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Creative Ways To Care For Your Backyard Birds

Caring for backyard birds

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day where I live…..the beginning of what promises to be a beautiful weekend! Ahhh….it does my heart good to see the snow disappearing as the mercury in the thermometer rises. Another thing that does my heart good to see? BIRDS! My son and I spotted some robins pecking around in the backyard today and it got me thinking about a cute little project I’d seen recently designed to help our fine-feathered friends to build their nests this spring!

Caring for backyard birds

Just add a couple of handfuls of yarn scraps to an inexpensive suet feeder and hang outside where the birds can find it. Then be on the lookout for birds nests in your neighborhood featuring your “building materials”.  I am definitely putting one of these up for my bird buddies this weekend!

*A note on giving yarn to birds: The National Wildlife Foundation says: “Cut them into one-inch-wide strips and in lengths under 6 inches long, and put them where birds will find them, such as on tree and shrub branches. Don’t use synthetic fibers or long lengths, which, like hair, can tangle and injure birds.”

Caring for backyard birds

Yarn Bird Feeder
by Juniper Moon Farm

“Birds fly over the rainbow, Why then – oh, why can’t I? If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why, oh why, can’t I?”
— E.Y. Harburg

And if you’re still feeling crafty after that little project….here are a few more to help FEED the birds.  (They’re going to be HUNGRY after all that nest building!)

Caring for backyard birds

Biodegradable Orange Birdfeeder
by Rhythm of the Home

Nearly two billion dollars a year are spent on birdhouses, birdfeeders, wild bird food, and related items. Feeding birds is both good for the birds and the soul. 

Caring for backyard birds

Birdseed Biscuits

 . . The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds . . .
— John Burroughs, Birds and Poets, 1887

Caring for backyard birds

Pinecone Feeder
by Boston Parents Paper

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” 
— Robert Lynd

Caring for backyard birds

Birdseed Bagels

“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply that they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings”
— James Matthew Barrie

Other ingredients that you can add to bird treats or just set out on your feeder are: Ground eggs shells, fine gravel or sand (for grit), cheese, dry cereal, coconut (raw), cornbread, cracker crumbs, dog biscuits (chopped fine), ears of sweet corn and watermelon pulp. Don’t forget the seeds from all of your veggies!

More Winter Bird Feeding Tips:

  • Keep feeders full when winter is toughest. Bird feeders are most attractive to birds in winter, when natural food supplies are least available. Seeds that are merely a welcome supplement under normal winter conditions may suddenly become vital in the space of one fierce ice storm or blizzard.
  • Feeders should be located out of the wind. The east or southeast side of a house or near a row of trees is ideal. It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or tree for the birds to use to survey the feeding area and provide sufficient cover for safe refuge from predators and shelter from the wind and weather. The feeders should be positioned near cover but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger.
  • Oil sunflower is a great overall seed to offer in the winter. It has a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content and its relatively thin shell.
  • Suet is a great food to offer many of the birds that will visit backyards in the winter. Suet is a high energy, pure fat substance which is invaluable in winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm.
  • Peanuts are another great food to offer birds in the wintertime. Peanuts have high protein and fat levels and are often an ingredient in suet products.
  • Clean off feeders, platforms and perches after each storm so seed is easily accessible.
  • Leave fruit and berries on trees, hedges and bushes to provide a natural source of food throughout the winter.
  • Add a heated birdbath to your backyard or place a safe heating element in a regular birdbath to provide birds with liquid water.
  • Stamp or shovel snow around feeders to provide easier access to spilled seed for ground feeding birds.
  • Leave nesting boxes and birdhouses up all year round to provide winter roosting sites.
Only 21 more days until SPRING officially arrives!

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Homekeeping Tips

  • One hint about leaving yarn for the birds is to make sure the yarn is natural fibers – no acrylic or nylon. – short 3″ – 4″ pieces – and no thread. i do put out scraps of cotton or wool fabric – cut into 1’2″ x 4″ pieces.

