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Helping Wild Animals Through Winter

Need a good reason to sidestep that dreary fall clean-up of your yard?
Here’s one: Leaving your yard alone helps backyard wildlife survive the long, cold winter!


Put away your rake and garden clippers until springtime!

Allow your yard to become what it was originally meant to be: a habitat. For the winter, at least, let all of that fallen foliage provide shelter, warmth, and food for birds, squirrels, mice, frogs, and other critters.

By thoroughly cleaning our yards each fall, we’re making the lives of our backyard friends a lot harder throughout those cold winter months. Dead flowers, rotting fruit and unripened vegetables provide seeds, leaves, and stalks that many animals depend on for food.

Fallen branches, sticks, and leaves provide shelter and places to hide, and much of it will be used as nesting material in the spring.

BirdhouseAn added bonus of leaving your yard au naturel is all that dead foliage helps fertilize your lawn over the winter months! However, if you absolutely must clean up your yard in the fall, consider making one or two brush piles at the back of your yard or out of sight. Your backyard friends will thank you for it.

If you live in an area that doesn’t provide much shelter by way of trees, bushes or thick brush, you can help provide roosting sites by planting dense bushes, trees, and vines that are evergreen (retain their foliage during the winter) or by adding nesting boxes of various sizes to your yard. Just be sure they’re out of reach of dogs and cats!

Squirrel Eating A Nut

Beware of mold in your birdfeeder and hummingbird feeder.

While providing food for birds during the coldest months is an immense aid, it can also cause premature death. Seed grows mold rather easily in saturated conditions, and hummingbird feeders will mold if not cleaned and sanitized regularly.

Despite our good intentions, both cause disease and painful death. Sometimes the mold can be difficult to see, so keep a close eye on your birdfeeders and don’t neglect them.

Cute Little BirdThe best solution for keeping seed feeders mold-free is to keep them under a covered area, out of the rain. Some birdfeeders come with covers that are wide enough to do the trick. Always keep them clean and filled with fresh seed. Discard old birdseed, and if you notice mold, wash the feeder in water and bleach and let it dry completely before refilling it and hanging it in a drier place.

Suet blocks are a great way to provide the high-fat nutrition birds need over the winter months, and they’re usually eaten up before they have a chance to even think about molding! 

Other considerations:

In freezing temperatures, provide a regular supply of water and avoid toxic ice melting solutions.

When it’s freezing out, chances are most of the water that wildlife can access is frozen. If it’s icy out, be sure to use sand or non-toxic ice melting solutions. An unfortunate and common occurrence after a freeze is the poisoning of animals by ice melting chemicals when drinking melted ice and snow.