How many of us prepare food in the kitchen and wonder what to do with our left overs, rather than just binning them? I hate wasting food and I often throw bread crusts on to the lawn for the birds. But, what I want to know is – should we feed birds kitchen scraps? If so, what can I feed birds from my kitchen?
Kitchen scraps are indeed a good thing to put out for garden birds. Our scraps are not going to be the most nutritional for them and the best food a bird can have is the naturally occurring food around them. However, by occasionally offering a selection of kitchen scraps at your bird feeders you can help to maximise their food source and cut down on your waste. Let’s go into more detail on what scraps we can give to birds and why we should do it.
What To Feed Birds From The Kitchen – 7 Birdie Favourites
I am guessing you are here because, like me you want to know what you can feed wild birds from your kitchen and which kitchen scraps are going to be good for the birds. There are so many questions I had before doing this research; can birds eat raisins and sultanas? Can birds drink milk?
Below is a list of suggested things you can feed to the birds in your garden, that can be good for them, instead of throwing them in the bin. Of course, you might want to just feed the birds food from your kitchen instead of buying seed.
Fats and Meat
Fats are good for birds and I have found trimming of beef fat and bacon rind are very successful on my feeders. Try to avoid long stringy cuts of fat if using bacon rind or similar, as longer stringier cuts could be a choking hazard for a smaller bird or young chick.
Use harder, solid fats and cut them into smaller pieces. The reason that harder fats are better is because softer fats will stick to a birds beak and when they preen themselves the fat can also get stuck in their feathers.
Also, remember that birds are unable to digest salt, especially in large quantities. Try to only use the fat from unsalted cuts of meat. Bacon, for example is salted during the curing process and the rind can contain a lot of salt. As long as the meat is not salted it will be fine to put out.
I usually find that cheese is a particular favourite of Robins and Blackbirds that I see in my garden. Use milder cheese instead of stronger cheese and either cut into tiny pieces or grate it, as this will be the ideal size for smaller birds.
Bird like to feed on fruit – it is one of the naturally occurring food sources they often find. I have no fruit tress in my garden but if you do, why not collect some fallen fruit, cut it into small pieces and load it into a feeder?
Other fruits that are popular with birds include berries, raisins, bananas and grapes; pretty much most fresh fruit. The seeds from other fruits, such as pumpkins and watermelons are also a hit with the birds.
If you have dried fruits, like sultanas or raisins it is a good idea to soak them in the summer months. Fruit should be chopped up into small pieces.
Please also bear in mind – dogs and other pets cannot eat certain foods. Grapes can be toxic to dogs, for example and you need to think about where the food it going to be left, avoiding the ground if possible.
Most baked goods go down well with birds; bread, cake, biscuits, crackers and more. Again, the important thing is to crumble them or cut them into small pieces. If you only have bread that is dry you can soak it in water first, before taking it to the feeder. Smaller is better as larger chunks of dried bread could choke a small chick.
Bread is not an overly nutritious food for birds and will not provide them with the required vitamins, fat or protein. Use old breaded products but don’t make it a regular thing, as it will not help the birds get a healthy and varied diet.
Can birds eat porridge oats? Yes they can but only put out dry oats, not cooked oats. The main reason for this is because cooked oats can congeal around a bird’s beak and cause difficulties in feeding.
You may want to avoid putting out porridge oats in wet weather. They are a pain in the *** to clear up if not eaten.
Both brown and white rice are suitable for bird feeders but only use cooked rice as this is better for attracting smaller birds. Uncooked rice is favoured by much bigger birds like Pigeons and Pheasants. Make sure there was no added salt while the rice was cooking.
Like us, birds need a variety in their diet to stay healthy and pasta is a good source of carbohydrate. As with rice, cooked is best so only put out cooked pasta. It is a good idea to wash the pasta if it was made with a sauce, although a lighter sauce could add some flavour the birds will like.
How To Feed Kitchen Scraps To Birds
From reading the above you may have got the general message that when feeding scraps to birds size is important. Large scraps of food can be OK as the birds can peck away at larger bits of food to take what they need. However, the best way to feed kitchen scraps to birds is to chop them into smaller pieces that make them more bit-size for smaller birds.
