In­spi­ra­tion and ad­vice for as­pir­ing small­hold­ers

Country Living (UK) - - Contents -

Prac­ti­cal ideas and good ad­vice for would-be small­hold­ers

Many of us fin­ish the Christ­mas pe­riod with a fridge full of left­overs and an over­flow­ing box of dec­o­ra­tions to go back in the loft, but you can trans­form much of this ex­cess into a fes­tive gift for gar­den birds. In­sects and berries can be scarce at this time of year, so ex­tras on the bird ta­ble will be wel­comed, while nest­ing ma­te­ri­als will come in handy from late Jan­uary on­wards. MINCE PIES

Birds will hap­pily tuck into bro­ken-up pieces of this fes­tive favourite. Pas­try, whether it is cooked or un­cooked, is a good en­ergy source for birds as long as it is made with an­i­mal fats (but­ter or lard), as vegetable fats don’t pro­vide enough for cold months. Dried fruits, such as raisins, sul­tanas and cur­rants, are pop­u­lar with black­birds, song thrushes and robins*. Soak dried fruit in wa­ter first to make it softer.


There’s no need to ditch your Christ­mas wreath come Twelfth Night. If it is made with nat­u­ral fo­liage, so much the bet­ter, but even one made from syn­thetic ma­te­ri­als can be trans­formed into a DIY nest­ing kit for birds. Wind some straw or dried grasses around it, and push in moss, undyed feathers and pieces of sheep’s wool picked from fences. You can even snag comb­ings of pet hair onto the twigs. Move it from the front door and hang it from a tree in the back gar­den where birds will use the con­tents for nest­ing ma­te­ri­als when the breed­ing sea­son starts in Fe­bru­ary. SUET

If you’ve made your Christ­mas pud­ding in the tra­di­tional way, then use any left­over beef suet to make fat balls. Gen­tly melt it in a saucepan and

add bird seed (two parts seed to one part suet). Pour the mix­ture into moulds (empty yo­gurt pots will do) and leave to cool in the fridge. If you dec­o­rated your hearth with pine cones, then roll these in the mix­ture and hang from trees out­side (just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with paint or cov­ered in glit­ter, as both can be toxic to birds). But don’t use any fat left in the roast­ing tin af­ter cook­ing the Christ­mas turkey or Box­ing Day beef – cooled so­lid­i­fied fat, combined with meat juices, can eas­ily smear onto a bird’s feathers and in­ter­fere with their waterproofing and in­su­la­tion.


Of course, it is a rare oc­ca­sion that any roasties are left uneaten af­ter the roast din­ners, but the birds will hap­pily snap them up if any are avail­able. Jacket pota­toes (bro­ken open) and mash will also go down well. Chips will most likely be left on the lawn, but if you have an ex­cess of rice from the turkey curry, they will gob­ble that up, too.

Put grated mild, hard cheeses, such as Ched­dar, on a bird ta­ble for robins, dun­nocks and black­birds, and un­der hedges for wrens

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