Food for your wild friends

Guide
A collared dove feeds from a translucent window feeder

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 collared dove feeds from a translucent window feeder

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.

Help for hedgehogs.

When putting out food for hedgehogs, stick to either meat-based cat food (not fish) 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.

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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 your garden and the 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.

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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.

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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.