Here in Britain, we’re accustomed to a flurry of wildlife in our back gardens during spring and summer time. For some, any creaturely visits can be a nuisance; for other people, they appreciate the sight of a blue tit flapping its wings or a hedgehog bobbing along amidst their grass and leaves.
If you’re reading this article, you probably fall into the latter category. At Garden Buildings Direct, we know the importance of a thriving garden. A bustling habitat in your back yard is a great way to compliment a new garden log cabin or shed. So we’ve put together this guide on how to attract animals to your garden, and make it a wildlife hub.
1. Get a bird feeder
It’s a classic, and it might seem a bit gimmicky, but birds really do love to peck about a bird feeder if you’ve got one in your garden. You should hang it in a visible spot. Birds don’t have much of a sense of smell, so they rely on their eyes to find food. There are a range of different types of bird feeder to choose from – most of them do a similar job.
Tube feeders are perhaps the most common, and they come in two styles. Some are metal, with grills so that birds can stick their beaks in and feed from anywhere on the tube. Others may be plastic and have ports – special feeding holes cut out. You can get feeders with even smaller holes (mesh or cut-out) that are perfect for birds such as siskins and finches. These feeders are designed for a special type of seed called nyjer seed.
Otherwise, you could opt for a tray feeder – literally, a tray suspended in the air that birds can land on – or a hopper feeder. A hopper feeder is usually shaped like a house. It ejects bird seed from the bottom onto a tray, but the feed itself is contained within an enclosure. As the birds peck away at the feed that has been released from the hopper, it frees up more space for seed. The more they eat, the more they get.
Some feeders are shaped like a house and may resemble a hopper, but the birds can actually go inside. These make good shelter for the birds during bad weather conditions.
Different birds like different kinds of food. Blue tits, woodpeckers and wrens all like to eat suet, which is a fatty substance formed from beef which you can make at home yourself. If you ever see rounded balls in a bird feeder, it will be a fat ball – suet or lard mixed with nuts, seeds and mealworms. You can make these yourself (see below) or buy them from the shop. If you buy them in a netted mesh packaging, make sure you discard it before putting it in a feeder so smaller birds don’t choke on it.
If you’re a real DIYer, you can make some bird seed yourself. Dried cranberry, pumpkin seeds, muesli and mealworms are all good options. If you want to mould the bird seed into balls, add some suet or lard, roll them into your desired shape and stick them in the fridge to harden up. Fat balls are better for winter time, when birds needs extra energy. Bird seed is better for summer, as fat balls can melt in the hot sun.
One thing to note is that birds aren’t the only animal that’ll be attracted to your feeder. Squirrels are cheeky and will be regular customers if you don’t put measures in place to stop them. They don’t cause any harm, but may detract birds from your garden when they’re there, and dissuade birds from coming at all if they’ve nicked all the food! Luckily, there are ways to prevent squirrels from stealing the limelight.
These include using a weighted feeder, that closes when a heavy animal such as a squirrel jumps on, or one where the holes are too small for squirrels to access. You can also opt for foods that squirrels don’t like, such as the aforementioned nyjer seeds.
Alternatively, if your feeders are suspended from a pole in your garden, a device called a baffle could be the solution to your problems. These blockades prevent squirrels from climbing up the poles, because of their size, and also because they contain a spring. The squirrels can’t get round them – but if they do, they’ll be transported back to the bottom when the baffle descends under their weight.
Two other methods include installing a separate feeder for squirrels or greasing your pole. They’re ace climbers, but can’t deal with slippery surfaces!
Of course, if you’re a big fan of the ravenous rodents, there is no need for any preventative methods. After all, this is an article about making your garden a wildlife hub!
Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid them anyway. Squirrels are extremely athletic creatures and will have no trouble accessing a feeder if it’s hung from a tree. Even if you station it out of the way of any shrubbery, their incredible ability to jump up to four feet high vertically and ten feet horizontally may mean they can get at it no matter what you try!
