A collared dove feeds from a translucent window feeder

Food for your wild friends

No matter how big or small your space is, whether it's a blank canvas or well-established, if you’ve got loads of experience or none whatsoever – anyone can do this, and our nature needs you. It’s easy to help the nature on your doorstep.

A little tasty top-up

Picture this: a sunny afternoon with birds singing and butterflies flitting from flower to flower. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy an outdoor space that’s vibrant with colour and wildlife. And one sure way to make your space more inviting is by welcoming wildlife by putting out food.

This is one of the easiest of our top ten to do – and it may well be that you already do it! It’s all about giving wildlife a helping hand by putting out food, such as seeds for birds. And if you are lucky enough to have the right kind of patch, you may even be able to help your hedgehogs too.

An aerial view of a birdfeeder hanging in a courtyard garden

Adrian looks at helping wildlife with food

Watch as our wildlife gardening guru, Adrian Thomas, guides you through how to turn your patch into paradise, bring you great pleasure and boost the wildlife you’ll see and hear. And you don’t even have to be green-fingered to achieve it!

A hedgehog faces the camera while resting among ivy

Help for hedgehogs

When putting out food for hedgehogs, stick to either cat food or a hedgehog food mix. Never milk! Water is their drink of choice. You may also want to knock-up a homemade feeding box – an upside-down large plastic box with a 12-cm diameter hole cut in the side and a heavy brick on top to prevent the food being gobbled up by the local foxes or cats.

Song thrush pulling a worm from the ground

Food for your feathered friends

We tend to talk about putting out food for the birds as supplementary food, as it is a top-up to all the natural food that your garden birds need. Most birds need a very varied diet, and their chicks often have a very different and specific menu, and all of it must come in large part from the rest of garden and local area. Worms, spiders, beetles, flies, seeds, berries, fruit, even leaves – your garden birds will spend most of their time having a good old food-hunt away from your feeders and bird tables.

A great tit perched on a snow covered bird table

Feed birds all year long

Your offerings present easy calories, and while feeding in winter is the obvious time to throw the birds a foodie lifeline, the advice these days is to keep feeding throughout the year. You probably won’t have to put out as much in summer. So, don’t get concerned if your birds aren’t snaffling your handouts until Christmas - they will be gorging on the natural bounty until then. But, in particular, remember that spring can be an incredible time of need: the weather may be warming, but natural supplies can often be at their lowest.

A few handy hints

  • Birds are surprisingly picky. They’ll turn their beaks up at foods that are low in goodness, too difficult to handle, or which have been sat out too long, so go for quality food
  • You’ll get more variety of birds visiting if you provide a variety of foods, so offer a good seed mix with sunflower hearts, peanuts, mealworms and fatty nibbles or fatballs
  • Place your feeding station carefully. If you can, raise it up, well out of reach of cats
  • Avoid salted foods but there are plenty of other safe foods for birds
  • Keep your feeding station hygienic. You don’t want unwanted wildlife coming in, so brush up any spilt food. There are also special feeders available that can exclude larger birds or squirrels
  • Keep it clean - stop diseases. You don’t want where you feed to be an area where birds can pick up deadly diseases from each other. Be sure to pop on your marigolds and give tables and feeders a splosh down with a weak disinfectant solution on a regular basis.
A bird with mealworms in its mouth perched on a bicycle tire
Wellies planted with flowers

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A blurred version Nature on your doorstep garden

33 wildlife garden ideas

Choose the perfect gardening activities for you and your outdoor space.