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Im quite new to bird feeding but i'm hooked already! I bought myself two feeders a couple of months ago and was lucky enough to have a beautiful bird table made for me for Christmas. I love watching the birds from the kitchen as they race around helping themselves to the nuts, seeds, mealworms, mashed potato, bread and fat balls I leave out for them. We are very lucky as we have such a wide variety of birds that visit our garden, from blue,great and coal tits, to starlings, black birds, dunnocks, greenfinches, robins and our resident pigeon named Dick and his girlfriend! They bring me so much pleasure, I wouldn't be without them now.
The RSPB recommends that we should always remove the nylon netting around the fat balls for just the reason highlighted by Pippa - it's so easy for little feet to become entangled. Unfortunately there appear to be more and more hooks and hangers on sale encouraging people to hang up the fat balls by the netting - and these hooks and hangers are not much cheaper than a proper fat ball feeder. sells a variety of fat ball feeders (narrower than peanut feeders so there's no need to get yourself in a mess!). Prices range from £2.25 for a green wire feeder that holds 4 small fat balls (there's also one that holds 2 large fat balls), to a caged version that prevents access to larger birds for £14.95. I've also seen similar products at B&Q and at a number of local garden centres (ranging from £2.50). Bird lovers who spend money on fat balls to feed their feathered friends would willingly, I am sure, spend a further £3 or so to present them to the birds more safely. The difficulty is in highlighting the danger of leaving the fat balls in the nylon netting.
There are feeders on the market specifically designed for these fat balls. I have had 2 for several years - 1 takes 2 of the large size fatballs and the other holds 4 of the small ones. I always remove the nets before placing in these holders and they have been a huge success and I have seen a greater spotted woodpecker on them as well as bluetits,great tits, sparrows and starlings
I always put them in a mesh holder, the starlings enjoy them, and break off bits, which drop for other birds. A friend, several years ago, packed a coconut shell for me with bird food,but with no hanging thread, I jammed it into the fork of a tree, unfortunately the squirrels competently removed it!
Gosh. I had seen the balls on sale and wondered if perhaps the plastic may get swallowed by the birds (could this happen?). I hadn't thought about the birds getting tangled. Emptying them into another container is a great idea. Thanks for the tip Pippa!


We put bird food out but the birds around were we live prefer whole nuts on our bird table, but the sea gulls also like the nuts . So most of the time we don't put any out because they eat all the bird food and don't leave any for the robins and the tits.
I use fatballs from Aldi less then £6 per big tube of 50. Unlike at G/C which charge about £10 per tube containing the same number of fat balls. I use the mesh feeders and I have also I have one feeder in a hedge which has sparrows they have now been nesting here for over 3 years they are great. Do not forget birds need food when nesting to help feed their young. I also smash up the fat balls for ground feeders this is far better then buying loose feed which can blow all over the place.
I used to take the mesh of the fat balls then I began to wonder what a waste! All that making nets from nylon for me to fling into landfill I now rather make my own as earlier suggestion though I use a suet lard mix cos its less messy also some places like the RSPB now supply fat balls without nylon netting around them at a competitive price.
Can't cope with making my own fatballs (a rampant veggie and the idea od melting lard in a saucepan doesn't go down too well!) BUT really admire and respect those of you that go to that effort, yes I agree too that it seems the craziest waste of energy (not mine this time!) to remove the balls from the bags before use - platic, colouring, mesh-making and fixing machines etc etc, crazy, but interested to hear that the RSPB does bag-free versions maybe when I've finally come tot he end of the two huge tubs of 50+ that I bought just before my near disaster, I'll get myself some!
I have one of those fat ball feeders that take 4 small balls at a time. I cut the nets off of the fat balls first and just pop them in. Never thought about birds getting caught up in them, so quite pleased I never put them out with them still on. Birds also like the fat blocks you can buy with peanuts, fruit and flies (lovely) in them. Also have a feeder that they just pop into and it is hung up with the rest of the feeders. Sometimes, when I look out at the feeders, it is a mass of birds and you wouldn't know there were feeders there. I love that!
I thought about the nets ,perhaps we should suggest the manufacturer stops selling them with the nets,as other wildlife could get at them, as they often blow away!! I live in Rural Lincolnshire after moving from SE London & enjoy sharing my garden with Wildlife.
This is the first winter that I have fed the birds in my garden and have been delighted to watch tits finches starlings and even woodpeckers voraciously enjoying the fatball-hanger on the lawn.I too have started to remove the plastic nets as they seemed unnecessary. For poor robin who could only watch these antics I place one of the balls on the feeder tray and while the others are all competing to cling on to the hanging feeders he enjoys a good tuck-in!
We put fatballs out in various feeders in our garden. We used to leave the green netting on, mainly because we dont get many small birds in our garden. Jackdaws soon decimate the fat balls, even with the netting on. So now we take the netting off, and put the fatballs in wire mesh feeders.
I am so glad you told us of this hazard. I had no idea. I'm about to rush out and get my fat balls back in. My mum bought me a fat ball holder and I thought it was just an unnecessary gimmick! how wrong could I be. Thanks for the tips everyone.
I stopped using the net fat balls as they are too crumbly, will dry out and fall apart quite quickly. I now present the CJ Wild Bird Foods fat cylinders supplied by the CJ themselves, the RSPB and Sainsbury's. They are available in 500ml and 1l sizes and will last for ages. They should be hung which discourages the large birds from eating them as they cannot cling on or balance. They are a favourite target for squirrels however.


My wife gets rather concerned when I leave fat balls etc out for the birds as she thinks they may encourage rats and other vermin I'd be grateful for your advice as I am new to all this bird feeding but I must say I rather enjoy it.
have just got into this bird feeding game i have been buying rspb fat cakes but i shall certainly try the homemade version. i wasn't aware of the danger of the mesh bags will be passing this information on to all the people i have been boring with how wonderful it is to watch the birds in my garden
Hello Pippa. While I was reading your story about the fat balls it reminded me about something which happened in my friends garden many years ago when the ring on a birds leg caught in the mesh on a peanut bag. As my friend was away from home at the time the bird was dead by the time she got home.Which leads me to the question. Is it safe to ring birds? sincerely Doreen K.
I buy the suet filled half coconut shells 69p from home bargains also pack of three squares of suet mix with different ingredients £1.69p.I break one square up on the bird table for the bigger birds and have those green square feeders for the others.
May I just say on the subject of fat balls that we buy a product called cake mix from CJ Wild bird foods,This product mixed into melted suet & poured into pots,put in the fridge to set then put in a feeder is rated top grub by our visiting great,blue,coal & long-tailed tits plus assorted finches