Frequently Asked Questions
- When should I feed?
Throughout the year. The benefits of winter feeding are well known, but it’s important to feed in the warmer months as well. The provision of supplementary food can reduce competition between adults and young for natural food as the adults will quickly “top-up” at the bird feeders and use all the caterpillars that they find to feed their young. Don’t forget that peanuts should only be provided in mesh-feeders, as whole nuts might choke nestlings.
Seed eating birds such as the finches can struggle to find enough food until the first crops of weeds have had a chance to flower and set seed in late spring and early summer. Supplementary seed provision can also help these birds by providing additional food for them to regurgitate and feed to their young.
- How do I exclude Starlings or squirrels from hanging feeders?
Our Feeder Guardian Cages will exclude the majority of Starlings and squirrels.
- How do I exclude Starlings or squirrels from ground feeding areas?
The Ground Guard (Small Mesh) will exclude Starlings and some squirrels.
- How do I exclude larger birds such as Pheasants or Woodpigeons from feeding on the ground?
The Ground Guards will exclude these birds.
- Which species will the feeder guardians exclude?
The Guardians will exclude birds larger than House Sparrow or Greenfinch size, including Great Spotted Woodpeckers, as well as larger birds such as pigeons and crows.
- Which species will the ground guards exclude?
The Ground Guard (Large Mesh) will exclude Pheasants, Woodpigeons and Feral (Town) Pigeons; The Ground Guard (Small Mesh) will also exclude Collared Doves, Blackbirds and Starlings.
- What is the difference between Premium Whole Sunflower Hearts and Premium Sunflower Hearts?
Premium Whole Sunflower Hearts are screened to ensure that the bag contains whole hearts. Premium Sunflower Hearts are a mix of whole hearts and heart chips and may also contain some remnants of husk. There is no difference in the energy content of either product; the whole hearts simply go through an additional screening process to remove as much of the chips and husks as possible.
- Where are your Sunflower Hearts grown?
Usually in Eastern Europe, but in times of shortage we sometimes buy from other areas that meet out strict quality standards.
- When is the best time to provide peanut cakes?
Once birds discover peanut cakes they will feed on them throughout the year, but the main season is in the colder months of the year, particularly November to March.
Peanut cakes have an integral hanging stalk, but to specifically help Wrens and other small birds such as Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest and Treecreeper, try rubbing a cake onto a rough surface close to cover. A "stripe" of peanut cake on some bark, a fence post, the side of a shed or whatever can work really well if the birds don't feel too exposed. Crumbling or finely chopping the cakes and placing them on bird tables or on the ground close to cover will make it easier for Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Wrens to benefit from them.
- Till which temperature can we give fat products to our birds?
Birds will feed on Peanut Cakes throughout the year, but in temperatures above 25°C there is a risk that the cakes will be too soft for the birds to land on safely without soiling their plumage.
- When is the best time to provide mealworms?
Mealworm use soars during the breeding season (March to August), particularly during dry spells when parent birds struggle to find earthworms and leatherjackets. Several species, most famously the Robin, adore mealworms throughout the year.
- How do I feed mealworms to the birds?
Use a container with steep, smooth sides so that the mealworms can’t escape. While the birds are getting used to this new food source it helps to put the worms out at the same time of day, and to warm them to room temperature so that the birds will see them wriggling. Once birds realise how tasty they are it’s often possible to scatter them on a bird table, patio or lawn as the birds will devour them in minutes.
- How easy is it to keep live mealworms?
If kept cool, provided with food (bran and just a few slices of carrot or apple) and periodically cleaned out to keep the meal in which they live fresh, it’s quite straightforward to keep mealworms for several weeks – always assuming the local Robin will let you!
- How long can I keep food for, and how long can I leave uneaten food in the garden?
If kept cool and dry, we would recommend storing food for up to three months, but in practice it may well last longer.
Any food in the garden that has been uneaten for more than ten days should be disposed of, and in mild, damp weather peanuts should really not be out for more than a week.
- How do I keep feeders and feeding areas clean and safe?
Feeders and feeding areas should be cleaned with a mild (5%) detergent solution on a regular basis, and certainly before fouling becomes obvious. The most effective option is to use approved products such as Vivara Biological Cleaner or Ark-Klens for general cleansing.
