The weather has turned very cold and wet and with the arrival of the first frosts, it is now time to start feeding the birds. Most of the berries are gone on the trees so from now on, the birds will be depending on the kindness and compassion of humans for their survival.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to feed the birds for the winter but it will involve some expense and the important thing to remember is that once you start feeding them, you have a commitment to keep feeding them until late spring as they will depend on you for food. You can buy quite nice bird feeders in a variety of colours at the euro store for a few euro or if you want to buy something a bit fancier, you can go to your local garden centre, DIY store or pet shop and they will have an astonishing array of feeders there. Don’t bother buying expensive squirrel proof feeders unless you know for a fact that there are squirrels in your areas. My advice would be to buy two or three simple feeders that can hold seed, that have some sort of perch on them [for the birds to stand on while eating] and one peanut holder. If you can afford it, a wire box holder for suet treats would be great also.
If you already have bird feeders, don’t forget to wash them out with hot water and soap and dry throughly before hanging them back out, as germs can linger at the bottom of the feeder and cause the birds in your garden to get very sick.
I recommend placing your bird feeders in a few different locations around your garden which will attract different varieties of birds. Make sure the feeders are high enough that cats and other creatures cant jump/climb up to them but not so high that you cant reach them! I have one feeder [wild bird seed] in the front garden which is very popular with blue tits, robins and other smaller birds. We also have a small bird table on a wooden pole which is very handy for hanging suet balls on, monkey nuts and for putting out left over crumbs, fruit, cake and nuts. We sometimes even have two wood pigeons visit the bird table on particularly cold days!
A bird table is very easy to make if you are good with your hands and have some leftover wood and can provide much delight in the winter if you place it somewhere you can see it from a window. We also have a small stone bird bath at the bottom of our front garden which not only provides the birds with drinking water but also a place to bathe. You need to make sure that your birds have access to water as although they don’t drink much, they need water to survive the same way we do. You don’t have to have an expensive bird bath, even a empty margarine tub will do if you’re short on cash. B&Q does a good range of affordable bird baths. Don’t forget to keep your bird bath clean and to take off any ice that may form on the surface in the heart of winter.
The only thing that you must NOT give to birds is dessicated coconut which causes their stomachs to swell up and they die very painfully.
I also have a seed feeder behind the house hanging from a group of trees which attracts thrushes, blackbirds and other birds that are a bit shy. I have a peanut holder up there also. Further up the hill in my new fruit and veg garden, I have a seed feeder hung up in a clearly visible place on my large chestnut tree which will provide food for the truly wild birds that wouldn’t come near a house.
I recommend buying your bird seed and peanuts in bulk if possible and don’t forget to shop around as there can be a huge difference in prices. I usually buy wild bird seed, sunflower seed, peanuts and fat balls [suet and seed] but you can buy other things like suet squares, meal worms and high fat food, depending on your budget. When you are starting off, try to buy two or three large covered buckets with handles for storing your seed as mice will eat it if you leave it uncovered in a shed. It also stops moisture getting in and keeps the seed fresh.
You will probably only need to feed the birds twice a week depending on the weather. After all that work, its now time to relax and enjoy seeing all the wild birds coming into your garden, buy a book and enjoy getting to recognize all the different species and see how tame they became, particularly the blue tits and of course the gardener’s best friend…the Robin!
Not only will you be doing your part by encouraging biodiversity and protecting local wildlife, you will literally be giving the gift of life to the birds around you, which is an amazing and wonderful thing to be able to do.
On a final note, I’m delighted to say that the roasting pouches I hung out over the summer are all now being used, as well as the little log cabin bird house, so at least I know that for some of the birds who live in my garden have a warm place to sleep in on freezing winter nights.