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in Wildlife gardening
Now theres some really good ideas for the fat balls im going to try and i,ll try the lard as well, and Lyn thats a cracking picture cheers all
I've tried niger seed - no takers - and all sorts of other fancy stuff but what our visitors and residents like best are the ordinary fat balls, peanuts and loose seed for the ground feeders. I usually find the price of loose peanuts and seed is better than the pre-packaged stuff. I can buy a mix of broken seeds and grains for just €1,50 a kilo but pay double for mixes with whole sunflower seeds in. I tend to offer a mix of the two.
They also like the flesh and seeds I scrape from pumpkins, ditto melons in summer (no 1 cat likes those too) plus home made fat and seed loaves and just recently some leftover pumpkin and sultana muffins.
Anything WITHOUT wheat or corn in - it all gets flung out - the birds don't want it. I suspect that birdfood manufacturers put them in to bulk out their mix
Being country birds ours love corn of all descriptions. Our garden backs on to arable fields and it's a mad house at harvest time when there's wheat, barley or oats being spilled as they harvest and then along the sides of the road where it falls from the trailers being driven to the weighing station.
Our 2 resident collared doves eat all the corn. Although the other birds are choosy and wheat gets left until there's nothing better on offer, it all seems to get eaten in the end .
I agree datona, when you add up the waste and the time taken to clean it all up it's not really good value for money, at least all the sunflower seed hearts get eaten between the finches and the blackbirds cleaning up under them. Regarding fat balls, when it gets cold I put what ever is good for them to eat, such as potato, (especially roasted), pasta, rice, fruitcake, mealworms, seeds, etc, and all the dripping thats been saved from the sunday roast, into the food processor with some granary bread and blitz it. adding left over cheese sauce goes down a treat too. i put it in the fridge and roll it into balls for the feeders as i need it and throw some onto the lawn for the ground feeders. through the week i save left overs for the next batch. did anyone see the programe tonight on food waste, i recon 50 - 70% of that could have been recycled into above such delights for our feathered friends winter fuel
I use the Chapelwood premium Wild bird seed mix, the local garden centre to me puts in on offer in the spring so a 20kg for £10-11 (bogof) which a couple of bags does for the year. It has quite a good mix but you can top it up with sunflower hearts. The Blue/Great tits are loving this at the moment as well as the Dunnocks and the pigeons clear up whats left
The no mess stuff tends to clog up the feeders when it gets wet so i glued (superglue) an old pot saucer to the bottom of the feeder, with some holes for drainage.
It stops most of the seeds being dropped on the ground, the pidgeons and doves do a circus trick to try and stay on it to feed but most of the time it doesn't last long, so they don't take as much and are quite happy to take up the spillage on the ground.
I get the tubs of 50 fat balls (again when its a 3-2 offer) my birds love them but in my Dads garden 6 miles away they won't touch them.
i use sunflower hearts and suet pellet food (which all birds eat in my garden) even the blackbird gets on the feeder for them.
i also have wild bird seed and by mine from our local scats shop as it doesnt have the corn and bits in the birds dont like.. bit more expensive but less wastage.
also have niger seeds out and finch seed.
dont have peanuts out as they getting to wet and mouldy inthis weather and the blue tites etc love the suet pellets especially the ones with insects and nuts in.
thou i must say when i go and buy up i spend about £40 each time.. as the suet are 10kg for 11.49 a box so always get 2 of those and the sunflower seeds i can weigh out loose.. so that comes in about £15. for half and medium rubbish bin size.
and hte wild bird seed is.. um..um.. cnat remember not bought some for a while.
I find seed mixes and commercial fat balls are false economy - full of stuff the birds don't like.
What gets eaten and no mess left over is: sunflower hearts, shredded suet from the supermarket, raisins and very occasional food scraps (we don't have many leftovers).
This website has some good information about which popuar bird seed to use
The cheapest place i've found is Costco, they sell the large 12kg bags of seed for about £7 (no vat). They also sell peanuts which are a bit more expensive @ £12. They sell fat balls too which are also cheap but i can't remember how much.
Other than that i buy the large bags at the garden centre when they are on offer.
I've found the cheapest is not the most economical.
