(Adapted from my feature in Irish Country Magazine)
My city friends often lament the fact that they don’t have the pleasure of listening to birdsong in the mornings. This is a lament that is easily rectified, for the beauty of birdsong is not just for rural dwellers and if you live in a city or town, there’s no reason why you cant enjoy one of nature’s greatest pleasures.
Without birds, there is no birdsong, so invite them in!
We have over one hundred varieties of wild birds in Ireland who love to visit gardens, so with just a little encouragement and minimal effort, you too can enjoy their company.
Our winters can be harsh for our little feathered friends so I always make sure that all the birds at Hunters Lodge have lots to eat, especially when temperatures plummet and bugs and berries are scarce. My reward is a chorus of song that never fails to lift my heart.
Encouraging birds into your garden requires very little effort. Nets of birdseed are available widely in garden centres, pet stores and indeed, your local supermarket. All you need to do is hang the net in your garden and it won’t take long for the birds to find it.
Creating a source of food for birds in your garden is a wonderful activity for children of all ages (and a great way to get them outdoors). In fact, most of our wild bird’s favourite foods can be found in your kitchen cupboard so will require minimal effort for all involved in the project. Birds are partial to peanut butter, porridge oats, grated cheese, dried fruits and much more.
Make A Cake!
Fat Cakes (or Fat Balls) are some of the most popular treats for birds. The fat not only gives them energy, but keeps them warm during the cold months. Why not save yourself some money and make your own? You can make the cake with the ingredients you have in your kitchen. The basis of all bird cakes is fat – this can be suet or lard, bacon rinds or meat trimmings. Just follow these guidelines.
- Roughly ½ fat to 1lb dry ingredients works best
- Melt the fat before adding the dry ingredients
- Always leave to set in the fridge overnight
- Do not use turkey fat – it won’t set like suet or lard
250 dried seeds and fruit
Heart-shaped cookie cutters
Melt the lard in a saucepan.
Add the dry ingredients ensuring that all the seeds, nuts and fruit is covered with the fat.
Place the cookie cutters on a clean flat chopping board.
Fill the cutters with the mixture, using the back of a spoon to press the mixture in tightly.
Create a hole with a knife near the top of each cake.
Set in the fridge overenight.
When the cakes have set, remove from the moulds and thread ribbon through the hole at the top of the cake.
Hang these hearts up high in the garden.
Peanut Butter Rolls
Crunchy peanut butter
Bird seed or a homemade mix of seeds, nuts and raisins.
Empty toilet roll holders
Making these peanut butter rolls is a simple and fun activity that will provide your birds with lots of nutrients.
Place the seed mix on a flat tray
Cover the toilet roll holders with peanut butter
Roll the holders in the seed mix until the peanut butter is fully covered. Pat well to ensure that the mix is firmly stuck to the peanut butter.
Loop the rolls onto branches of a tree.
While this is an easy project for children, it is also quite messy so be warned. However, a messy project means happy children – and even happier birds.
This is a very simple idea that’s bound to attract the songbirds.
Half an orange and scoop out the contents.
Pierce a hole in the skin tol allow you to thread a ribbon or string through.
Melt fat and add any dry ingredients you have in the kitchen – porridge oats, breadcrumbs, chopped apple, sunflower seeds or any types of nuts. (Remember the rule, twice as much dry ingredients to fat).
Thread the ribbon or string through the orange skin.
Pack the orange with the mixture and allow to set.
Hang on a high branch and watch the birds enjoy it.
If you decide to encourage birds into your garden, don’t forget that in harsh weather they will come to depend on you as a source of food so don’t forget to top up your feeders.
Try to ensure that your birds also have a source of clean water nearby. This can be as simple as an upturned dustbin lid in the garden. Put stones in the lid to keep it secure and if the water freezes, be sure to remove the ice for the birds.
Do not use stale or mouldy peanuts. These can kill your birds.
Few birds (apart from pigeons) can digest wheat or corn.
Try to keep all feeders at least six feet off the ground and be sure there isn’t a nearby shrubbery where your cat can hide, ready to pounce!
Milk is not recommended for birds, but a little grated cheese in freezing weather will warm them up quickly.
Inviting birds into your garden and feeding them can be the difference between life and death for some of our little feathered friends. It is not time consuming to prepare food for them. And yes, it can be a little bit messy and in this day and age we are most certainly not encouraged to cook with melted fat. But this fat is so important to our wild birds and no matter the time of year, we can’t let Santa’s robin go hungry, now can we?
Are you feeding the birds in your garden? Do let me know.
All of our Freddy Buttons storybooks, colouring book and organic seeds are now available in our Freddy Buttons Shop