When can you cut hedges - that's what the bird protection law says

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Cutting hedges - bird protection

Since 2010, the legislature has regulated the pruning of hedges, shrubs, live fences and other woodland throughout Germany with the amendment to Paragraph 39 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Among other things, the regulations set time limits that every garden owner should know. The primary purpose of the order is to protect breeding birds and the entire ecosystem that can develop within hedges. Since the concrete implementation is a matter for the Länder and municipalities, there are regional differences. Read here what the law says about bird protection.

Specifically defined time window

Paragraph 39 (5) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) states that from 1 March to 30 September a hedge may not be cut off or placed on the hive. This regulation applies to all populated and unpopulated areas, including private gardens and green spaces.
Tip: The term "putting on the stick" describes the radical pruning of a hedge to about 20 cm above the ground. All shoots are shortened so far that only one or two eyes remain, from which the plant can drive out again.

Care cut is allowed - with one restriction

Expressly allowed in the law for bird protection gentle nursing cuts that serve the health of a hedge. These cutting measures may also be carried out between 1 March and 30 September.
The only requirement is: There are no nests of breeding birds or similar habitats of wild small animals within the trees. For no good reason to disturb wild animals in their habitat is prohibited in accordance with § 39, paragraph 1, sentence 3, regardless of the season. How to act in accordance with the law:
  • Carefully inspect the hedge for nests and small animals before a care cut
  • If the shrubs are inhabited or animals have created food reserves here, the cutting measure is postponed
  • Otherwise, slightly shorten out of the form protruding branches
  • It is also allowed to clean up withered flowers
  • Finishing of deadwood may also take place within the grace period
Since a radical rejuvenation cut in the middle of the growing season does not make sense for most woody species anyway, the Federal Nature Conservation Act does not mean a real restriction in the care program for the expert gardener. The best time for the form and maintenance cut on ornamental and useful trees is in late winter between late December and mid / late February.
Care: Who goes to work, although small animals have retreated into the hedge for their hibernation or here simply looking for protection from frost and snow, makes itself punishable.
Tip: The Federal Nature Conservation Act clearly distinguishes between trees and hedges. Trees in allotments and allotments are not subject to the cut and felling ban between March 1 and September 30. However, this is only on the condition that there are no living places of animals in it or other nature conservation regulations apply, such as the Tree Protection Ordinance.

Facade greening is considered a hedge

Hedge trimming - bird protection law

The regulations of the Birds Decree do not only apply to free-standing hedges. Rather, the cut ban applies during the summer months as well for a facade greening. Here birds find a safe haven to raise their offspring, unattainable for cats and other predators. Between 1 March and 30 September it is therefore prohibited to remove climbing plants on walls, fences or pergolas. A light pruning is allowed, provided that it can be excluded in advance that there are no breeding sites in the branches.

Exceptions to the rule

The above-mentioned regulations concerning hedge trimming and bird protection do not apply in the case of an officially ordered measure. Among other things, the order refers to traffic safety here. If a hedge poses a threat, the urgency of cutting measures or grubbing up on animal welfare is made. This applies, for example, when after a storm the hedge threatens to tip onto the street or sidewalk. In this case, we recommend that you contact the Nature Conservation Office or the Ordnungsamt in order to be on the safe side during cutting and clearing work.
Another exception is critically viewed by conservationists. The law says that for permissible construction projects, a small amount of woody vegetation may be removed if it impedes the realization of the construction project. Since there is a lack of an exact definition of 'minor', animal rights activists are sensing a back door for arbitrary clearing of hedges and shrubs. In fact, as part of the building application, this measure is subject to an official examination, which takes place with the appropriate sensitivity for the protection of birdlife.

Regional regulations

The legislator transfers the implementation of the law on bird protection to the federal states and municipalities. Of course, the defined period from 1 March to 30 September may not be shortened at country level. An expansion of the time window, however, is allowed as well as a more stringent interpretation. This flexibility is due to the fact that not all regions of Germany have the same flora and fauna. The following two examples illustrate the regional differences according to which the hedgecut rule can be interpreted:
In North Rhine-Westphalia, Section 39 (5) of the BNatSchG is reproduced verbatim. Here are hedge tricks and on-the-floor-set between the mentioned data is prohibited. The interpretation is based on the one hand with the bird protection. On the other hand, the radical pruning of the branches down to their sticks is regarded as a serious cut into the regional landscape.
In Hamburg, however, the above paragraph is interpreted in a more differentiated way. In this state, the care cut should not take place before June 24, the St. John's Day. In doing so, no more than the most recent increase may be shortened.
It is therefore a pleasure for you to find out about the specific regulations that apply in your state and municipality. It is not uncommon for small communities to pursue individual animal welfare goals and set strict regulations to be followed by landowners and gardeners.
Tip: In addition to nature conservation, noise protection is a top priority in Germany. Always use a powered hedge trimmer in residential areas during permitted operating hours. These usually extend on weekdays from 9am to 1pm and from 3pm to 5pm.

Delicate penalties

observe legal requirements

Legislators are giving substantial sanctions to his orders for hedge trimming and bird protection. Depending on the state, gardeners are asked to pay considerably if they fail to comply with the ordinances. In Lower Saxony, for example, the illegal removal of hedges is punished with up to € 25,000. In Bavaria, the fine amounts to at least up to 15,000 euros. The penalties are imposed regardless of whether the violation was intentional or negligent.
Bird protection in Germany is important around hedges and shrubs. The Federal Nature Conservation Act states unequivocally that between the 1st of March and the 30th of September no hedge can be cut, put on the stick or even cleared. Anyone who disregards this ordinance can be punished with fines of up to 25,000 euros. Within this grace period, moderate nursing care is generally allowed. The scissors may certainly only be used when no birds or other small animals have chosen the hedge as a kindergarten for their offspring. This requirement also applies during the winter months, as the disturbance of wild animals within their habitat is prohibited throughout the year. If, however, hedges pose a threat to road safety or if an official measure is applied, the bird protection behind them is downgraded. Since the concrete implementation of paragraph 39 in the BNatSchG is a matter for the Länder, gardeners should familiarize themselves with the regional regulations before hacking.

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