What Kind of Bird Feed You Should Use This Winter

What Kind of Bird Feed You Should Use This Winter

‘Tis the season to be jolly’… OK so maybe it is a bit early for a festive song!

However, we think we can safely say winter is upon us. The first snow flurry has hit the farm today.

Now being as we grow bird seed, we, of course, know a thing or two about what we should be putting in the farm feeders. As the temperature drops and the ground starts to freeze our feathery friends need a helping hand to keep their hunger pangs at bay.

Most birds can survive in extremely cold temperatures as long as they have access to delicious and nutritious food.

We are going to give you an idea of the best and worst foods you can be putting out in your garden this winter. Feeding can be rewarding and enjoyable; you will get to see a whole range of beautiful birds in your garden.


Different courses for different horses

Just like us, different food attracts different birds. One person might prefer a nice big slice of pizza whereas someone else will choose fish and chips. You could say birds are the same.

However, there are also many foods that birds do not like or just cannot metabolise. Some of these foods may seem obvious, but others may not. There is a common misconception that birds will eat most things and especially kitchen leftovers.

Birds actually need food which offers the maximum amount of nutrition for their tiny bodies.

So here are a few tips on the WORST and BEST foods you can put out for the birds visiting your garden this winter.


The WORST foods to feed winter birds

1. Salt

Did you know most birds are actually unable to metabolise salt! Salt can be very dangerous to birds. Even salted meats like bacon and gammon can affect them.

2. Polyunsaturated fats like margarine and vegetable oil will not give them the energy that they need.

To a bird this is kind of wasted energy, oils do not offer them much in terms of nutrition.

3. Bread

Although not harmful, it does not offer much in terms of nutrition. No fats or protein which birds desperately need throughout the winter months, therefore birds filling up on bread over the winter will not be getting the nutrition they need to survive the cold.

4. Cat and Dog Food

Wet foods are easier to digest, but why would you when there are lots of nutrition nuts and seeds you could be using instead.

5. Cooked Porridge Oats (Small qty of uncooked oats can be acceptable)

The oats often swell in their stomachs and leave little room for all the nutritional food it always needs

6. Milk

Did you know birds are actually lactose intolerant? Stay away from leaving milk out for birds.

7. Stale Food

Birds small digestive and immune systems cannot handle the mould or bacteria on stale food.


Think Nutrition

Although most of the above food will not harm birds, they are certainly not the most nutritious foods you could be feeding them over the winter months.

For example; although bread and oats may seem like a good idea, for birds they take up a lot of gut space without offering a lot of nutrition.

Nutritionally dense foods include nuts, seeds, and animal fats. The BEST foods you can feed winter birds are:

Goldfinches on Sunflower Hearts
Goldfinches on Sunflower Hearts

1. Sunflower Seeds (with or without husks)

You could say sunflower seeds are the ‘rib eye steak’ of the bird world. Most birds will tweet with joy if you offer sunflower seeds and you will attract a huge range to your garden. Offering sunflower seeds with no husks (known as Sunflower Hearts) also means less mess in your garden.

2. Suet

Fat, fat, fat. Fat to a bird is an amazing energy source, it helps to keep their wings flapping and body temperature up. A good suet product will contain a high volume of suet which will keep it from freezing in the winter months.

3. Mixed Seeds

Not all mixed seeds are created equal and there are a lot of poor seed mixes on the market. A good seed mix will include a high grade of sunflower seeds, white millet, peanut chips, sunflower hearts, dried fruit and insects/mealworms OR a variation of all of the above. Always take time to read the ingredients!

4. Nyjer/Nyger Seed

Although a little more expensive than other seeds, this magic seed will attract a vast range of birds to your garden. It is also super nutritious. Do be aware Nyjer seed can go mouldy quickly in wet weather!

5. Mealworms

Some people like to breed their own, which is great as the fresher the better for winter birds. However, Dried Mealworms are just as nutritious and are loved by the UK’s favourite, the Robin.

6. And don’t forget water! 

Water sources are few and far between for birds in the winter so make sure to put out a fresh bowl of water everyday. Even a kitchen bowl on the ground is helpful to a bird in need.


Food for Thought

So when you step outside wrapped up in your winter coat, hat, scarf and set out for your coffee and cake, keep in mind how the birds visiting your garden would love to be treated to a few nutritious nuts and seeds.