Feeding garden birds is a relatively cheap activity to do with your children but can give huge educational benefits. Not only will they enjoy the activity of preparing the feed, they will learn to help and respect wildlife. My three year old son has been feeding the birds for just over a year but can identify more birds than many adults. We have our feeders on a tree outside the front window, we are able to spot a bird as soon as it lands to feed. My son has a pair of binoculars and we have a bird book by the window so we can identify which type it is. I am in the process of producing a simple garden bird guide that you can keep by your window and will post that on my blog within the next few weeks.
List of equipment you can use to feed the garden birds
Mesh Feeder – Used to store nuts. Purchase from a reputable shop as the mesh needs to be just the right size to not cause injury to the bird’s beaks.
Seed feeder – Made from a transparent plastic. Easy to clean and prevents seeds falling out.
Suet feeder – Commonly found as a square wired container or a cylinder wired container. Used to keep fat balls in.
Tray – Use a large shallow tray for ground feeding birds to feed from. Leave in an open area of the garden so the birds will have all round vision.
Bird table – A large bird table will mean more birds can use it with less fighting. Wood is a preferred look in the garden but plastic and metal is easier to clean. The post should be smooth and straight to prevent cats and squirrels climbing it, a metal post would be ideal.
Hygiene – Feeding areas can harbour dangerous bacteria if used by birds and not cleaned regularly. If it takes days for the feed to be eaten then reduce the amount of feed that you are offering. Always clean feeders outside and use a mild disinfectant every few weeks. Use gloves when cleaning feeders and tables and remove old food and faeces from the feeding areas to prevent parasites.
List of feed to use to attract birds to your garden
You can either leave these separate or mix them with other seeds to produce your own mixed bird seed.
Fruit – Apples, pears and other fruits can be halved and placed on a table to attract blackbirds and thrushes
Nuts – Crush them if you put them straight on a table and only use nuts suitable to birds. Will attract finches, woodpeckers, tits and Nuthatches.
Sunflower seeds – Remove husks to make it easier for the birds. Many birds enjoy these so you may see siskins, nuthatches, finches and buntings
Nyjer seeds – High in fat so a brilliant feed in the colder months. You may need to mix it with other feed or add it to your lard feeder as they are so small they can easily fall through most feeders. Attracts finches.
Mixed seed – This is probably something most people start on when feeding birds as it’s sold in most supermarkets and local shops. Try to pick a mixed seed that contains lots of sunflower seeds, peanuts and flaked maize. As it is a mixed seed it will attract a variety of birds such as robins, finches and tits.
Fat balls – These sometimes come with a netting around them, always remove this netting before putting it out for the birds as they can become entangled in it. Attracts many different birds, in my garden it particularly attracts magpies.
Make your own lard feeder:
1 generous cup of bird seed (Use any from the list above)
A plastic container such as a yoghurt pot
Strong garden twine
Before you make your lard mix, put a hole in each end of your plastic container and tie a piece of twine to it. Lard is very cheap to buy, you can pick up a 250g block for as little as 30p. Leave this out of the fridge to make it easier to mix with a spoon. Using a large bowl, smooth the lard so that you are able to mix the seed into it. Pour in the seed and blend well. Fill your container and hang it from a tree or place it on a table.