Helping Wildlife in Winter
If you are at all interested in gardening for wildlife, you may already know that you should provide food, water and shelter for the existing wildlife in your neighborhood. You can provide these things naturally or artificially. I prefer naturally, of course, but any form of help to birds, chipmunks, frogs, etc. is well worth it in my book.
Generally, you should only provide food for birds during the winter. You wouldn't want to encourage rabbits, skunks, raccoons, or rats to start hanging around your home on a regular basis.
I generally provide a mixed birdseed containing black oil sunflower, striped sunflower, safflower, white millet, and peanuts. Sometimes I throw in a little cracked corn as I feed that to the ducks in the summer, but cracked corn can attract bully birds like blackbirds, grackles and crows.
Suet is also an important food to provide birds in the winter. You can render down your own beef fat if you want, by I prefer to purchase good quality suet cakes that contain different, seeds, nuts and berries from the pet store.
Check out these articles for more info on feeding birds and making your own bird feeders:
- All about bird feeders
- All about bird food
- Free bird seed
- Feeder Placement
- Platform feeder plans
- Suet feeder plans
Providing water in winter is very important, especially if there is no open water available to birds and other small animals around your home. Humans and animals can live without food for a little while, but no one can live without water for very long.
If your winters aren't too cold, you can probably just add a water wiggler to any birdbath. Moving water is less likely to freeze. Long stretches of sub-zero weather would require a heater for your birdbath. Or, you can just fill up a plastic birdbath with warm water several times a day. Just make sure whatever birdbath you choose, it won't crack in the freezing temperatures and it is no more than 2" deep.
If you are lucky enough to have a natural water source in or near your yard or a man-made pond, then you are in luck, because all the work has already been done for you. Just try and make sure there are shallow areas, rocks and branches for birds and other animals to perch on so they can take a drink with confidence. If they feel like they are in danger, or that the water is too deep, they most likely will not drink or even bathe from your water source.
Providing shelter for birds and small animals is pretty easy. You want to provide protection from the elements, as well as protection from predators.
Plant evergreen trees and shrubs for protection all year round. For some additional protection pile up leaves or grass clippings in a corner of your yard for chipmunks or snakes. I have a compost pile, so I just pile up leaves on top or next to my compost pile in the fall.
Stack rocks in another area of the yard or use some of those rocks to create borders for your gardens. Insects, reptiles, and frogs love these types of areas.
If you have a pond in your yard, consider leaving a few leaves in the bottom for frogs, crayfish and fish to hide under.
Birds will also roost inside birdhouses, so don't clean them out until late winter. Leave them up for the birds to take shelter in during cold, windy months.
Read more about how to garden for wildlife here.