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Ideas for looking after garden birds on a budget


I have always liked to feed the birds but since illness struck, the only thing I have plenty of is time. While I wholeheartedly admire and respect the suppliers of bird feeders who do sterling work, it can get a bit pricey for the ordinary gardener.

Make your own!

Here are some examples of things I have made from items around the house and garden that most people already have. Two hanging baskets tied together around a 1.99 feeder becomes a 'globe defender'. A small plant pot saucer with a hanging basket over it becomes a 'ground defender' (if you use a bigger saucer large birds can reach in and pinch the food). I have a birdbath/drinking bowl made from a ready meal container on a hanging basket chain with a bit of gravel in it to stop it blowing about and spilling.

I also make my own lard cakes and put them in the 'H' of the fences (see photos). To make them follow these steps:

  • take an old roasting tray and place some plastic pastry cutters in it;
  • melt some lard into the tray (this will form a base to stop the fresh lard seeping out);
  • while the rest of the lard is melting, put your bird food in the pastry cutters (and while you're a it, put some in the rest of the tray);
  • when it is all set, lift the pastry cutters out and very gently push the cakes out of them;
  • what's left in the tray (see photo) can be put out on the ground-feeders.

You will find that thrushes (Turdus sp.), blackbirds (Turdus merula), robins (Erithacus rubecula), and dunnocks (Prunella modularis) will be on the fence before you know it. Even Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) have fed on them in my garden!

These pictures illustrate some of the projects I have described.

Pastry cutters
These are the pastry cutters I use to make the lard cake.
Roasting tray
Here's the roasting tray with the extra lard and seeds that I use on the ground feeders.
Lard cake
Here is one of the lard cakes wedged into the garden fence.
Water bowl
A ready-meal try makes a handy bath/drinking bowl.
Globe defender
Home-made 'globe defender'.
Ground defender
Home made 'ground defender'.
A blackbird on the bird table where I put live food.
A dunnock at the ground defender.

My nut feeder is full of tumble dryer fluff for nesting material. In my garage, two wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes) have been living in a roosting pouch all winter and as I write this one is making a nest in there.

I also buy live food - mealworms - and put them in a saucer with a basket over them for the little birds. I put live food loose on the bird table and they crawl all over the lawn - the Blackbirds feed more naturally that way. Any large ready-meal trays (lasagna, cottage pie etc) make good ground birdbaths/drinking fountains. Well happy twitching and make your garden a five star hotel for the birds!

First published April 2006.
Copyright Teresa Leech 2006. Permission is hereby granted for anyone to use this article for non-commercial purposes which are of benefit to the natural environment as long the original author is credited. School pupils, students, teachers and educators are invited to use the article freely. Use for commercial purposes is prohibited unless permission is obtained from the copyright holder.

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