750. 

The next and best thing to do if it’s in your budget and your problem is serious enough is to call a professional that can properly assess and install a system guaranteed to work. 

We hope these tips help and wish you all the best with your bird problem!


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