Some things may be ‘for the birds’, but winter definitely isn’t one of them. Do you know how to help keep feathered friends happy and warm in the winter? Easy. Just follow these few simple tips.
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Keep Feathered Friends Happy with Healthy Food
Dieting for us is truly ‘for the birds’, but a certain level of fat is actually good for them. Fat is part of what helps keep birds warm in winter. Fat to keep feathered friends happy comes in the form of plenty of food, including suet, and peanut butter.
What exactly is Suet? It is basically animal fat that has been rendered. Lard, on the other hand, is the fat from a pig that has been rendered. It is softer than animal suet but can be fed to the birds. Although it can be used in ‘pure’ form, I do prefer to mix mine with an assortment of seeds and dried, chopped fruit.
For suet, invest in a suet feeder and hang it in a tree. For peanut butter, get crafty. A tree branch, broken or cut to approximately 8” long is a perfect starting place, and will add a new layer to ways you can keep feathered friends happy.
Drill several holes around the branch, and one on the very top. In the top hole, screw in an eye hook. Fill up the other holes with peanut butter. Hang it in another tree.
Shelter – For the Birds, but it Keeps them Warm
Some form of shelter is a great way to keep feathered friends happy. If you currently have birdhouses, use the fall to make any necessary repairs and give them a good cleaning.
Add a bit of fresh straw, dried grass, dryer lint, or even a small piece of cotton batting. Or, leave small piles of it near your birdhouse, so the birds can make their own nests.
If you use thread, make sure it is very short pieces, to prevent it from wrapping around their tiny legs, or getting entangled in their wings.
Ventilation holes are required for summer, but in the winter find a way to plug them up. This prevents cold drafts and dampness from creeping in. One way to do this is to use removable weather stripping, such as straw, cloth rags, duct tape, or anything that will seal the holes and still be removable at spring time.
You can also use small scraps of weather stripping you used for your home’s doors and windows. Just be sure it can be removed in the spring.
If you are a living, breathing being, you must have water to survive. To keep feathered friends happy, usually a simple birdbath will work.
However, in the winter months, you want to prevent your birds from using it for its intended purpose – taking a bath. If your weather is freezing, the water on the bird’s feathers will also freeze. Without usable wings, a bird cannot fly.
Place large rocks in your birdbath. This is a great place for the birds to perch and drink, but take up too much room for the bird to bathe. It also works well for bees and butterflies by keeping them out of the water!
You will still have to clean your birdbaths weekly and refill with fresh water. If you have an issue with the water freezing, you can either chip the top layer of ice, or use a ‘water heater’ designed for birdbaths. THIS ONE is a good choice.
Besides providing fat to keep keep feathered friends happy, they also need their standard food. I love making winter Bird Treats for mine, using cookie cutters. This provides not only suet, but also seeds and dried fruit.
Their standard fare of bugs and worms have depleted over the winter months, so offer them a treat in the form of meal worms. These provide a bit of protein and that little bit of lagnappe. Your birds will love you for it!
Other food to really keep feathered friends happy are seeds (black oil sunflower seeds is a favorite with most birds) and dried fruit that has been roughly chopped into small pieces. When I am short on bird feed, I substitute a bit of my chicken scratch. They also enjoy a touch of fresh fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries.
Keep in mind, not all birds feed from hanging feeders. Some are ground feeders, such as doves, starlings, cardinals, buntings and others. For them, keep feathered friends happy by sprinkling seeds and other foods on the ground for them to enjoy.
If you feed your birds close to low-growing shrubs, keep feathered friends happy by hanging a suet feeder close to the ground. Don’t leave it directly on the ground, as that can give ants easy access. Elevate it somewhat, such as a shrub branch. A perfect feeder that incorporates both ground and elevated feeders can be found HERE on Amazon.
Landscaping – Provides Food to Keep Feathered Friends Happy and Warm in the Winter
For protection and food for the birds, consider planting bird-friendly shrubs. Some shrubs produce berries in the winter. This is a ‘free’ offering that will supplement what you are providing.
Some shrubs that produce berries for the birds in winter include viburnum, winterberry holly, choke cherry, and red-osier dogwood.
Shrubs and trees don’t just provide food for the birds. They also offer protection and a place to rest. Evergreens do not lose their leaves and needles, so they are better for giving the birds a safe place to hide from predators.
Wind breaks Also Keep Feathered Friends Happy
There is nothing more brutal than a cold winter wind. If your feeders are in a direct line to harsh winds, try to keep feathered friends happy by offering a windbreak.
Windbreaks can include brush piles, other trees or a building, such as a barn or storage shed. If none of these are available, consider building a temporary wind break out of ply board or old tin.
Leaf Litter in the garden – It’s also for the birds!
Leaf litter in your garden harbors a few bugs for the birds. It is an excellent source of foraging, where the birds can find protein in invertebrates and other small bugs. Leaf litter will also break down and offer beneficial nutrients to your garden in spring. It is one of the best win/win things you can do!
There is nothing more beautiful than to see our feathered friends hanging out in our yards. The golds, the blues, the reds…it is a veritable rainbow of color outside our windows. If you want to keep this rainbow glittering throughout the year, incorporate some of these tips. After all, they are for the birds – keep them warm this winter!
Winter is the one time of year we strive to find fun things to do indoors. Need a great craft project? Try these easy to make food-&-water in-one bird feeders! They are perfect for all seasons!
All you need for this feeder is a plastic plate, bowl, glue and pebbles.
Simple glue the bowl into the center of the plate and allow it to dry competely. Fill the bowl with small pebbles, then add water. Scatter bird food on the edget of the plate. Set your feeder on a table, bench, or even an old stump!
A second option gives you an opportunity to feed the birds, and also to get rid of a few pieces of clutter. Find a few appropriate glass or plastic pieces, such as luncheon plates, small bowls, cups, and vases. Using an adhesive designed for glass (Gorilla Glue works great!), glue a small bowl in the center of a round plate, or to one side of an oval luncheon plate. Allow to dry. Flip over, and glue the bottom of a flower vase to the bottom of a plate. Allow to dry. Using the vase as a base, slip it over a metal rod or dowel, and push into the soil of a flower bed, beside a tree or in front of a row of shrubs.
Fill the bowl with small pebbles and add water. Add birdfood to the plate.
Want to take it a bit further, and learn how to make your birds some special treats? Read more about Creating Bird Seed Treats HERE!