Remember to feed the birds and reduce food waste!

Filed in Blog by on December 6, 2010 9 Comments
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Mrs Green with zero waste high energy bird food

Mrs Green with zero waste high energy bird food

This week I found a zero waste way to feed the birds!

I always put out scraps for our feathered friends which is a great way to stop food ending up in landfill. However, it’s been particularly cold lately and I wanted to give the birds a treat.

I scoured the shops and found most wild bird seed came in number 7 packaging. Sure, it looked pretty but I didn’t want to buy something that would still be looking pretty in 500 years time in the landfill.

Then I popped into a pet shop and saw about 12 different bins containing loose foods. You could buy high protein bird food, sunflower seeds, peanuts and other delicacies by weight!

The lady put my bird seed into a polythene bag which can be easily reused or recycled. While I was in there I asked if I could take my own container next time and it was a resounding yes! And of course, as I’m not paying for the pretty packaging with the picture of the robins on it, my treat for the birds was MUCH cheaper!

In this cold weather I urge you all to spend a bit of time thinking about the birds that visit your garden. Filing up a bird feeder can be the difference between life and death for them, especially for some of the smaller birds that lose their body heat quickly.

The birds can help you use up your food scraps instead of binning them. Here are some commonly wasted foods which birds will be grateful for this winter. Although cakes, biscuits and bread crumbs are popular choices, do remember to give some high fat products such as mild grated cheese to help birds maintain their body reserves.

Bacon rind – if you don’t eat it yourself, cut it into small pieces and pop outside.

Cake, biscuit and bread crumbs – if it’s seeded, so much the better, crumble it up and scatter around.

Cheese – grate the end of a block of mild cheese.

Coconut shells – once you’ve used the coconut yourself, hang the shell outside

Cooked rice – The birds that visit our garden aren’t too struck on this, but I’ve heard they like it so maybe yours will.

Dried fruit such as raisins, sultanas and currants; put that last remaining pieces outside.

Dry breakfast cereal including uncooked porrage oats – empty out the dusty dregs and your birds can eat breakfast too.

Fresh fruit – the perfect way to use up windfall fruit or bruised pieces.

Lard and raw beef suet – If this is something you buy, be sure to shake out the end of the bag. If it’s not something you buy, ask your butcher for some freebies.

Pastry crumbs cooked or uncooked – don’t put them in the bin, put them on the bird table instead

Potatoes – birds love them! When you cook jacket potatoes, add one for the birds; cool and cut up for them.

Soaked dog biscuits – shake out the dust from the bottom of the bag, moisten with water and feed to your feathered friends. Make sure Fido is in bed first, otherwise you might find him swinging from the bird table.

Tinned Cat and dog food – scrape out the tin or the cat dish onto the bird table.

Remember to put food at different heights. Some birds are ground feeders, whereas others like to be up high to feed.

What about you? What foods do you put out of for the birds that might otherwise end up in landfill?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (9)

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  1. Compostwoman says:

    Great ideas there Mrs G but can I just add, make sure nothing is mouldy ( so no blue cheese!)

    as birds have hollow , air filled bones which can be invaded by moulds and so mouldy food can be very harmful to them.

    Also providing fresh water is essential when it is this cold.

    Cw x

  2. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Mrs G

    Great article, I did not know that birds can eat so much but yet again it is dependent on the type that visits your garden. I normally give bread scraps and nuts (not including myself), which blackbirds really enjoy. At the present moment we have many Gulls flying around and they will eat anything, including chips if it isl aying around. This time a year I tend to see my favourite bird the Robin, which makes it christmassy for me.

    A word of warning it is illegal or frowned on to feed Pigeons in your back yard. They are seen as pest by local council as their bird droppings can cause damage to buildings. If you have pigeons or doves in your garden do not feed them.

  3. CarSue says:

    I offer birds the seeds from melons, such as muskmellons ( I believe you call them cantaloupes) which are full of seeds in the center. I’ve found it takes them quite a while to compost, so instead I set some out in the bird feeder, and leave some around the base of a tree where squirrels and chipmunks take them away.

