Winter can be a devastating time for all animals but, fortunately, gardeners can help them by providing food, water, and shelter. Helping wildlife in winter will help birds, insects, and mammals who visit your garden have the best possible chances at survival.
It really could make all the difference!
Helping Wildlife in Winter: Birds
Of all the wildlife, birds are probably the most vulnerable in winter. A dependable feeding station, such as a feeder cup, can help save a lot of bird over the colder months. Fill it with high-fat foods to help them stay warm, such as:
- Grated suet when it’s cold as it will melt.
- Sunflower seeds.
- Niger seeds for siskins and finches.
- Unsalted peanuts appropriate for bird consumption.
- Fruit for blackbirds, robins, and thrushes.
Water can be difficult for birds to find in winter, which means they can’t clean their feathers properly. This results in birds becoming less waterproof and less able to keep themselves warm in cold weather.
Provide your garden birds with a birdbath, changing the water regularly. You should also clean out any nesting boxes or birdhouses you provide to make sure they can be used for roosting when it’s cold and so they’re ready for spring.
NOTE: All feeders must be cleaned regularly as many garden birds, unfortunately, die every year from disease transmission.
Helping Wildlife in Winter: Mammals
Mammals like bats, dormice, and hedgehogs will hibernate over winter while foxes, badgers, mice, and others put on weight over autumn and minimise their activity to preserve energy. These animals will always appreciate any food you leave out, both in autumn and winter.
Fallen leaves can provide animals with shelter, while rotting logs and stems house grubs and insects for the mammals to eat. Hedgehogs will love food you leave out, such as:
- Cat biscuits.
- Cat or dog food that isn’t fish-based.
- Sunflower seeds.
NOTE: Don’t give hedgehogs milk and bread as this can cause diarrhoea and dehydration.
If you think your garden can’t provide enough or high-quality natural shelters, why not try a Hogilo hedgehog house? This will provide a safe, predator-resistant, warm, and waterproof shelter to help these wonderful animals that, unfortunately, are in decline.
Helping Wildlife in Winter: Juvenile Hedgehogs
]Should you find young hedgehogs that weigh less than 450g, they may not have enough fat supplies to last them through winter. If you find one, it will need help. They’ll need to be kept warm with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel and taken to an experienced wildlife rehabilitator.
Juvenile hedgehogs weighing more than 450g can be housed indoors and given water alongside two heaped tablespoons of food a day until they gain enough weight. Read more about hedgehogs in autumn and winter here.
Helping Wildlife in Winter: Pond Life
If you have a pond in your garden, it’s natural that the surface will freeze over during winter. This results in extremely reduced levels of oxygen in the water, which will affect pond life. You can float a ball in the water to keep the water moving and prevent it from freezing.
Should the temperatures be low enough that the surface still freezes over, you can boil a saucepan of water and simply hold it over the ice to melt a hole. Provide log piles and stacks of clay tiles on sunny spots nearby for toads and frogs that are overwintering in your garden.
Helping Wildlife in Winter: Insects
Insects tend to hibernate or overwinter their pupae to survive winter. Insects that fly and need pollen in winter will appreciate a source of pollen in your garden such as ivy, as it flowers in the cold months.
You can also add a butterfly feeding station that will help feed both butterflies and bees when the food is scarce. A bee log can help solitary and hibernating insects survive winter. Bumblebee queens hibernate below long grass or in holes in banks, so make sure to be careful if you mulch or cultivate.
Additionally, moths and butterflies overwinter as either caterpillars or pupae just below the soil, in long and tussocky grass, or at the base of food plants. Other insects will overwinter in the hollow stems of herbaceous perennials, so leaving them and not chopping until spring will help these animals.
Make sure to get in touch with us if you have any questions about gardening supplies or greenhouses, we’re always happy to help!