Gardening: Make your own fat balls & more to attract birds and provide them shelter

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Birds are an important part of a healthy garden as they can lead to fewer insects – meaning less damage to gardeners’ plants. Birds, as well as other wildlife, feed all year round, but now is a good time to start putting feeders and shelters into your garden to attract more of them.

Earlier this year, it was reported that bird species in the UK were dwindling.

To help birds, it is worth building shelter and protection for them in your garden, especially when the weather is cold and harsh.

Although the creatures typically nest in dense vegetation such as shrubs, hedgerows, and trees, buying a bird box is a good idea.

Holes in trees also provide a natural nest site for several bird species.

The RSPB has plenty of advice on bird boxes on its website, including how gardeners can make their own box and where in the garden they should put it.

Bird boxes are usually small enough to prevent predators from getting close to birds, but it is a good idea to use metal entrance surrounds – just to be safe.

These will protect birds and their eggs.

To ensure birds get plenty to eat this winter, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommended using seed feeders instead of putting seed on a traditional bird table.

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Doing this could attract bigger birds and animals such as magpies, pigeons, and squirrels.

This wildlife can steal smaller birds’ food and enable them to go hungry.

These creatures can also cause nuisance in the garden, damaging plants and vegetation.

There are different types of feeders for different types of feed.

For peanuts, the RHS advised using wire mesh feeders, while normal seed feeders are recommended for other seed.

Meanwhile, fat balls can be placed in wire cages instead of plastic nets as some birds can get caught in the nets.

The RHS explained how gardeners can make their own fat balls by melting suet into moulds such as coconut shells, or into holes drilled into logs.

Experts recommended keeping feeders clean to limit the spread of infections and diseases, and refill them little and often – around once a day or every two days.

Gardeners should also change their position in the garden too as this may reduce foiling the ground underneath them.

The RHS went on to explain which feed is preferred by which bird species.

Insect cakes are enjoyed by tits such as blue tits and great tits, while finches prefer berry cakes.

Small birds, such as wrens, eat finely chopped animal fat and grated cheese, while sparrows enjoy sunflower seeds.

To attract goldfinches, gardeners should lay out niger seed, or if they’d prefer having starlings in the garden, peanut cakes are best.

Fruit, such as over-ripe apples, raisins, and berries are also good for starlings, as well as thrushes.

As well as food, water is essential for birds to be able to drink and bathe throughout the year.

The RHS recommended providing water in shallow containers, preferably with sloping sides and no more than 5cm deep.

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