Greenfinches at a bird feeder

Give your garden birds a health check

During the last few months of winter, when the natural food sources have been depleted, many birds become very reliant on gardens and food tables to sustain them during this ‘hungry gap’. It is at this time of year, that we can often see the largest array and number of birds in our gardens. But this can create potential problems. Any feeding area for any species that attracts a high volume of visitors will be a potential area for disease and infection to be spread.

Be proactive

There are a few things you can do now to keep your garden birds fit and healthy, it’s an ideal time to do it, before the breeding season starts in earnest. Give your bird feeding and drinkers a ‘health and safety’ check to ensure your good intentions are supporting your garden birds.

birde feeder
Goldfinch and siskin feeding at a bird feeder. Image: Martin Mulchinock
  • Wash bird feeders regularly and periodically move them to fresh ground. If large amounts of droppings have dried and accumulated, remove and then use a special wildlife friendly disinfectant on the affected area.
  • Don’t let the bird food get wet and stale. If you are feeding in a new place or just starting, then put out a little bit of food to allow the birds to find it. If the bird food takes more than a few days to clear, then reduce the amount. Damp, stale bird food may start to rot, sprout or both, creating health hazards for your garden birds and can attract the attention of unwanted rodent visitors.
  • Choose a high quality bird food that is packed with energy rich ingredients and free from cheap fillers. This will reduce waste from feeding the birds and help to keep your feeding area clean and tidy. Richard Jackson’s Premium Bird Food is formulated to feed a wide range of bird species energy rich ingredients.
  • Use a bird table or hanging feeders and keep them scrupulously clean. A ground-feeding tray is preferable to putting food directly on the ground because it’s easier to keep clean. Don’t overfeed the birds; food on the ground should all be eaten before nightfall. Rats are attracted to leftover food and often carry diseases, which can affect birds and humans.
  • Rinse water baths frequently, ensuring only clean water is offered to birds. When the weather is cold, birds still need water. To prevent your birdbath freezing over, float a tennis ball in the water and remove the ball from the frozen surface. It will leave an open hole for the birds to drink and bathe. Repeat regularly to keep water available for your feathered friends.
  • The first thing you need for the cleaning process is a good brush specifically for the job and an effective scraper.
  • If the feeder and water bath only require a light clean, then environmentally sensitive washing up liquid and warm water should suffice. For a more thorough clean an environmentally sensitive disinfectant should be used.

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