I don’t know where the saying “This is for the birds” came from and I don’t know why it has a negative connotation. Feeding outdoor birds is a fun, interesting, and positive activity for the family.
Kids learn quite a lot while helping to care for our feathered friends. Looking out the window to watch birds at the feeder might just make them curious enough to read a book about the different types they see.
There are many types of bird feeders available. A few of the easiest to start with are platform, house or hopper, window feeders, and suet feeders.
Platform feeders are simply a dish or tray. They attract the biggest variety of birds, but they have no protection against the weather.
Without drainage seed will mold quickly. They need cleaned almost daily so you should only put out enough seed for a day or two.
The hopper feeders provide some protection from the weather. However, you will still need to make sure the seed is eaten before it gets wet and molds. One downfall of hoppers is that they are somewhat harder to clean than platform feeders.
Window feeders are tubes stuck to a window with suction cups. These are so neat because you can see the birds up close and personal.
You don’t have to worry about the birds hitting your window because they will judge how to fly to the feeder and when they are finished they fly away from the feeder. That means they fly away from the window also.
Suet feeders are normally wire cages that hold the suet in place while the birds peck at it. These are good for woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, and jays.
The are very easy to take care of and only require a cleaning every few months. These cages also come in plastic. You can skip the cages altogether if you want and simply put suet in a log with drilled holes or smear it onto the bark of a tree.
Whichever kind of feeder you decide on, make sure there are no sharp points or edges. Hang them at least 3 feet from a window and 12 feet from a tree, bush or anything a predator could jump from to reach a feeder.
Kids can help you clean the feeders about once every two weeks and clear shells and debris from the ground beneath.
The best seed to start with is black-oil sunflower. Most birds like this seed and it has a soft shell that is easy to crack. it provides the high-fat content they need for energy.
Other seeds to add are white millet that is high in protein, peanuts, nyjer, and cracked corn. Keep a careful eye that the seed does not mold as that can cause bacteria which can be harmful.
Keep in mind that although birds will eat bread it’s not really a good bird food. It will not harm them, but it has no nutritional value and also can mold quickly. Chocolate is toxic to birds, just like many other animals. Table scraps are not healthy for birds and will probably draw rodents.
Don’t worry if you’ll be away from home. It is a myth that birds will starve if you’re not there to feed them. They’ll just move on to another feeder in the area or eat seeds they find in nature.
Kids will learn about responsibility and a little about nature as they help set up the feeders, fill them with seed, learn how to clean them and sit back and watch as a flock of feathered creatures stop by for a meal.