It is important to look after our feathered friends in the garden during winter as the shorter days and colder weather will kick-start many bird migration journeys. It is vital for garden birds to build up their energy and fat reserves ahead of the cold snap and we recommend the following to keep them in good health and thriving until spring.
The most important thing we can do to help care and feed our garden birds is to supplement their diet over winter with a bird seed mix which includes essential fats, nutrients, and protein. In winter there are less natural foods available and shorter days mean there is also less time for them to forage.
High energy suet treats such as pellets, cakes and fat balls, as well as specialist winter seed mixes that include sunflower and nyger, are an important food source that'll help the birds to survive the winter. Garden birds have very fast metabolisms, so the small amount of calories and fat they consume during cold weather is needed to convert into heat to keep them warm.
If your container garden plants have fruit, berries, hips, seeds and nuts they will also provide an exciting meal for birds. Crab apple trees, berry bushes, and other fruiting plants provide vital food and shelter, whilst holly, hawthorn, rowan and dogwood all provide delicious delicacies or attract tasty insects.
Make your own pot bird feeder
A great activity for the whole family to get involved to attract avian visitors to your garden is to make your own terracotta bird feeder. It is really easy to make, all you need is some small, frostproof terracotta pots, (or a yoghurt pot, half plastic bottle, mould or half coconut will do) bird seed, fruit and some lard for this tasty treat!
- Thread some string or twine through the drainage hole of your pot and tie the ends together to form a knot.
- Melt the lard in a saucepan over a low heat and allow to cool.
- Slowly mix into the lard an equal amount of dried fruit (we recommend raisins, sultanas or currants) and bird seed.
- Spoon the mixture into your terracotta pot and firm down until each is full.
- Place a short bamboo cane in the middle of your mixture so the garden birds have somewhere to perch whilst feasting.
- Put in the fridge to cool the mixture and allow it to set for approximately 15 minutes.
- Once set, hang on a tree branch or feeding station and enjoy an array of garden birds dining in your garden.
Make your own bird food cakes
If you don’t have a pot to hand, you can also make bird food cakes and shapes for our feathered friends to enjoy.
For a Christmas twist, you will need bird seed, cranberries, suet or lard.
- Melt the lard or suet in a saucepan over a low heat and allow to cool.
- Slowly mix in an equal amount of cranberries and bird seed.
- Spread onto a baking tray and put in the fridge until the mixture has set hard.
- Once firmed, use a cookie cutter or knife to cut into shape – whether it be a circle, heart – be imaginative!
- Hang on your feeding station or tree branches.
- If you find it’s a bit crumbly, next time add a little more fat and a little less dry seed mixture.
Water is an essential source for birds over winter, despite the UK’s rainfall. In cold weather which results in a frost, fresh water is just as important as food as garden birds will struggle to find unfrozen water for drinking and bathing to maintain their plumage.
A bird bath is an excellent water source for birds who need to drink at least twice a day. Baths should have sloped sides for easy access and water can be prevented from freezing by adding a table tennis ball on the surface of the water. Keep your bird bath clean by using a special wildlife disinfectant to prevent bacteria and disease spreading and make sure you change the water regularly, ideally daily.
We also recommend placing your bird bath in a safe spot, preferably near bushes or foliage to give shelter from the elements and somewhere to hide in case of predators.
We’d love to see the bird feeders and visitors in your garden. Tag us with #GardenesqueGarden! We can’t wait to see what you’ve made!