While some people believe that you should only feed birds in the winter months to lend them a helping hand while food supplies are scarce and temperatures are low, it’s actually perfectly safe to feed them all year round – as long as you’re doing so correctly. Here are the dos and don’ts you need to know if you’re going to help our feathered friends…
… offer seeds and nuts. Wild bird seed mix is the perfect combination of seeds and nuts, and is often pre-cut to the right size for birds. You’ll just need to make sure you have a good bird feeder installed in your garden to hold the food, so check out a supplier such as Wild Bird Feeders to see if you like the look of anything.
… clean your bird feeders regularly. In the same way that you clean your utensils, remember that bird feeders and dishes need cleaning too. You can buy special cleaning solutions to gently clean the apparatus birds are eating from, but just be sure to rinse everything thoroughly in clean water before using it again.
… chop peanuts into small pieces. Whole peanuts aren’t suitable for a number of species of birds as they can easily choke on them, so if you’re going to offer peanuts, make sure they’re cut smaller than the size of dried cat biscuits.
… leave suet blocks for birds to peck at. Birds enjoy suet, and pastry – cooked or uncooked. They’ll eat rice and potatoes too provided you’ve cooked it in unsalted water (as birds are unable to metabolise salt – it’s not a part of their regular diet).
… feel free to give birds meat. Birds can eat the hard fat cut from unsalted meat, and they’ll enjoy eating fresh meat too if it’s been cut into strips to resemble worms.
… feed them too much bread. Offering bread in large quantities (i.e. four or five slices a day) can encourage too many birds to regularly crowd into one area. This has the result of increasing the likelihood of avian diseases being transmitted between birds, which will have a damaging effect on the wider ecosystem. It also doesn’t have much nutritional value, either.
… offer birds currants without soaking the currants first. Dried currants can swell in birds’ stomachs, so make sure you soak the currents overnight first. Birds can eat raisins and sultanas so long as the currants have had a chance to reabsorb water first.
… give birds mushy cereal. Your leftover Weetabix and porridge isn’t much good for birds as it’s too glutinous. They prefer dried breakfast cereal if you crush it up first, and will appreciate you taking care to position it near a bird bath as they’ll need some water afterwards.
… offer mouldy food. Most moulds are harmless to birds, but occasionally, mould can make one or two quite unwell. If you’ve noticed that the food you’re giving them is turning mouldy before they can eat it, offer them a smaller quantity of food until they’re eating enough of it to warrant you giving them more.
There’s plenty more you can give birds that is safe for them to eat. However, if you’re not sure what scraps you can give birds in your garden, check out the RSPB website for advice.