Giving wildlife a helping hand in cold weather

British Robin on soil

If you’re in the UK and reading this, no doubt you’ve also been subject to day after day of miserable weather conditions. We’ve had an array of wintry outbreaks here – sleet, snow, frost, rain, fog… and spring seems to be holding back still. The birds think otherwise; every morning I wake to a dawn chorus, and there seem to be an abundance of british birds here that are eating me out of house and home. The cold weather has meant that there’s not much of an abundance of food around for them, as their winter larder of natural food sources has pretty much given all it has to give.

So if you’re a nice, kind sort of soul, help them out, will you? Please? Just a few sunflower hearts, some fat treats and even the bog-standard corn bird feed mix will go some way to helping them through until spring finally decides to show her face. They’ll be starting to build nests, with some early starters like blackbirds possibly already raising their broods, and need the extra sustenance for themselves and eventually their chicks. Mealworms soaked in water are a great source of hard-to-find protein for the birds, since the cold weather is keeping insects away at this time of year. You can also make your own fat feeders or super-easy winter warmer pasta mix on those bitter days.

About this time of year the hibernating hedgehogs will also start waking up; their fat stores depleted, they’ll be on the lookout for food too, so if you’re able to leave out something (NEVER bread or milk) – chicken-flavoured cat biscuits or specialist hedgehog food such as this or this – then you’ll be doing them more than a massive favour. You could be helping to save little lives.

thistle flower wildlife

Wildlife gardening is central to my ethos here at the Smallest Smallholding; I have a daily reward in seeing a busy and bustling garden come to life from dawn until dusk (and in the warmer months, during the night too!). If your birds don’t come to your feeders immediately – be patient! They will find you – just don’t let your bird feed get soggy or go off. Keep the contents fresh, put some food in tube feeders, a feeder table or on feeders at ground level, and soon your garden will be a wildlife haven too!

Whilst we do all the above, our next big step is to find space and the right location at the Smallest Smallholding for a wildlife pond… a big job, but something I really want to start work on this year. I’ll keep you posted!


  1. I spent ages hacking a small pond out of our rocky garden last year. We had a frog or two in the summer, and last week the children discovered frog spawn, so it was all worth the effort! I am hoping the frogs will eat the slugs…

  2. polythenepam says

    Hello there, nominated your blog for an award cos I love what you do. Xpam.

    • Thanks so much Pam! I’ve done one of these fairly recently, so I can’t replicate the post – but I just wanted to say thank you so much for nominating me, means a lot!

  3. The birds in our garden have a field day because of all the leftover grains for the chickens. The straw in the chicken pen usually has kernels left on it to forage when it first goes down so I frequently see them scrabbling in there. Our hedgehogs get fed plain peanuts, which was recommended to us by a wildlife sanctuary. The cat or hedgehog biscuits were forever being pilfered by neighbouring cats, while the peanuts, which are high in fats and protein were left alone. Sometimes we see evidence of mice eating them too, but we have some owls in the neighbourhood, as well as weasels and stoats, not to mention cats galore so we leave the mice alone and not worry too much if they eat some of the food we put down.

  4. Steel: Sounds great, the circle of life! Our bird food is usually hoovered up by dusk, anything I put out overnight in summer is chomped on by hedgehogs too. We had mice in our shed but it’s a very localised problem (and we’re replacing the shed soon so they should scarper)… no problems with rats at all, touch wood!

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