Birds love fat balls/suet cakes. And so they should, in winter, when they can make a difference to a bird’s chances of survival. I make my own fat balls, and I put them out all winter. But in early spring, as the breeding season gets going, I stop. Why? Because young birds cannot digest fat and it can make them very ill and even kill them. Why do pet shops, nurseries and garden centres still sell them even in the summer? Money. Of course, the manufacturers are no better; very few of them put warnings about spring/summer feeding of fat to young birds. Yesterday I saw a woman buy a whole bucketful of fat balls when I was at the garden centre. Thus I have made it my mission to try to warn people who feed birds that at certain times they can be doing more harm than good.
How to Do it Properly
So what do I feed my birds to help them through the arduous breeding season? Well, I keep my sunflower hearts feeders full up, as well as my peanut feeders. I put out ‘forgotten’ apples from the bottom of my fruit bowl, cut in half. I chop up peanuts in the blender and put those both on the ground and on the table. But the favourite for starlings, blackbirds and thrushes is definitely sultanas. I buy value ones at the supermarket, then soak them overnight in water. This is very important. When you do it you will see why. They puff up. If you do not soak them they will puff up in the stomach of the bird, which is bad news and can cause harm. And soaked in water they are a great gift to the birds. They provide a food source, and water at the same time, making them very good for parent birds to give to their young. When you start doing it you will find they disappear very quickly indeed!
And if you like birdwatching you will be rewarded with being able to watch parent birds feeding their families on your lawn. Starlings and blackbirds love soaked sultanas.Please don’t offer whole peanuts during the breeding season. These can choke young birds. In fact, I never put out whole peanuts, only in an appropriate wire feeder.
Feeding the birds is a wonderful thing, but some responsibility does come with it. For the sake of the birds it’s essential to do it properly – with some important things borne in mind – or not at all.