2. Gaps in the fence
Most homeowners take steps to block gaps in their fences, where wood has worn away or where the ground has diveted underneath. But stop right there. A small gap in your fence can be advantageous to small animals! As long as it doesn’t pose a security threat to you, a small gap at the bottom of your fence can allow an abundance of furry friends to pass through your garden on their travels.
Hedgehogs are one of the calmest animals you’ll meet – and will much appreciate an easy route being made for them. As long as you don’t have pets such as rabbits, the sight of a fox can be a wonderful night time prize for a gap in your fence. They’re flexible and small enough to creep underneath. Make sure you don’t make a sound though – or you’ll send them scurrying! Even little hares might pass by if you’re lucky. Wherever you live, you never know exactly what you might see…
3. Bug’s burrow
Dead leaves, rotten wood and spare soil need not be discarded. You can create a breeding ground for all sorts of wondrous bugs – which will fascinate the children. Pile up the detritus around an old tree trunk or make a small hill in the corner of your garden.
Woodlice, earthworms, centipedes and earwigs all thrive in dark, damp places. You’ll be providing them with a natural habitat for living and be providing yourself with some intriguing new viewing.
4. Long grass
Instead of heading immediately for the lawnmower when the grass is looking a bit lengthy, let it sit for a while. Not cutting your grass means you’ll be allowing pollinator plants like daisies and buttercups to bloom.
The length of the grass itsself will be a fantastic nesting place for little bugs almost too small to see with the naked eye, and for bigger creatures like frogs. It’ll make your garden look more natural too!
Try and avoid the use of fertilisers or weed-killers, as the chemicals and substances in these products can be poisonous to animals.
5. Plant plants
Choosing and planting colourful flowers is a great way to decorate your garden. It’s something many of us choose to do anyway, just to brighten up the place. But certain species are more attracted to certain plants than others. And customising your garden with them in mind is a no-brainer when you’re trying to attract wildlife to your garden.
Viper’s bugloss, lavender, bluebells and crocuses are all fantastic for attracting bees while adding a splash of colour to the place.
For birds, sunflowers and marigolds and even ivy do the trick very well. But to ensure you have visitors all year round, holly bushes and plants that fruit with berries on are ideal.
6. Hedgehog Hotel
Hedgehogs aren’t the only animal that’ll appreciate a darkened space to furrow in, but it’s alliteration! Any dead wood, trimming and old foliage you may have laying around will make ideal bedding for some furry friend. Cut a hole out of an old shoebox and lay it in the garden. Maybe dress it with some leaves and grass to camouflage it and spread out some food inside.
Apple cores, broccoli stems, carrot tops and various leafy greens such as kale and cabbage will be snapped up if there are any hungry critters or crawlers about. It’s a great way to not waste your discarded fruit and veg trimmings. You can check up on your little hide throughout the week to check for evidence of visitors!
7. Water source
Every living thing needs to drink to survive.
Setting up a bird bath or a pond is a great way to assist them in doing just that! You’ll have a variety of flying (and jumping) creatures popping in for a drink, and with a pond, even if you don’t own fish, you’ll further encourage wildlife to blossom in your back yard. Water boatmen, dragonflies, frogs and newts can all be found hanging round the local pond. There’s no better way to make sure of it than to put one in your garden!
Having a pond installed benefits you in a multitude of other ways too. They look great and can add value to your property.
Installing a camera to record live footage of your hedgehog hideaway, your bird bedsit or your rustling retreat can be rewarding for all the family. Good cameras and camcorders range in price, but some hardy ones can be pretty cheap! You could set it up inside a bird box or a shoebox if you don’t want any nosy beaks pecking away at it.
Leave it recording and then take it down every couple of weeks. Once you’ve exported the footage, you (and the children) will have heaps of fun identifying the different species you’ve had pass by!
Simple but effective
Transforming your back garden into a wildlife hub can be great for all the family, and hardly has to cost a penny. Peaceful for you and heaps of fun for the children during summertime, you’ll be doing the environment a favour too!