A bird table is one of the best ways to welcome wild birds to your garden, but unfortunately, it can also attract unwanted visitors.
By following some simple advice, it is possible to prevent them from coming to your bird table, and you can provide a safe space for your birds to feed.
Cats may attempt to climb the pole of your bird table worrying or even killing the birds who are trying to feed on it. They will often conceal themselves in nearby shrubs waiting for the right moment to pounce so make sure you position your bird table in the open to give birds time to escape if they see a cat approaching.
You can buy baffles that you fit to the pole to prevent cats from climbing up the table or you could make your own from an old metal mixing bowl or biscuit tin. Alternatively, you could fit a length of drainpipe or chicken wire over the post. Smearing it with grease may also do the trick.
If you own a cat then fit a bell to its collar to give birds some warning and if you have trouble with neighbours’ cats visiting your garden then you may need to get creative with a variety of cat deterrents.
Although they are unlikely to harm the birds that come to feed at your table once they are aware you are putting out food they will do all they can to steal it before birds have a chance.
Squirrels are incredibly acrobatic so try using a baffle to prevent them from climbing up, and don’t place your bird table near trees, shrubs, or fences from which a squirrel can jump.
Sprinkle some hot chilli powder or sauce on the food you put out on the table. Most squirrels will find the burning sensation unpleasant but birds are insensitive to capsaicin – the component that makes chilli peppers hot – and will happily tuck into the spiciest of meals.
Many people are wary of feeding birds because they are worried they will attract rats and other rodents. Rats tend to come looking for food at night so offer just enough food that can be eaten by your garden birds in a single day.
Remove any uneaten food at the end of each day and sweep under the bird table to clear away any food birds have dropped on the ground. If you have very messy birds, you can buy seed trays that attach to your bird table to catch any husks that fall or choose seed without husks to minimise waste.
If you do attract a rat the best thing to do is stop feeding for a while until they have moved on to another patch. Thoroughly clean any areas they have visited and put preventative measures in place to stop them returning.
Although it’s nice to attract a variety of birds to your garden, some birds such as pigeons and gulls can dominate your bird table leaving little food left for smaller birds.
Choosing a bird table with a roof can help stop bigger birds landing on the table and has the added benefit of keeping food dry. You could also build a cage from chicken wire, lengths of string, or pieces of cane to surround your bird table. Leave a hinged opening at one end so that you can get in to restock and clean it.
Don’t put out big pieces of food which large birds may fly off with. Chopping up food into tiny pieces may put them off as they may feel it’s not worth the energy needed to collect it if there are more accessible food sources nearby. A variety of other feeders to complement your bird table will also help give different species of birds a chance to feed.
Feeding birds is meant to improve their health so the last thing you want to do is attract bacteria and disease to your bird table which may harm or even kill wild birds.
Remove uneaten food before it has a chance to go rotten and scrape away droppings which can contain dangerous parasites. Once a week give your bird table a clean with some mild disinfectant and give it the once over for any cracks and crevices that have appeared which could harbour rotten food.