Really Wild Birdfood Co
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It’s an average September morning in the Smith farmhouse kitchen in Hampshire: Richard has drained his cup of tea and is pulling on an overcoat; his wife Lesley stacks the dishwasher while her laptop boots up, ready to start her working day; and eight-year-old Eleanor is giving her rescue dog Lily one last pat before school. It’s like countless scenes playing out in homes around the country but with one big difference. Clearly visible through the large glass double doors that dominate the back wall of the kitchen are a thousand golden sunflowers – and, if it wasn’t for them, the Smiths wouldn’t still be living at Street End Farm.

“It’s a cliché, but it’s true when they say that farming is in your blood – my family has been farming for centuries,” says Richard, who grew up on the 400 acres near Bishop’s Waltham, taking over from his father in 1981.
At first, he continued growing crops for seed but in 2000, grain prices hit rock bottom and, five years later, he was faced with losing it all. “As a relatively small farm, we couldn’t produce enough to survive. We had a choice – leave or diversify. I hated the thought of renting out the land, so had to come up with an alternative.”

That was when Richard struck upon the idea of The Really Wild Bird Food Co, growing a small number of plants – including sunflowers – and mixing the seeds with grain to sell wholesale. “There was a lot of competition, and retailers were only interested in cheap varieties that used wheat filler to keep the price down,” explains Richard, who would often be out on the tractor at 11 o’clock at night in order to produce the tonnage needed to make the business viable.

“I thought a range based on quality ingredients that I could raise myself and sell at a good price would work.” It was a bold move – with Eleanor just a toddler, Lesley had taken time out from her marketing job at a pharmaceutical company, and their finances were tight. “I faced a dilemma,” she recalls. “Should I go back to my well-paid job, leaving Richard with the company? Or should I sacrifice a stable income so we could try to turn it around together?”

The Smiths decided that the business could only work if they pooled their skills, so, while Richard expanded his sunflowers to ten acres and planted another ten of white millet, Lesley set up a website and began marketing their new venture.

Today, Street End Farm’s breathtaking displays of sunflowers, a sight more commonly associated with balmy Tuscan landscapes, attract visitors from around the country. But it isn’t only day trippers who make an annual pilgrimage. “Having spent my life outdoors, I knew what type of seeds birds like and my planting reflects that,” Richard says. “Skylarks often wheel overhead when I’m out in the tractor, and the diverse crops attract new species, such as stonechats, every year.”

Having harvested his commercial crops of wheat, oats and oilseed in August, this month Richard turns his attention to the birdseed mixes. Once gathered, he spreads the seeds over a drying floor and passes warm air between them, before sending them through a series of vibrating sieves to remove stalks and other waste materials. Finally comes the blending and bagging.

“I had to work out how the components of my mixes would sit together – some naturally rise to the top, while others might clog the feeder. It took a great deal of trial and error to get the right balance,” Richard says. He launched five mixes and now produces 14, including a general one, four tailored to specific garden birds, and the Tidy Garden blend, for those who don’t want their lawns scattered with shells.
The process from field to packet takes three or four days but it’s heavily governed by the weather. “Last year was testing: it was so wet, we didn’t finish harvesting the sunflowers until November,” Richard adds. “But, if the weather is bad for crops, it usually means birds need a helping hand – which is good for business.”

At first, Richard and Lesley couldn’t simply rely on customers coming to them – the company is based online – so, by the end of 2005, they spent every weekend at farmers’ markets, spreading the quality birdseed word. It also proved a great opportunity to collect feedback. “One lady asked if I had anything for robins, which I didn’t, because I’d thought the cost of adding mealworms to a mix would be prohibitive,”
Richard says. “I decided to try it out, though, and now our Deluxe Robin Crumble is one of our bestsellers.”