Chopping scraps into tiny pieces allows a bird to pick them up and eat them without risk of choking. It also means that anything you provide can be fed to young chicks without them struggling to take them in.
When we feed the birds in our garden we are also attracting all kinds of interesting wildlife. Now you might be a big fan of squirrels, rats and foxes but I have to say that I am not. Either way is fine but I just want to feed the birds and not have to deal with damage and mess that the more pest-like creatures can cause.
There are ways of feeding birds that can reduce the likelihood of less desired visitors to your garden. Seed and other specifically supplied bird food may well attract all kinds but our kitchen scraps will be especially irresistible to so called vermin. Most of the following also applies to feeding birds in general and are usually good practice.
4 Ways to Feed Scraps To Birds And Not Pests
Make sure you put the scraps on a feeder that is high enough off the ground that rats and foxes cannot get to it. We all know that rats are expert climbers and they can get where they want to quite easily, if they choose. Removing the temptation in the first place will help in preventing them from even visiting.
If you are using pole feeders or bird tables, there are many baffle type solutions available. They attach to the vertical pole that a pest would climb up and basically block them off. They make it very difficult for squirrels and the like to get round and up to the treasure.
There are loads of guides online that show you how to make your own if you’d prefer.
Pest Proof Feeders
A good way to prevent pests from stealing your scraps is to use pest proof feeders. There are different types but my favourite is the one where a bird can comfortably feed but a larger, heavier visitor such as a squirrel or rat will cause the platform to drop, cutting off access to the food.
Another way is use a small cage or mesh around scraps. This could be good for ground feeding birds like Dunnocks.
You can either construct something simple our of chicken wire or similar, or buy a purpose made cage. Make sure the holes are big enough to allow small birds in bit small enough to keep pests out.
If you are putting kitchen scraps out for birds then make sure you keep the feeding area clean.
In any environment pests like rats are attracted to easy pickings that we discard every day. This is why rats and other scavingers are often found in bin areas that are not properly managed and secured.
So, if you are feeding birds your food scraps and you are leaving them on the ground, expect rats. If you not OK with this take responsibility and clear away any untouched food the birds haven’t wanted.
What Not To Feed Wild Birds
I have covered a range of food that birds can eat, other than bird seed but what can birds not eat?
There are many things that birds cannot eat, either because they can’t digest the food, or because it is toxic for them and can lead to I’ll health or death.
Let’s take a quick look at what not to feed birds in your garden.
Birds cannot digest milk and it can cause serious stomach upsets or even death in many smaller garden birds.
As I described above, though, other dairy based food is still OK, mild cheese for example.
I mentioned salt above in the context of bacon rind. Birds are unable to cope with salt, it can cause problems such as excessive dehydration. Check that any pasta, rice or meaty fats have not been cooked or cured with salt.
Dry Pet Food
Some people out dog or cat food for birds. Wet, tinned, dog or cat food cam be ok but avoid using dry biscuit type pet food. This is not something I have had any success with.
Larger dry chunks of dog biscuit, for example can get stuck in a birds throat and choke them. Many will still say dried pet treats are ok for birds but I recommend you avoid using them.
Cooking Oils And Fats
Excess cooking oils and fats from roasted meats may seem like they would be a nice tasty treat for birds.
The thing is, runny, liquid oils and fats used in roasting solidifies into a slimy, greasy substance. If birds feed on this it is likely to be smeared around their beaks and subsequently smeared in and around their feathers. This is not good for them.
Using kitchen scraps to feed the birds is a good way to maximise their food sources, especially in colder months when birds may struggle. Certain foods will give birds a great way of taking on board extra fats and nutrients when they are most needed.
Many foods from our kitchens are suitable for birds and minimise how much we waste every day. Particular favourites are fruits, cheese and solid fats. Seeds from fruits like watermelon and pumpkin are also good.
Be mindful, though, birds cannot eat certain types of food and we should avoid putting them out; milk and salt are especially bad.
Finally, putting out left over food at ground level will attract pests and vermin. Consider where you put scraps and how you present them if you want to avoid the extra visitors.