Feeding Birds discussion (questions/answers)

Because we currently have so many questions regarding the feeding of birds, types of bird food and feeder choices, I have decided to start this thread off so people with similar questions (or answers) can tag them on here.    A lot of the regular photo threads are being taken off topic which I understand the Moderators frown on;       some threads unrelated and not dedicated to the important questions regarding the feeding of birds/feeders are turning into question and answer replies so thought it more helpful if everyone can ask their questions or provide answers here.  

i'll kick this off with a question someone asked about mealworms.

Live mealworms:   best kept in cool area (garage/shed)  in large plastic tub open or aerated.    use a couple of sheets of scruched up newspaper as base for the worms to crawl around,  feed mealworms with special bran (see supplier)  or you can thinly slice potato, green beans, carrots or sprigs of broccoli, etc, as they need to eat.   Clean them out every two or three days;  I use a metal sieve and replace the newspaper with clean but put fresh food in each day for them.      The mealworms can be placed into special feeders designed for mealworms and suet pellets,  or you can place them in a small bowl;   I have to protect the mealworms from squirrels, corvids and larger birds like blackbird so place them in a bowl inside a ground guardian cage set to narrow mesh size.    In order to keep the mealworms dry (from rain, snow, hail etc.)   I use a piece of thick rubber pond liner which I drape over the roof of the guardian cage.    Mealworm/suet squirrel proof feeders, rather than hanging them, can be placed flat under a protected bird table or similar to keep dry although I find the feeder itself is fairly weather proof in itself unless you get driving rain and winds.    

Please feel free to ask or answer questions on the feeding of birds here.     




Regards, Hazel 

  • Thanks Hazel. I take it you put a certain quantity out daily. Of course that depends on the number of birds eating. Now assuming this quantity is about 30-40 mealworms - and they are not eaten all - can they stay in the feeder overnight and be fed there or do they need to get back in their container in the garage and get taken out again next day?

    My Gallery

    "Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way." John Muir

  • Hi Marina,  I order a kilo per fortnight and put a small dish which is half filled each day but not sure how many that would be (regular size mealworms) but once the nestlings are around the order goes up to a kilo per week  !!   they will eat as many as I can give them but I ration them being so expensive.  I limit them to the smaller birds of which there are probably 20 birds visiting regularly for them, back and forth to the nests.    Half a dish lasts about two hours and then they take the suet pellets, kibbled peanuts and sunflower hearts I put out for them.


    Regards, Hazel 

  • Thanks Hazel, I will put an order in tomorrow. The feeder guard should arrive by Monday. See how this one goes.

    My Gallery

    "Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way." John Muir

  • I currently have two sunflower heart feeders & as Autumn is here they are starting to get busier! So I need to think about increasing my feed.

    I'm still fairly new to feeding birds and last year was overwhelmed by the amount of money & commitment it takes to maintain feeding. I had lots of different feeders in both my gardens.

    I just wondered what everyone else feeds and how? Do you target specific birds? Do you mix food & which feeders are good for doing this? How many feeders do you have? How often do you fill them in a day? What about mess? Pigeons & Squirrels?

    Thank you!

  • Hello LainyG I feed all year round, nuts, good quality seed, fat balls, cakes, logs, Niger seed, sunflower hearts and sometimes make home made pastry. I don't have squirrels about and only have a very odd pigeon but do have a family of collard doves. I don't have all of the food out all of the time but always seed and nuts. The feeders are amongst the bushes so I turn over the soil to keep it fresh and clean feeders when dirty. Saurday or Sunday I sweep, clean and tidy and fill all the feeders (11) and the two bird baths, the seed feeders will be gone in a day but each morning throw out a bowl of seed under the feeders, this keeps them going with the rest of the food until next week. I will also put out bits of fruit that have started to go over, apples and berries and any left over rice or pasta.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Hello Lainy,   This answer is going to read like a version of War and Peace being so long  but I wanted to try answer all your questions one by one !  

    as you say, feeding the birds can be both a time consuming and a commitment as well as proving quite expensive but I will try answer the best I can although my forum friends may be able to fill in gaps I may have missed.

    LainyG-288511002 said:
    I just wondered what everyone else feeds and how?

    I would suggest that the main and most popular (with birds) type of seed is sunflower hearts which you are already using but I know the quantity can go down dramatically if you have pigeons clinging to the feeders - I will go into further detail about this later on. As winter approaches, the birds will require more fat based foods like suet pellets, fat balls, nuts and fat cake products. A lot of us on the forum make our own raw pastry for the birds which most enjoy and it helps cut down the cost: To make pastry you just need plain flour (supermarket cheap and cheerful own brand), lard (half lard to flour ratio as you would for your own pastry), you can grate a handful of mild cheddar cheese or add a few sunflower hearts, suet pellets, etc., bind together with sufficient water to bring the pastry together but so that it is not too sticky. Never add salt of course. Chill the pastry in the fridge overnight or for at least a couple of hours for the gluten content to relax and then you can add the uncooked pastry to fat ball or fat cake type feeder or simply stick bits on the twigs or shrubs around the garden although if you have starlings which gobble up everything in sight ! it may be better to just put the pastry into a feeder suitable for fat based products as mentioned above, I use several types of food as I have a large woodland type garden; if you buy mixed seed my suggestion is you try choose one without wheat content which so often gets wasted and proves more expensive in the end to buy with the amount wasted than to get the "no mess" type seed and this won't sprout up and start growing in your lawn or soil.
    Never feel guilty that you don't put enough food out for the birds, it can be an expensive business and having just one feeder is helping the birds enormously; at the moment there is still plenty of natural food for them to forage on and they will find their own supplementary food. Pigeons, starlings, house sparrows, etc, can consume a vast quantity of seed so we'll talk about possible solutions later on ....

