During very cold and harsh winters, the wildlife you love, enjoy, and care for during the warmer months may run into trouble if the food runs out. There are some things you can do in your yard to make the winters easier for your backyard wildlife to get through the winter so they can entertain you again in the warmer months. Providing places for shelter, a way for the animals and birds to get water that isn’t frozen, and providing some food for them to eat will really help. Below are some suggestions on ways you can accomplish these things, along with suggestions for food to feed.
Animals of all types need shelter, and it is easy to provide a little extra shelter for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, frogs, and other ground dwellers. If you trim branches from trees in your yard before winter to prevent them from bringing down power lines or falling on your house when they get heavy from snow, don’t burn them or take them to the curb—consider making a small brush pile. A little brush pile, just a foot or two tall in one corner of your yard, or in a corner of your garden, will provide a great source of cover for a variety of animals during the winter months. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, even though some logs will fall off the wood pile during the winter, some small animals may take shelter in the lower levels of the logs or build a burrow underneath the stack of logs. Even better, plant evergreen trees or bushes in areas of your yard, which will provide natural shelter for the birds and animals you are trying to help get through the cold and snowy season.
Source Of Water
One of the hardest things for a bird or small mammal to find in the winter can be a source of water that isn’t frozen. Purchasing a bird bath heater and using it to keep a ground-level bird bath unfrozen can really be a great draw for keeping animals in your yard all year around. Many people think with snow and ice on the ground that animals can eat the snow and get water from it by melting it in their mouths. Yet for most animals and birds, this isn’t a good option for rehydration. If you are providing drinking water for your birds and animals over the winter, be sure to use a shallow container and preferably put it on the ground so it doesn’t get knocked off a higher area by larger mammals.
Early in the winter, there may still be some nuts, berries, and seeds to be foraged for by the birds and animals in your yard. But by the time the colder part of winter arrives, those resources will have all been picked over. At this point it will be very helpful to provide some basic food for your birds and small mammals, but primarily for your birds. Many small mammals will have stocked up on food through the warmer months and will be very dormant over the winter, eating their saved-up food stores and sleeping a lot. Birds will need to continue to feed throughout the winter though, so providing food for them that is higher in fat and oil content will be very helpful to them. Prime winter food for birds will include black oil sunflower seeds, suet cakes, peanuts, and millet. These foods all tend to be higher in fat and essential oils, and can be eaten by many birds as well as any small mammals that run out of food and need to come out to forage for more.
Most wildlife can survive the winters until spring arrives. But if your goal is to keep as many around your yard all year long as possible, making the winter more comfortable for the animals and birds near you will certainly be a good way to attract them.