  4. Poppy says:

    @Antonio Pachowko:
    I can understand that in inner city or town area, but no-one has ever said this where I live. In fact I was driven to feeding a group of 4 wood pigeons who were staring at me through the window earlier! I felt so guilty that they were scratching around at an empty feeding station while I looked on from the warmth of my front room!

    They flew away as soon as I wenbt outside of course, but hopefully they’ll be back to check it out later 🙂

  5. in a town over-run by virtual herds of squirrels, it is imperative to put the bird feeders on high poles, away from trees, as these far flung and acrobatic clowns can reach just abut any commercial bird perch.
    suet trimmings from beef or lamb can be rendered and brushed on pine cones, then rolled in a bowl of small seeds and other tiny crumbs, and hung by strong thread to high branches or roof overhang–small birds can be saved from extended snow periods this way.
    if no suet is available–peanut butter is easy to apply and roll into seed mixtures.

    an anecdote: i used to buy bulk – untreated bird seed and grind it for morning gruel–it is very nutritious, inexpensive, delicious and excellent as an easy addition to porridge.

  6. Jane says:

    We do some of this… and I thought I’d give my brother some real live mealworms for Christmas. You can buy them mail order. That should amuse him. Apparently that is what robins like to eat and the cold winter last year killed a lot of them.

  7. I just made homemade chicken food, about a gallon. I cooked rice in water and liquid from a can of green peas that I detest. When the rice was done with not a bit of liquid, too dry actually, I added the peas and mixed peas and rice with a potato masher. Then I added the dark chicken from a 12 oz can of chicken and a cup of chicken broth and grease, both congealed. The heat of the rice made the congealed juices turn to liquid, further dampening and sticking to the rice. Rice-free; peas-free; canned chicken–almost free, congealed chicken broth-leftover from cooking chicken and getting old.

    Chickens are birds. This bowl of food will be for three days, along with other items. The 3 hens are getting: carbs, proteins, vegetable, fat. It is barely over freezing here and about 18 F at night. Okay, that is 39 F = 3.8 and 18 F = -7.7 C. In this weather they need carbs and fat to stay warm.

    The next batch will have diced tomatoes instead of peas; tuna instead of chicken.

    If my food I feed them is free or almost free, good for my three hens and me. Fresh produce is given to me for them.

    I catch wild birds in the hens’ pen, eating the hen food when hens leave the pen!

  8. abbie says:

    This is an amazing list! I did not know you could put out some of those foods for the birds. Great ideas. My daughter and I have set up a bird feeding station for the winter so we can observe the birds out of our window so we may be trying a lot of these over the next few months. I am blogging about our station today so I will link up to this list! Thanks.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Compostwoman: Thanks CW; all advise gratefully received; we don’t want to do more harm than good 🙂

    @Antonio Pachowko: Hi Antonio, as far as I am aware it is not illegal to feed pigeons in your own garden. Yes you can be banned from feeding gulls in public places and there was a story about not feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square. However, in your own garden you can feed what you like as long as it is not hazardous to your neighbours – in my understanding… Glad you are enjoying feeding the robin; we have a couple too- currently fighting for territory 😉

    @CarSue: Well I’ve learned something new – melon seeds! Thanks for that Sue!

    @Poppy: Did your pigeons return, Poppy?

    @nadine sellers: We have tenacious squirrels too. I’ve watched them climb up the tree and fastidiously unhook a fat and seed ball and run off with the whole ball in its paws – quite a sight as the balls are as big as the squirrel’s rump! As LMG believes one of our cats has reincarnated as a squirrel, we have to feed them as well as the birds 😉

    @Jane: I’ve heard of the live mealworms being a particular favourite. We bought dried last year and they were not favoured – they just say there desiccating further. Live should be good though and what an original gift 🙂

    @Practical Parsimony: Sounds like your chickens are well fed over there! I have friends who spoil their chooks with hot mash before bed and I have to say the eggs are quite unlike anything else – she gets out what she puts in, evidently! I never knew chickens ate chicken – sounds kinda cannibalistic 😉

    @abbie: Hi Abbie, lovely that you have set up a bird feeding area; LMG loves to sit and watch the birds; as do I – it’s a great time waster and far more educational than TV! I will check out your blog now 🙂

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