    LainyG-288511002 said:
    Do you target specific birds?

    I think most of the folk on here put the most popular foods out which encourages most garden birds and target no bird in particular. As mentioned, the fact you put sunflower hearts out is a good food for most birds and will bring in a wide range of species.

    LainyG-288511002 said:
    Do you mix food & which feeders are good for doing this?

    I tend to have feeders (open mesh type feeder) which contain kibbled peanuts or suet pellets but you can mix these foods in one feeder although bear in mind that suet pellets can get damp if it rains and clog the feeder up so never put too many out. Without knowing which type of feeders you have its difficult to advise but you may find the "peg" type perches rather than the round perches are less easy for the pigeons to grab a hold of. I also have other feeders to hold fat cake or fat ball products. The one thing to remember is that feeders need cleaning regularly ( I clean mine every week or two, depending on how gunged up they get) It is therefore worth buying a solid easy to dismantle feeder which may last longer being more durable and prove better value in the long term.

    LainyG-288511002 said:
    How many feeders do you have?

    depending on the size of your garden just one sunflower heart feeder and maybe one for fat cake or fat balls would be sufficient. It also depends on the amount of time you have spare to keep the feeders topped and regularly cleaned.

    LainyG-288511002 said:
    How often do you fill them in a day?

    I usually have to top up my feeders every couple of days but I do have half a dozen different types of feeder with having a large woodland type garden. Again, if you get pigeons, starlings, sparrows, etc., they can deplete your stocks of seed very quickly .................. so to keep the larger birds from some of the food you can invest in a guardian type feeder or a ground caged guardian. Having said this I would never leave food out on the ground overnight so as not to attract vermin.

    this is the guardian cage;  we placed a feeder dish inside and put a piece of quality rubber pond liner draped over the top to keep any rain, etc., off the food I would suggest if you purchase a guardian to get the pitched roof type a the flat roofed variety do not keep small squirrels out !   

    To stop squirrels a free standing feeder pole with a baffle mounted high up on the pole  works well as long as you place it at least 10ft away from nearest launch pad like branch or shrubs ! 

    LainyG-288511002 said:
    What about mess? Pigeons & Squirrels?

    A way to cut down mess on the ground is to add a seed catcher to the bottom of your feeder but bear in mind that these can be a handy perching spot for larger birds like pigeons ! I would pay the extra if you buy mixed seed and get the "No Mess" mix as it doesn't germinate and sprout up through the soil. Most birds don't like wheat content and discard it on to the ground and if this builds up it can attract pests like squirrels or worse still rats and mice. Squirrels and pigeons can have their benefits as they will vacuum up any spilt seeds which fall to the ground from the feeder. It's important not to leave mouldy seeds which may have been spoilt by damp getting to them in feeders or on the ground as it can be very harmful to birds. Rake the soil over beneath your feeders every month if you can or when necessary or if you have grass beneath them try the seed catcher type saucers.

    All in all, I would say, limit the feeders you put out if you don't have oodles of spare time to restock and clean the feeders; better to have one quality feeder filled with sunflower hearts that is easy to look after than half a dozen feeders which may be too much of a commitment to keep clean all the time. Birds are very resourceful and even when the daily supply is empty they will be able to find natural foods for themselves. Only in very harsh winters where the ground is completely frozen and natural foods are hard to come by should you feel you have to put additional foods out for them and then I would suggest high protein foods like peanuts, suet and fat balls. If you have somewhere to store food in the cool (like one of those cool box type containers) you could buy a large sack of sunflower hearts (12.75 kg.) as it could save money to buy in bulk but there are shops like Wilkos, B & M Bargains, Home Bargains, etc, that sell bird food at reasonable prices - but once again, beware of the mixed seed containing wheat as although it sounds like a cheap way to feed birds, the wheat is often wasted and you end up throwing half of the content away when it is discarded by the birds. Try making some of the raw pastry I mentioned, its cheap to provide and the birds will love you for it ! Good luck Lainy and well done on helping your garden birds.


    Regards, Hazel 

  • Very comprehensive posts from Hazel and Catlady for you Lainy. I would just add for Robins and Blackbird who find it harder to perch on feeders I put sultanas and suet pellets on the ground and do this twice a day. Also some sunflower hearts for the Dunnocks.

    Kind regards


  • Wow! Catlady, Hazel & Jenny - I'm over whelmed by your excellent tips.

    Thank you for taking the time to reply.

    My garden is small and I have two sunflower hear & one fatball feeder. As much as I like Starlings, they are tending to scare the smaller birds from the fat ball feeder and are so noisy.  

    I guess the answer is to buy a caged fat ball feeder?

  • I've just read your replies again and feel very inspired!

  • I throw apples on the ground for birds ,the black birds love them but birds like pigeons and magpies wont touch them so it doesnt encourage them,its also less likely to encourage rodents,,,hedgehogs are supposed to nibble them too but we looked after some rescued hogs and they never touched them,I try to make the garden perpetual autumn,I throw pear cores and squashy ,,but not mouldy fruit out for the birds,if we eat soft fruit I save a few for the birds.I found a local Jay would come in the garden for monkey nuts ,,I am a fan of crows so I used to throw dried catfood on the side roof for them  .