If you live in the Northern Hemisphere then you will know by now that winter is only a stone's throw away. That means freezing cold days and nights, ice, frost and in some cases lots of snow. Once winter does arrive and you are cozy and warm in the house do you ever consider the animals and birds that live, eat and sleep outside? Well you should and in particular the wild birds that fly in and around the garden all year-round.
Do you feed the birds in winter? If you do, and I know many of you do, do you make your own grease balls? Well, making your own bird feed for garden birds is a great idea as you can add whatever seeds including flower seeds you have spare, nuts and other ingredients you like then mix them all together. But to get the ingredients to stick together what do you use? Well read on for my tips on making greenballs which will keep those wild birds fed all winter long, and it will not really cost you that much.
What to Feed Wild Birds
These are just some of the ingredients you can use when making the perfect snack in winter for your feathered friends. I use all these and usually all at once but the choice is yours, use whatever you have lying around. Another tip is to save things all year-round. Seeds and nuts will keep so will muesli and oats provided they are kept in an air tight container and somewhere dark and cool. These ingredients alone would guarantee to attract wild birds in winter.
- Bird seed
- Sunflower seeds
- Dry bread
- Old cooking oil
- Oats. A similar alternative is porridge oats
Old cooking oil I hear you say? Well yes. If you have a chip pan or deep fat fryer when you clean them out save the oil. I have a large 10 liter drum which I pour old oil into it and then keep it outside near the door. Leave it out there with a lid on until wintertime them use it for the balls. It saves on using fat, margarine or other things to get your grease balls to stick, and you are recycling at the same time.
Other Utensils to Consider
- Old mixing bowl
- Old mixing spoon
- Rubber or surgical gloves
It's True, it's True
Yes it's true, the wild birds around where I live are better fed than me in winter! No wonder there are hundreds all lining up in the morning waiting for their breakfast!
- Take the corn flakes, oats and muesli and crush into powder or tiny pieces. As a guide I try to get the oats looking like ready brek.
- Take the bread and break up into small pieces. If I have a lump of bread I will grate it with a cheese grater.
- Crush the biscuits then add everything including the seeds into a large mixing bowl. It's best to use an old one you no longer use or go to a cheap shop and buy a cheap one for that purpose.
- Mix the ingredients together and slowly add the cooking oil until the ingredients stick together.
Now comes the sticky part and that's why you should wear gloves.
- Take a lump of the mixture and squeeze together into a ball. If it sticks when you open your hand then it's ok, if it falls apart keep mixing and add a little more oil. You want it so everything sticks together without being soaked.
- Once you are happy with the consistency make a ball and put inside the netting then secure. You can use all sorts to secure the netting including electrical ties, bread stoppers, or an old coat hanger like I use.
Save for a Winters Day
As for the netting to put the grease balls in do you save them once they are empty? Again I do and reuse them. I also save the netting that you get fruit and vegetables in the supermarket solely for this purpose, just make sure the holes in the net are not too small or large. To put them on the tree I use an old coat hanger which is bent at both ends. Just thread one end through the netting then the other end hooks on a tree branch.
And there you have it. Feeding birds in winter with homemade grease balls for all wild birds will cost you less than you think. Once they are outside and the resident wild birds tell their friends there's food in your garden you will see a huge increase of birds all clambering for a tasty morsel. These are excellent and easy bird feeders kids can make so why not get them involved too? It's a great way of introducing them to the wildlife around them.