Slowly but steadily, five orders a month became one a day and by 2008 the business was starting to make money. “It was tough; we were living frugally on our savings,” Lesley says. “Richard used to ask me, ‘Is this going to work?’ I honestly didn’t know, but we’d given ourselves five years to try, and our only choice was to push on.” Ploughing profits back into the business, Richard added canary seed and linseed to his crops, whose fragrant, lilac blooms in June begin a colourful crescendo that continues with the yellow-petalled sunflowers and tassled fronds of millet. Ensuring traceability of his product, he sources ingredients such as buckwheat and hemp, which are not financially viable for him to grow, from a producer in West Sussex.

The couple have also taken on three members of staff, and introduced a range of feeders and birdbaths. The birdseed business accounts for just 80 acres of the entire farm, but it has become its biggest income, and Richard is devoting more acreage to it every year.
Running the company has introduced the family to another side of farm life. “We weren’t avid birdwatchers before,” Lesley says, “but now we have let some areas grow wild and put up nesting boxes to help increase their numbers.” For Eleanor, growing up in such special
surroundings is nothing out of the ordinary. “I have no idea if she’ll want to be a farmer,” Richard says. “All I know is that if we hadn’t started the birdseed business, she wouldn’t have had the choice.”

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting bird feeders are just as important as filling them - especially in efforts to prevent salmonellosis, a bacterial disease that kills many small birds.

Salmonellosis occurs when a food source is contaminated with fecal matter. Since 1970, when the bacterial disease was first diagnosed fatalities around bird feeders have become more common and have been witnessed in many bird species throughout the world.

Cleanliness is of prime importance when it comes to the bird feeders. It is necessary to keep the feeders clean in order to avoid fungal growth which can be hazardous to the health of many birds. Dirty feeders can cause a lot of diseases and so it is always better to maintain cleanliness and keep the feeders dry as much as possible.

This time of the year however, with the natural harvest available in plenty, the birds are less likely to feed from the feeders. Nevertheless it is always better to leave some stocked feeders out in the garden just in case. Since the number of birds coming to the feeders in autumn will be fewer, it makes sense to avoid filling the feeders completely.

This is also perhaps the best time to properly clean and sterilize the bird tables and tube feeders to prepare them for the winter. This quite essential cleaning job which can be tedious at times but can be made easy with Ark-Klens. This brush is made to make your cleaning job easy and is perfect for tubular feeders, and help in cleaning thoroughly without any scratches.

Check out the full range of bird table cleaning products on our website for more details!

Latest in at Really Wild Bird Food online birdfeed store is a great variety of items to encourage a varied wildlife in addition to birds to your garden.

We now have in stock attractive ceramic Frog and Toad Houses and mini mammal houses for frogs and other small mammals. The frog houses are your best habitat options for the frogs and other small amphibians. They provide good protection from larger predators. These are a cool and safe retreat for the animals and will definitely encourage wildlife in your garden. The Frogitats come in an earthy green colour that blends in easily with the garden creating a natural retreat for the animals. Made out of solid timber this house will last. The recycled inner skin and the decorative outer log give it a great appearance and provides the animals with extra insulation.

More new products on offer is a little something for the swans and ducks. We stock some floating food for swans, ducks and other waterfowl. Our Swan and Duck food can be fed from the ground or scattered on water as the nuggets are dry and lightweight. These easily float on water for a long time making them accessible even for the slow eaters!

There is a great variety of bird feed available for the wild birds. Amongst these seeds and mealworms are the fatballs which are one of the most popular forms of bird feed. Fatballs prove to be excellent feed options for the birds especially during the winter. These contain a good amount of fat, usually in the form of suet or lard, which is a great energy supplement for the wild birds during the cold spells. The energy required to stay warm during the winters is easily provided by these fatballs since they are high energy and very nutritious.

Our version of fatballs, known as the Super Suet Fatballs, are a good combination of beef suet, wheat, peanut flour and dried mealworms and waterfly. These highly nutritious fatballs contain over 50% more fat than the other available options and provide the birds with instant energy. Apart from this even the taste and texture is great making them easily consumable even by fledgelings.