Water containers should be emptied and replenished daily in warm weather, and must be rinsed thoroughly after using any sort of detergent. Adding Citrosan to the water is a wise precaution, particularly if lots of birds are using the bird bath.
Birds can carry a variety of infections that are potentially dangerous to humans and domestic animals (such as Campylobacter, E-coli and Salmonella), so good hygiene really is crucial. Hands should always be washed thoroughly after cleaning or refilling feeders, and equipment that is used for cleaning bird feeders and feeding areas should not be used for any other purpose.
- Are your feeders squirrel-proof?
Our metal seed feeders are resistant to squirrel damage. The Feeder Guardian Cages will exclude all but the smallest, most determined squirrels.
- Are your feeders parakeet-proof?
Our metal seed feeders are resistant to parakeet damage. Our Adventurer Guardian range was developed specifically to deter parakeets and should keep out all but the most determined of these birds.
- Where should I site my feeders?
As close to cover as possible. Most common garden birds are specialists of woodland or the woodland edge, so they do not like straying too far from cover. If the birds feel that they can quickly escape into surrounding vegetation in the event of a predator appearing they are much more likely to use the feeder.
Greenfinches and Goldfinches will often feed in the open so if you have these species in the area but lack suitable cover you may still be able to attract them.
If cats are a problem the ideal location will avoid low-lying cover below the feeder where ground feeding birds may well forage on spilt seed, as this reduces the chances of an ambush.
- Why are the birds ignoring my new feeder?
There could be a number of reasons, most obviously that it is new! Birds are more likely to take to a new feeder during the colder months – November to March in most areas – but it may well take two or three weeks before the birds are totally comfortable with a new feeder. For best results site new feeders in good cover or places where you normally see the birds, and use good quality food. Putting unsuitable food full of cereals and peas into a good feeder doesn’t alter the quality of the food! It is common for birds to be unsure and keep their distance for the first few weeks after introducing a new feeder or product into your garden, try to be patient but you can also try some of our suggestions below.
- Try placing the new feeder or product near your existing ones.
- Try placing the new feeder or product in cover, within a tree or bush as birds may be nervous to come out into the open at first.
- If you have purchased peanut butter try smearing some onto a nearby tree, or the edge of a feeding table.
- If you have purchased peanut cakes you can also try smearing these onto a nearby tree, or the edge of a feeding table.
- Where should I site a bird table?
The ideal position is close to high cover such as trees or mature shrubs, but at least 2 metres from low cover that may conceal a cat or other ground predator.
- Where should I site a ground feeding table?
At least 2 metres from low cover that may conceal a cat or other ground predator.
- Where should I site a hedgehog house?
In a quiet part of the garden with some weather protection – against a wall or under an outbuilding or decking – is best. You can add dry leaves (not hay or straw) to make it more inviting.
- Where should I site an insect house?
Insect Houses work best in a sheltered position, ideally with an easterly aspect, but the most important concern is to avoid facing south or west and exposing the insects to driving rain. Height is unimportant so long as the House is sited at least 50cm above ground to avoid problems with rain splashing mud into the House.
- Where should I site a squirrel feeder?
The most important consideration is to choose a spot that is more convenient for the squirrels than the bird feeders – the squirrels won’t go past the bird feeders to get to their own. It’s usually fairly easy to work out where the squirrels are coming from and to put their feeder on that side of the bird feeding area.
- Where should I site a frog and toad house?
In a quiet part of the garden that has some weather protection is best. Placing the house near a pond or an area of unmown grass is ideal, but amphibians will travel in search of hibernation sites.
- Where should I site a bat box?
The ideal location is fairly high with a clear flight path in and at least some direct sunlight during the day.
- Where should I site a Swift nest box?
The box needs to be at least 5 metres high with a clear flight path in and protection from direct sunlight and prevailing wind and rain. Sheltered by the eaves of a house is probably the most straightforward position.
- Where should I site a bird bath?
Birds are very vulnerable when bathing, so avoid siting the bath close to low cover where a cat could be lurking. However it is always a good idea to have some high cover such as tall shrubs or tree limbs nearby, so that there is a refuge in the event of a Sparrowhawk attack.
- How do I offer water during the winter time?