Hulled sunflower seeds are better than the ones with shells on,because there is no mess to scrape up.
I use various mixes through the year. At the moment I am using fledgling mix from Garden Bird Supplies. I usually use their Ultiva feeder mix, because it does not clog the feeders up. it is more expensive, but it's not bulked out with a lot of wheat like the cheap mixes are. The finches will just chuck wheat out on the ground, attracting more wood pigeons which are a total pest in my garden.
I use Garden Bird supplies Ground feeder/soft bill mix for blackbirds and robins.
The only things that really like peanuts are the squirrels.
The great spotted woodpeckers like Garden Bird supplies cranberry fat blocks best. Last week the mother was showing the fledglings where the fast food supplies were.
The greater variety of feeds means that I get a greater variety of birds. What I spend on Bird food, I save on pesticides.
The delivery man does think I'm running some sort of nature reserve. I see him quite often, and I order in 12.5kg sacks.
Garden Bird Supplies were my supplier, and have always been good to me, but I switched to the RSPB for most foods and livefoods.co.uk for the mealworms (in 2kg boxes!) The RSPB send me a special offer every week, usually for something of which I just got a month's supply.
Peanuts: forget it. The woodpecker is the only bird interested in peanuts.
Treat pellets with insects, aka buggy nibbles: top food in winter. Fill a peanut feeder with this stuff and watch it get mobbed.
Treat pellets with berries, aka fruit nibbles: second or third choice. They really prefer the bugs.
Seed mix: everyone's got a favourite. I put out the feeder mix with dreid mealworms and the starlings threw the lot on the floor to get at the mealworms. I put out the feeder mix without the mealworms and the finches threw the lot on the floor to get at the sunflower hearts. Currently, I have the "feeder mix extra" and it gets cleaned up. The least popular bit is the little, reddish balls. They go, though.
Live mealworms: currently everybody's number one food. If you want a bird to land on your hands for food, this is the food to use. Even the finches are ignoring seed to hunt these nutrient-rich wrigglers. This is how you feed baby birds. Smaller ones are more expensive, and the birds are quite capable of dismembering a large one to feed it to their babies a chunk at a time.
Treat blocks aka cakes: the same as nibbles, but they charge VAT on the cakes. The big cube of a "squirrel-resistant" feeder is also starling-resistant, which the oval one isn't, so if you want other birds to have a chance, use the cube one ... or use one of each.
I did an experiment with treat blocks, cutting up blocks from the local fruit shop, the supermarket, Garden Bird, the RSPB and a big DIY place and putting them all out in the feeder together, in different patterns. No matter how I arranged them, the birds would find the GB and RSPB blocks and demolish them. They went through three whole blocks from those suppliers before they'd bothered to eat even a tenth of anyone else's block.
Fat balls? Nobody was interested. Nothing wanted them.
Footnote: feeder cages! I got the barrel-style cages from GB, and the squirrels lifted the tops off and went down inside the tubes to get at the food! This wrecked the lids and the mesh tube. Also, the rain tended to get in and flood them, so the bottom of the plastic tube was always jamming up with soggy, rotting seed mix. I made porches for them, and very elegant little porches they were too, but between big birds, squirrels and a few windy days they got smashed off. I also had to put wire around the bases to stop the squirrel hanging off the bottom of the mesh and reaching in to sweep food to the edges.
Now, instead, I have Homebase feeders with bell-jar cages and plastic cone bases. They can be screwed on either way up. On the seed mix feeder, I have it set to shed the mix over the sides onto the ground. Yes, this creates a patch of sunflower seed husk, but that's part of the price of having bird feeders. On the "peanut" feeders (full of treat pellets with a few peanuts on top that have been there all year) I have the bases "dish" way up, to avoid spilling such good food on the ground where rats and pigeons can get it. There is a slight drawback to this: the wire hoop is barely long enough, so getting it on and off the hook is a bit fiddly. Obvious answer would be an S-hook, but so far I've coped with it being fiddly.
A rat did find its way into one. It even managed to get back out after I startled it, too ... but the second time I startled it I startled it by blowing a 4.5mm hole through it from left kidney to right shoulder, so it didn't get very far.