We have various different versions of feeders also available. For those who face persistent squirrel problems, we have the squirrel proof versions such as the Hexihaus Fatball Feeders which have surrounding cages and come in 2 different sizes. The Swivel top feeders are easy to fill and can hold either 2 or 4 fatballs. There are also the square caged squirrel proof versions available that are designed to attract a large variety of smaller birds to your garden.

If you have limited space in your garden then one of the best methods of attracting wild birds is by providing window or balcony mounted bird feeders and the necessary bird food.

With these window feeders you can really see the birds up close which is a fun and interesting experience.
Apart from attracting and seeing the birds close, the other advantages include:-
- usually these feeders stay well protected from all the annoying unwanted visitors like squirrels
- their local position means it is usually quite easy to clean the bird feeding equipement
- replenishing the food supply is usually easy
- birds feeding close to the house are usually better protected from predators

To make your visiting birds feel safer you could consider placing some plants or shrubs in pots that provide helpful cover.

At Really Wild Bird Company we have a wide variety of feeders which includes some that are ideal as window or balcony feeders such as the new Woodlook™ hanging feeders. These feature a tough, coated-steel mesh base, making them ideal for offering seed mixes and straight foods. The superbly stable frames of these elegantly designed feeders look remarkably like natural wood. They won’t warp or rot and never need painting or staining. These superb hanging feeders are available in Light Oak or Woodland Green finish.
Our new Woodlook™ hanging feeders feature a tough, coated-steel mesh base, making them ideal for offering seed mixes and straight foods. The superbly stable frames of these elegantly designed feeders look remarkably like natural wood. They won’t warp or rot and never need painting or staining. These superb hanging feeders are available in Light Oak or Woodland Green finish.

See our full range of bird feeders at The Really Wild Bird Food Company.

We are all encouraged to host a wide variety of wildlife in the garden. Apart from garden birds you can encourage bees, bats, butterflies and lots more bugs etc.

One way is to establish more wild flowers. At Really Wild Bird Food we have a wide range of wildflower seeds to transform your garden into a haven for the pollinating species! These wildflower seeds are a blend of extremely colourful ANNUAL garden and wild flowers perfect for brightening up areas of the large garden, estate or farm. With a striking mass of flower heads it attracts many different insects and invertebrates.

We also stock an interesting range of new homes for the Bees, Butterflies and Bugs. These are also the best and the most effective means to encourage a wide variety of bees, bugs and butterflies to your garden. These gorgeous and attractive new homes are lovely for them and will help in turning your garden very wildlife friendly.

See, for example The Original Bug Box
This is an attractive dual chamber insect habitat which can be hung from trees, pergolas, hanging brackets, or near ponds or scented plants. It provides an over-wintering habitat for insects like Ladybirds (natural aphid predators) and a home for Solitary Bees (non-aggressive garden pollinators) and other beneficial insects during the summer. Offering a variety of potential habitats, the top section is made of variable sized canes and the lower of bored solid timber. It is robustly screwed together and made from durable FSC timber with a roof of oak/acacia, or similar, which is naturally resistant to weathering.

To help you know more about your garden visitors, we have a wide range of Field Guides to help identify what you see.

Check out our website for all these wonderful new products!

There are bird friendly gardens and there are butterfly or even hedgehog friendly gardens. And now to help the dwindling population of bats there are many people who are encouraging bats to be their garden guests.
Things to do to encourage the bats into your garden include:-
- reduce the amount of insecticides that you use in your garden since some of these insecticides are harmful to the bats. Bats also feed on these insects which eliminates the need for insecticides to some extent.
- a garden full of flowers is an ideal ground for a variety of insects and the bats feast on these.
- any small pond in the garden is also quite encouraging.
- feed the bats with live mealworms!!
Now is a good time to encourage bats since the bats come out of hibernation during the spring.

