We’re lucky to live in the countryside and have plenty of wildlife and birds around. Of course when I’ve done the hour long annual birdwatch survey that’s when all the birds disappear. We can get a good variety of birds too, in the front and back garden, up in the field behind, and as I’m driving along the roads, we sometimes see other birds that stay away from the garden. But every time we went into shops, N would ask if we can get some bird feeders over the winter.
Eventually I’ve given in – hopefully it’ll help with his bird recognition because it’s pretty poor compared with my nature knowledge when I was his age. I used to belong to a local children’s Wildlife WATCH group, where each month we’d visit nature reserves or help with conservation work. I knew so much about animals and nature at a young age.
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We bought a couple of feeders to hang up – our crooked swing and climbing frame has done the job – one for seeds and nuts, and the other for fat balls. It seems the wild birds round here are greedy as anything and will eat whatever they can get their beaks to. Our lodgers have a bird table in their garden but I’m not sure if they put much on it as the birds are getting through a the whole of the seed feeder in one day. The bird fat balls are taking a couple of days.
I’ve loved watching the birds and N’s started to ask more about what the birds are. We’ve got great tits, sparrows, and now a couple of starlings have got wise to the food being out. After a week, we’ve finally seen the robin at the feeders as well.
With the amount of seed they’re going through I suggested we make some DIY bird fat balls, because I’m sure they would work out cheaper than buying them. I remember making some suet feeders in yoghurt pots when I was a Brownie and N was really excited about it.
There’s plenty of information online about what to feed birds – so much more than I’d thought. If we made a little platform we could hang that off the climbing frame for them too, and then put out occasional scraps of suitable food for them. I’m debating putting something on the picnic table given I’d have it right near the living room window – perfect for taking photos close up. We do have farm cats although it’s rare to see them coming as far as our garden, so it should be safe enough for the birds.
Making bird fat balls
There’s several options for the type of fat to use. We usually have a container for meat dripping from roasts in the kitchen so I can then easily throw it away. But there’s such a mix in there, it’s probably better to keep it to one type. Chicken fat is better at low temperatures as it has a lower melting temperature. But beef or pork dripping is fine. Alternatives are using coconut oil (again, better in colder weather), or even peanut butter (low salt, more natural versions are better). I used lard – interesting trying to explain what that is to N!
Then you simply choose the seeds or grains you want to include – you can add things like bacon, cooked chopped pasta or even raisins etc. But we went to a greengrocers and bought some big bags of seeds and nuts for a bargain price. We had a couple of mixed bird seed bags that we’ll use for the other feeder. Then bags of peanuts, sunflower seeds and niger seeds. We bought 5 kilogramme bags so that’ll keep the birds going well into spring, when hopefully they’ll find more of their own food without us needing to top up so fast.
To make DIY fat balls
1. Let the fat soften (but not to liquid)
2. Put the seeds and nuts you’re using into a bowl – we chopped the peanuts a bit. Anything that bloats when you add water, soak first so it doesn’t bulk up after the birds have eaten it
3. Add some of the fat and mix up so it’s well combined. Don’t add too much fat, you just want enough so it’ll stick together, but so it’s still more ‘food’ than fat.
4. Get a large spoonful of the mix and shape into a ball. We put ours into silicon cupcake cases, but you could put them in baking trays or anything else that will keep them in place.
5. Put on a tray in the fridge to harden before putting into your feeder.
Tips for bird fat balls:
- You don’t need to make balls. You can shape the feed around the end of string to hang them up. Put string in the bottom of a yoghurt pot with a hole in the bottom for the holder, then put the feed inside, then once hard remove the yoghurt pot. Or hollow out a coconut shell and put the food in that, then hang up.
- Find out more from the RSPB website
Pick up bird feeding supplies through my affiliate links.
Do you feed the birds in your garden? What kind of birds do you get?