23 August 2017

Feathers for all weathers: the importance of caring for a bird’s health and well being

It is always uplifting to hear a story of a successful wildlife rescue, particularly when it is somewhere close to home. Perhaps this is why we were so pleased to hear how a local Grantham based family were able to save a tiny baby hedgehog that had been covered in rat poison. While the family did an admirable job and this story had a happy ending, they did warn about the dangers wildlife face as a matter of course and how animals are at risk on a regular basis. The charity, Hedgehog Care based in Spalding, who assisted in the rescue said many other wildlife aren’t so lucky and that “the sad case is that often by the time we have seen them, it is already in their systems and there is nothing more that we can do for them. Only a few nights ago, we had a little one...she passed away shortly after from either rat poison, slug pellets or weed killer.”

Unfortunately it is not only these few hedgehogs that are at risk but vast numbers of all kinds of wildlife are at threat from various general use rat poising, weed killer and other garden chemicals. Sadly wild birds are amongst the largest sufferers due to the nature of their feeding habits. By forage for food and taking from gardens, hedgerows, lawns and the ground, they are at direct threat from any poisons or harmful chemicals that have been purposely put down or from traces of these substances that have been used.

Sadly, while these substances exist, are still legal and easily accessible, it is likely that the harm wildlife face will be unavoidable. However there are plenty of ways you can ensure your garden is nature friendly, full of goodness and a true wildlife haven.

When caring for wildlife well, it is crucial to consider all aspects of their wellbeing. The most obvious and arguably most important is to ensure wildlife have a good supply of food. Some feeds contain artificial ingredients and are filled out with less healthy, cheap choices such as wheat, fat rather than suet, barley and flour so are best to be avoided. Instead, it is best to consider food that is dust free, good quality, high in nutrients and energy and as natural as it can be. Cleaned Sunflower Hearts like ours, here at Brinvale are great options as well as our dust free mixes and high quality suet products.    

As well as ensuring the feed you provide is of a good quality, it is just as crucial to ensure your feeding area is to a high standard in that, it is clean and hygienic as well. Late summer when the birds are less dependent on your feed supply, is the perfect time to clean all of your feeders and replace any broken or damaged ones as these pose a risk to birds. Unclean feeders also put birds at risk as they are unsanitary, can spread diseases and can cause the fresh quality feed you buy to spoil quickly.

It is therefore important to keep feeders clean but it is quick and easy to get them looking like new, although make sure you avoid using chemicals which will harm birds.  Instead simply use hot water or any non toxic disinfectant like the Safe4 non toxic disinfectant cleaner and a cleaning brush. The 2-in-1 feeding brush is a great option as it allows you to get to the centre of the feeder and you can use the brush attachment for the reach any difficult to access areas.

Below you can watch our video which demonstrates just how easy it is to dismantle and give your feeder a thorough clean.

Once your feeders are cleaned and ready to be re-hung, consider resiting them as regular rotation of your feeding area helps to protect your lawn from heavy wear, and reduces the risk of bacteria, preventing the spread of disease. You may also want to consider using Feeder Fresh, a formula that consists of small crystals which absorbs any moisture within the feeder and keep seed dry while preventing mould within feeders.

Don’t forget that no matter what time of year it is, water is always important, so a good idea is to clean your drinkers and bird baths and refill them with fresh, clean water too. For added care, consider adding CitroSan, a non toxic yet effective natural sanitizer that helps to safeguard against a wide range of pathogens. It also works as a stimulant for maintaining natural immunity in birds, which is particularly important through the summer months when diseases such asTrichomonosis, (a serious, life threatening disease which causes birds to suffer from difficulty in swallowing and laboured breathing) which can be caught from water is rife.

Water is not just important for drinking but is important for a birds overall health and condition too. Through midsummer birds begin their moulting cycle and begin to replace the 1500 to 3000 that make up their coat. These feathers are made entirely from the protein keratin and while adult birds replace their old feathers, juvenile birds are growing their first adult coats. The fledgling from the spring will currently be in the process of shading their delicate first feathers and replacing them for fully waterproof, warm and functional ones, ready for the winter ahead. Providing a bird bath filled with clean water in your garden greatly aids birds with their moulting as it keeps their new feathers clean throughout and also prevents parasites such as feather lice.

While ensure all of your feeding areas are clean and chemical free, safeguard your garden birds and all of your other wildlife visitors by avoiding using any other chemicals in your garden. Like the hedgehog, wildlife can be affected by weed killers, toxic bug sprays, fertilisers and slug pellets too. Coffee, egg shells, copper, seaweed and beer can all be used to deter slugs and pests and act as natural alternatives to chemicals.

Mid August and all through September, is the perfect time to get your garden and feeding areas in tip top condition ready for the winter.  Here are our top picks for this season to help you, help wildlife and create the perfect, natural, healthy garden. 





Useful related products:  Citosan, Feeder Fresh, 2-in-1 Cleaning Brush, Safe 4 Disinfectant Spray, Safe 4 Concentrate, Wild Bird Water Drinker, Droll Yankee Easy Clean Ring Pull Pro. 

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posted by Brinvale