    Birds around here don’t seem to mind bright colors though. I put my yarn and fabric offerings in an old beat up colander on the deck railing. If it rains, I just let it drain, and then fluff the pieces around to let them get good and dry.
    I also put some seeds – squash, or pumpkin, or sunflower seeds on the railing nearby.

    I don’t put out hair, human or animal, that gets composted.

  • I love to care for our birds and while I am known to do some of the wonderful suggestions here —– my local squirrels get as much enjoyment [if not more] and nourishment from the food when it hangs in trees. I have recently had to purchase a ‘bird feeding system’ that sits away from trees and my deck and contains a baffle to prevent squirrels from enjoying the bird food. I still put a little on the trees near the house and birds and squirrels live in harmony. But all the food I purchase is hanging on the bird feeding system :-) Thanks thought for the great ideas.

  • I have read that the yarn left for nests should not be too long or it can tangle their feet when taking it from the suet feeder. I did not know that birds would not take bright colored yarn. Are they not color blind like other animals? I wish I knew as this may really limit the yarn we can put out. Anyone have any experience with putting out bright colored yarn?

  • I save hair from the family’s hair brushes throughout the year. I place the hair in either a suet cage or in bushes. The birds love to use this as nesting material. I have read that the birds also use dryer lint for nesting. I will try this in the Spring.

    In the past I have been told to keep any human scents away from birds, that they will avoid anything touched by people. This seems to be an “old wives’ tale”. From what I understand, most small birds do not have a sense of smell so anything with a human scent is fine.

    Please do not use netted produce bags from the supermarket. I have experienced a time when a woodpecker’s leg became tangled and twisted in one. Luckily I was home to rescue the bird. The fine netted bags that are sold for the thistle/niger seeds seem to be safe. They are manufactured for this purpose.

  • I just love your site. Lots of great ideas that I’m definitely going to have to try. Outdoor birds is a hobby of mine also. But you can always learn something new! Thanks for the info!

  • From what I’ve read, birds will not use brightly-coloured yarn for their nests because the colours draw attention to them, and let their enemies know where they nest. By all means put out browns and greys because those colours will not draw attention to their nesting sites. The squirrels may use the colourful yarn to line their nests. Or birds who nest in bird houses may use the yarns……….
    We have seed and suet out in several feeders all fall and winter and well into spring. I’ve also read that birds will take crushed egg shells for the calcium they need to lay eggs……

  • If you have a pet you groom, dog, cat, rabbit ext then add the combings to yarn stash.
    The birds go mad for fur from my 3 Ragdoll cats and my Havanese/Maltese x.
    The animal smell doesn’t bother them at all, I also add bits of hay that my Chinchilla kick out of their cage :~)
    If you don’t have a container try the net bags lemons come in.

    • I don’t know if there is any truth to this, but our local Agway store says NOT to put dog hair (or any animal fur) out for birds, because it will attract rats. : /

  • Taking care of our feathered friends were to showing appreciation, as they were created for our enjoyment, and feeding them were rather essential during the Winter months. There are many types of bird feeder, which could be bought quite cheaply, or you could easily make them, and you could follow the recommendation through http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com.

    I was having some enjoyment watching them, especially having the great joy as a result of making a nesting box for Blue Tit. The parent birds were tirelessly making several trips feeding their young. Just go for it, and you have nothing to lose.

  • Love these ideas, Jillee, and will try them. (I have really grown to love birds since getting my little Cockatiel. Unfortunatey, Tiki got out and flew away earlier this month, and I miss him terribly. He had quite the personality, and was so sweet. We were so close, and he gave me a lot of joy. I’m searching for him desperately.) Birds are such fun and interesting creatures – so fun to watch, and a little help from us doesn’t hurt! If I don’t get my little guy back, at least I can make some of the items you showed, and help the little wild birds. Thank you, as always.

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