Here at Richard Jackson Garden, we know that our various gardening products are great – including our wild bird foods. Most of our customers agree that these are brilliant for attracting birds to the garden and feeding them with everything they need to stay strong and healthy. This includes Michele Green, who attracted a staggering 44 different bird species to her garden using Richard’s Premium High Energy Bird Food.
But sometimes, we do get some people commenting, especially on social media (who doesn’t!), that they’re either a “total waste of money” or “they don’t work, birds in my garden hate them”. So, I decided to do a trial on three of the most popular – Premium High Energy Bird Food, High Energy Suet Balls and Hanging Suet Bird Food Cakes – to see how I would get on with them, and put some of these nagging doubts to bed.
I know what you’re thinking: “He works for Richard Jackson, so he’s bound to say they’re wonderful”. I’m not employed directly by Richard, I’m a freelance garden writer – writing for various national gardening magazines – and horticultural consultant – working for various gardening companies and I have to be unbiased, otherwise my reviews and reports wouldn’t be valid and my reputation would be in ruins. And for Richard I mainly run the free Flower Power Gardening Club enquiry service and answer plant and gardening questions that are sent in. I’ve known Richard for many years, long before I started doing this. Having known him for so long, I knew that any product he produces would be of the utmost quality. But I wanted to make sure that whatever I said in my replies to enquiries was honest, truthful and borne out of personal experience; if I don’t know the answer to a question, I’ll always find out before I give any reply.
I’ve fed garden birds for more years than I really want to think about, mainly using one of the market leading brands of wild bird food. So, I bought some of Richard’s bird care products (yes, I bought them, although I do get a staff discount!) to try, and did some simple “experiments” with them trialing them against products that I’d used for years.
High Energy Suet Balls
One of the most common enquiries/complaints that comes into my inbox about the bird food is: “Your fat balls are rubbish – the birds won’t eat them.” First, they’re not fat balls but suet balls, so they do look different to most. So, this is what I did:
In my trials, I filled two feeders – one with High Energy Suet Balls and the other with those from the other company, which the birds had always eaten perfectly happily. I hung both feeders in the same place, the place I was already using, next to each other.
Initially, for the first three weeks, the birds didn’t touch Richard’s High Energy Suet Balls at all – apart from an odd peck. But then suddenly in the fourth week, they started eating Richard’s and not touching the other ones. In fact, now they devour them, and I have to fill the feeder with one or two new ones each day.
Premium High Energy Bird Food
I filled a four-port seed feeder with a seed mix from the leading brand in the bottom half, up to the second level of ports, and Premium High Energy Bird Food in the top half; birds feeding from the bottom two ports only received “the competition” and the top two ports could only eat Richard’s.
For the first seven days, both mixes were eaten at more-or-less the same rate. Then after that, the rate at which Premium High Energy Bird Food was eaten increased dramatically and needed more frequent filling than the other mix.
In case it was related to relative position on the feeder, I swopped the feed over, with Richard’s in the bottom and the competition in the top. By this time, they had become accustomed to eating Richard’s, and they ate it with even more relish.
Hanging Suet Bird Food Cakes
As happened with the High Energy Suet Balls, the Hanging Suet Bird Food Cakes weren’t really touched for 20 days, apart from a few pecks, but now great tits, blue tits and blackbirds love them.
So, it would seem that just like us who have our favourite meals, birds’ palates get used to what they eat and don’t like change at first when something new is served up for lunch. But once they taste five-star cuisine, they won’t go back!
Positioning is key
When I first started feeding the birds in my garden, it took placing the feeders in three different positions before they started eating from them regularly. Like us, birds have favoured positioning for their preferred restaurants, pubs and cafés! It’s like those of us who prefer country pubs and won’t go into a city centre one.
Ideally, position your feeders in places that neither receive too much sun nor too much cold winds. They need to be somewhere that the birds feel safe and secure. Out in the open, so they can be easily spotted, but close enough to somewhere they can hide and shelter, such as a tree or shrub, if they become startled or they spot a predator.