It’s been a tough winter and spring for the wildlife in our gardens. In Wildlife Enquiries, we get a number of calls and emails asking for advice on feeding the birds, the right type of feeders, what to feed and when.

Some people think that they should only feed the birds through the winter months when there is less natural food available. It’s actually OK to feed birds all year round as supplementary feeding only makes up about 10% of a bird’s diet, and they are drawn to natural food over supplementary food. This is one reason why at times they can seem to abandon our gardens and feeders only to return later. During the summer months the supplementary food can really help parent birds who are busy collecting food for their young. It enables them to grab some food for themselves using as little energy as possible. If there is a shortage of food due to weather conditions, supplementary food can help with the shortfall when feeding their young.


  • Any wild bird seed mix is great; if they contain peanuts ensure that they are smaller than dog mixer biscuits
  • Sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, mild grated cheese, sultanas, raisins and currants (soaked overnight), pinhead oatmeal, fat balls (remove green nets if they have them) and suet blocks, apples, pears, plumbs, grapes and other soft fruit, mealworms and wax worms are all fine
  • Hard fat cut from unsalted meat is fine, so long as it’s well tethered so the birds can take small pieces from it
  • Bread is OK to feed, but in small quantities. Bread does not have any great value as a food source, and can just act as filler. If you want to put bread out for your birds, use it as part of a balanced diet with a variety of food
  • Peanuts can carry a harmful fungus, so to ensure your peanuts are Aflatoxin free buy them from a reliable source
  • You can feed meat and pet food to birds, but only put out small amounts that can be cleared in a day. Fresh meat needs to be cut into thin strips to resemble worms
  • Brown or white rice and potatoes (without salt added) are fine; just ensure that they are cooked first. You can feed pastry cooked or uncooked
  • Dry breakfast cereal (ignore wet and mushy cereal), crushed up in small quantities (make sure water is available). Porridge oats need to be fed dry straight from the packet; cooked porridge is too glutinous
  • Clean your feeders regularly! A 10% disinfection solution is suitable, but thoroughly rinse before using again


  • Avoid mouldy foods; most moulds are harmless to birds but some can cause respiratory infections. If the bird food turns mouldy, discard it and try putting less out so the birds clear the food up
  • Polyunsaturated margarines and vegetable oils contain less energy and cause problems if they get smeared into the feathers of the bird
  • Don’t put out any food that contains salt; birds cannot metabolise salt and it ends up being a toxin to them. Salted peanuts and nuts should never be fed
  • Fats from roasting tins and grill pans are soft and can cause problems if it gets into the bird’s feathers. It will also soften quicker enabling harmful bacteria to form
  • Do not put out whole peanuts for the birds as there is the potential for choking. Ideally put the peanuts in a ridged mesh feeder so small amounts can be taken at a time as the peanuts break up, or finely chop if you have to feed from the ground
  • Don’t give milk to birds or hedgehogs, they cannot digest it
  • Don’t feed desiccated coconut as it can swell inside the bird. Coconut in the shell is OK
  • Avoid food that chicks can’t eat during the breeding season; don’t leave out loose peanuts, large pieces of bread or dry, hard food

Whatever you feed your birds, don’t forget to provide some water for them to drink and bathe in, a shallow plant dish is ideal and easy to keep clean. Take a look at our online shop for details on the different types of feeders and food available for our feathered friends. Remember, after filling your feeders and putting food out for the birds, always wash your hands afterwards.