At Really Wild Bird Food, in order to encourage bat friendly gardens, we now have in our stock the British Born and Bred Live Mealworms for bats. We offer this bat feed especially after special requests from a few of our bat friendly garden owner clients. These come in 1 kg bat packs and are specially packed keeping in mind complete safety of the bats. The storage of this live feed is also quite simple and can be easily stored at normal temperatures. Check the details on the website.


 hedgehog habitats

Photo courtesy of Jared Belson

There are about 17 different hedgehog species all over the world. Hedgehogs are commonly found across a number of rural as well as urban habitats and are found in almost all parts of Britain. Woodlands are their natural habitats and they often prefer being near hedgerows which provide them with the ideal place for nesting and also a steady supply of feed and protection from the predators.

Hedgehogs are also frequent visitors to our gardens as these gardens provide them with plenty of food that is naturally available as well as the supplementary supply put out by people. Gardens also provide them with a safe place for nesting and even in certain cases hibernation. This is the main reason why hedgehogs are often found in high numbers in urban areas.

Since hedgehogs are frequent visitors to our gardens, we have introduced new wicker Igloo Houses, especially for these special friends. These houses offer the hedgehogs as well as certain other mammals a safe retreat for nesting and resting, protecting them from hazards such as predators and man-made hazards such as garden machinery etc. These Igloo Houses are dome shaped with a durable and waterproof steel frame coated with brushwood and moss which offers effective camouflage.

Placing these Igloos in sheltered areas with an additional camouflage of twigs etc might ensure that these are used not just for nesting but for hibernation as well. The tiny entrance of the house makes it difficult for the large predators to gain access inside thus making these safe havens for the hedgehogs. These wicker Igloo Houses are the perfect options to lure the hedgehogs to your garden and create a permanent home for them on your property.

Shop this Igloo Hedgehog Home Here >

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Hedgehog Homes & Food >

This year’s harvest of grain for bird feed was truly a bumper crop with record yields recorded across most varieties. All our available barn space is filled to the rafters with grain and every nook and cranny (including a few trailers!) seems to be holding grain of some sort.

The Big yields often result in falling prices and unfortunately this is the case again this year. Currently wheat is trading at £110/tonne – compared to the £200/tonne we were being paid a couple of years ago. Our plan is to store our grain for a little longer this year in the hope that the prices will improve throughout the year. If everyone could buy an extra packet or two of biscuits a week I am sure that would help!

Storing grain well so that you keep the quality is a skill and this year we have made more improvements to our grain store to make it more water-tight by cladding the side wall (which takes the brunt of the rain) with tin which apparently won’t ever need painting.

This increased demand on our storage space for bird food has had a knock on effect on our warehousing so we are building a mezzanine floor in our packing shed which will give us greatly increased storage capacity for our bird seed business. I should be able to fill the space with some nice new brid feeders and other products!

Swallows are an interesting species of bird. These birds tend to return to their previous nests after their long and tiring migration journeys from their winter locations. At the onset of the spring you generally start receiving these tiny feathered friends around the roof tops looking for a nest to prepare for their next brood. The swallows are not usually very picky and can even settle in cavities that exist here and there or might even make use of some other existing nests. There are of course those swallows who like to create new nests using soft mud. These birds tend to build their nests in places that are well hidden from the bigger predators as also safe from the harsh weather.

But in case of dry spring weather there can be a problem because of the lack of soft mud that is an essential ingredient for swallows nests. At Really Wild Bird Food Company we offer durable boxes that more or less bear a resemblance to the nests that the swallows build themselves. In case of lack of soft mud, these nests are the next best thing for the swallow breeding and since these birds are not very picky and can make do with what is available, you can be sure that the nests that you put out will soon become a swallow’s home. You can put out these durable nests in your roof area or outside buildings or any other place that is not too exposed and well protected with