Watching wildlife from the window with a cuppa in hand is a great way to de-stress in the colder months, but attracting these cute critters to our gardens in the first place is another story. Us Brits love to feed our furry neighbours, whether that’s taking a trip to the park to feed the ducks or putting out milk for hedgehogs, but it turns out we’re often doing more harm than good…
Studies show that there’s an increased risk of wild birds spreading diseases when eating from bird feeders. We fill our feeders up, watch the birds fill their stomachs and then we top up with more. Not often do we think to give them a clean! This is vital to making sure birds don’t catch diseases – if you see a lethargic and fluffed up bird this is a sign they might be diseased, so to avoid harming more birds it is best to remove the feeder and give it a good wash, maybe even leaving it a day or two before putting it back to let birds disperse. Little and often is the key here, letting it empty fully before refilling is best.
Plastic, plastic everywhere
If you use feeders you’re more than likely to attract squirrels too whether you like it or not! They also enjoy the same food as birds, but sadly if you have a plastic feeder they often gnaw through them to get to the food inside causing them to ingest plastic. Metal feeders are easy to come by, or you can even make a pine cone feeder like this one if you’re feeling particularly crafty – they look fab on any kind of bush or tree and make great outdoor Christmas decorations! If (like me) you do like seeing little squirrels hopping around the garden, add a few of their favourite foods such as almonds, acorns and pine nuts to attract them. If you’re green-fingered you most likely want to deter them. The best ways would be to find a squirrel-proof bird feeder and to use wire netting to protect your vegetable patch as plastic is very easy to chew through! Just make sure to steer clear of any nasty chemicals as these will harm other animals too.
Think! Stayin’ alive…
Despite helping us cross roads safely for 20 years, hedgehog numbers are sadly declining for multiple reasons. Number one being pesticide use across the UK. Hedgehogs’ diets consist of worms, slugs and beetles and with pesticides killing their food, meals are in short supply. To help, we can use alternatives to garden chemicals (such as natural insect repellents) and buy organically produced food. During the winter when there are less insects, you can put out a dish of shallow water along with sunflower hearts, crushed unsalted nuts and dried fruit (in moderation), just make sure you never put out milk as they’re actually lactose-intolerant! For more info on how you can make your garden more hog-friendly, check out Hedgehog Street’s campaign.
Feeding the ducks
Now I’d bet my hat that everyone has memories of taking some slices of bread to the park as a kid to feed the ducks – sadly this is pretty bad for them! Bread has almost no nutritional value for ducks, geese or swans, so filling up on it means they often suffer from and even die of malnutrition because they don’t forage for food that gives them the nutrients they actually need. The uneaten bits also contribute to algal growth, spread disease and even attract rats. Add this to the fact that it leads to overcrowding of bird populations in typical feeding areas (which causes multiple problems in itself), it’s pretty safe to say that bread = bad for birds. Instead, give your kiddies these 6 healthy treats next time you pay a visit to your feathered friends.