Our Bird House is Too Popular

Q: This winter we decided that it would be nice to feed the birds. We purchased/made three nice birdhouses and have them placed throughout our yard. The smallest bird feeder holds 5 pounds of birdseed. The largest holds 10 pounds.
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My challenge is that we have so MANY birds coming to the yard now. We want to feed the birds but didn't expect so many hungry birds. We expected to refill the birdseed once a week. At the rate they have been going, we need to refill it every day. We can't afford that much birdseed.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do? How do we attract fewer birds or supplement the birdseed with something less expensive?

Thanks!

Tricia from Royal Oak, MI

A: Tricia,

There are a number of things you can do to lower the cost of feeding birds in your backyard. Start by measuring out a specific amount of seed for the feeders each day with the idea that once it's gone, it's gone. Most birds visit a number of feeders in the neighborhood every day. As long as you offer something everyday, they will keep up their daily visits, but a limited amount of seed will also encourage them to develop additional sources of food elsewhere. If you're seeing a lot of waste on the ground, you may be better off switching to tube feeders, each filled with a specific food. For example, cracked corn, black-oil sunflower seeds, safflower and Niger seed (thistle seed) will attract a wide variety of birds native to your area. These foods cost a little more initially, but you'll see much less waste. Buy your food in bulk from a feed store or grain elevator and store it in large plastic bins to keep it dry. You can also purchase lard or fat from a butcher or meat locker rather than buy the expensive suet cakes sold at stores. Save your crumbs, old bread, fruit, berries, non-sugar cereal, etc., to supplement seed. If your birds seem to enjoy these "carbs," check your local bakery. They may sell old, outdated bread very reasonably for pet food (6-8 loaves for $1).

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February 21, 20060 found this helpful

I am selective about the seed that I put out to help control the types of birds I get at my feeders. I put out thistle seed for the finches and black oil sunflower seed for the chickadees; the seeds that they drop on the ground bring in mourning doves. When I was using a mixed seed that had cracked corn in it I got a lot of sparrows and grackles and they would scratch through the seed and throw most of it on the ground; they are the reason that I changed the seed that I offer. I also use suet blocks for the chickadees, nuthatches and assorted woodpeckers. You can make homemade suet blocks or buy them at the store. I love watching the birds and I hope that you will enjoy your new hobby!

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February 21, 20060 found this helpful

I like to use cracked corn myself. the shells from the sunflower seed in the store bought bird feed, killed my grass under my feeder, so the cracked corn was a much better option. On thing you may be having problems with is squirrels and deer etc eating the seed as well. A squirrel can really clean out the bird feeders fast. I have heard there are ways to treat the poles or feeders so that the squirrels can't get to them, but I am not sure how to do so.

As far as a good resource, that is alot cheaper, for the cracked corn, you could go to a local feed mill and buy it there in bulk. Personally I like all the birds, so picking certain bird oriented seed isn't important to me. Now I do know there are some plants that draw certain birds, as well as the hummingbird feeders which you can find almost anywhere .

GOOD LUCK

brenda-ohio

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February 22, 20060 found this helpful

I ration the bird feed - putting out a portion each day so that the amount is stretched over a period of days. It is a case of first in best fed but the birds soon learn that there is only a cetain amount to be had at that feed station and will seek other feeding areas. They will also learn to come and check each day for feed - the amount of feed will limit the numbers that come.

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February 22, 20060 found this helpful

The variety and number of birds coming to your feeder will vary as the seasons change... Be sure to feed your birds year round. You will be pleasantly surprised... !

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February 22, 20060 found this helpful

(sent in by email)

Did you know that if you feed the birds to often that they start depending on you to keep doing it for the rest of their lives?

Maybe you could just cut back on how much seed you put out. That would save you money and help the bird to not be so dependent. They would have to keep hunting for their food in between so they won't forget how.

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February 25, 20060 found this helpful

Putting out too much seed can also lead to waste, and can attract rats. I'm pretty sure I've seen one before dawn. I don't like the idea of rats coming around but I've yet to find a way to tactfully tell my husband not to put out so much. He likes to put out lots so there is some for the birds after the squirrels make their visit. My thought is just to suplement their diet, they'll figure out the rest. A lot of people don't like squirrels hogging the feeder, but we don't mind. They're really acrobatic and fun to watch, and they don't eat everything.

We get Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice, Sparrows and Juncos, Blue Jays and a Woodpecker comes by once in a while. I make up stories about what they're all saying and thinking. We watched a cat this morning sneaking up on the birds, but I think he was just messing with their minds. He wasn't very subtle.

We've seen deer come by to have a nibble at what falls out of the feeder, or knock over the feeder :) We've even seen a fox in the early morning looking for a little birdie breakfast! He just doesn't seem to time it right though. The early fox doesn't catch the birds, but if he'd come a little earlier he could catch the rat. There's also a hawk who tries, un-successfully (so far), to grab lunch. Where we live is considered urban, but there's lots of woods and parks. Still its extraordinary to see these creatures thriving in a city.

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February 27, 20060 found this helpful

Go to a feed store and buy chicken feed. It costs a lot less than bird seed.

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March 23, 20060 found this helpful

If your bird feeder is being emptied overnight, you probably are feeding raccoons as well as birds. I have to take my feeders in at dusk or the raccoons will empty them.

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