During freezing conditions water can be very important for birds feeding on a diet of dry seeds, and they will also need to bathe regularly to maximise the insulation provided by their feathers. Empty bird baths after sunset to avoid them freezing solid. In the morning wait until the sun has risen and fill up the bath with hand hot water (around 40°C) to safely delay freezing for as long as possible. Be prepared to repeat this process during the day if possible, and don’t forget to empty the bird bath again after sunset. Also, never add anything to the water to prevent freezing such as salt or chemicals. These are toxic to birds even at low concentrations.
- Where should I site a nest box?
For all nestboxes a good general rule is to shelter from prevailing wind and bright sunlight – normally facing north, through east to south-east. If mounting on a tree avoid the side that water rushes down in heavy rainfall. Bear in mind that when the young birds leave the nest they are making their first ever flight, and they don’t always get it right first time! Some sort of vegetation that they can perch on and hide amongst can be a big help in the first hours out of the nest.
Open nest boxes need to be well hidden if the birds are going to feel safe enough to use them. Screening the box with thorny vegetation but still providing a view of the surroundings for the sitting bird is the goal for most species.
- When and how should I clean out my nest box?
Nestboxes should be cleaned at the end of the breeding season every year. This can be quite protracted (typically April to August, sometimes later) and as the birds are very sensitive to disturbance at the nest it is safest to defer this task until sometime in October. In the UK, nest box cleaning has to be carried out between 1 August and 31 January, and any eggs present must be destroyed promptly and cannot be kept or sold. Handling wild bird eggs is an offence outside of this time.
All nest material should be discarded. No further treatment should be necessary unless there is a major infestation of parasites, in which case it is safer to use hot water than proprietary pesticides. If you really feel you have to use chemicals, use a short-lived non-synthetic product such as pyrethrum powder.
- When should I put my mason bee cocoons out?
Mid-March is a good rule of thumb. Suitable conditions for the bees to emerge are likely to arrive earlier in the south and at low elevation, and later in the north or at higher elevations.
- Where should I site my mason bee nest?
Choose a spot that enjoys full sun, preferably next to an obvious landscape feature such as a fence or wall, with the tubes facing south or south-east and angled downwards slightly to aid drainage. A minimum height of a metre above ground level is helpful, as is having a good supply of bee friendly plants. Mason bees are excellent pollinators of soft fruits such as apples and cherries and can improve fruiting rates.
- What should I do with my filled mason bee tubes?
In early September remove tubes that have been capped with mud and store them in a cool, dry location until the spring.
For best results, remove capped tubes once a week, and open them up in September (once the larvae have metamorphosed into adult bees) and clean them gently to reduce contamination and parasites. Replacement tubes are available from us so that you can be ready for the next spring. The cocoons should be stored somewhere cool and dark until mid-March, before being put out in the garden in a weatherproof container that will let the bees escape when they are ready. A dark container such as those supplied with microwave meals makes a good release box: clean thoroughly, cut out a 1cm high exit from the edge and then place onto a small platform of wood, angled down from the entrance hole for drainage, and held in place with elastic or staples.
- Can I track my mealworm order?
Mealworm orders are sent by Royal Mail 1st class post, so it isn’t possible to track them. Orders received before 3pm from Monday to Thursday will be normally sent out on the same day. Orders received after 3pm will be despatched on the next working day (except Friday).
To ensure the mealworms reach you in the best condition we don’t post them out on a Friday to avoid delays over the weekend. For the same reason we may delay orders for mealworms during periods of intense heat.
- Which courier do you use?
The majority of orders are despatched using UK Mail on a Next Day service however for orders weighing less than 2kg may be sent by Royal Mail which can take 1-4 days. Orders received by 3pm Monday-Thursday (or 2pm on Friday)* will normally be delivered the next working day (except Bank Holidays).
We deliver to Northern Ireland, the Scottish Highlands and Islands areas within the UK at no extra cost to you; however deliveries to more remote areas may take up to five working days.
*Although we do our utmost to fulfil this, there may be exceptional circumstances beyond our control when this is not possible and delivery may take 48 hours.
- How do I exclude rats from feeding places?
It’s almost impossible to completely exclude rats, but minimising the amount of food on the ground should discourage rats from setting up home. Using bird feeders and tables rather than ground feeding is a positive step, but if you live in an environment where rats are more likely to be present, such as a waterside or inner city property, hanging your feeders above an area of hardstanding that can be swept clean regularly is a sensible precaution.
If you have further questions, please contact us our wildlife experts will be happy to advise you.
If you have found an abandoned or injured animal, please contact your local wildlife hospital.