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Looking after pet birds

If you own birds, you already know how important it is to take extra care of your pets during periods of sweltering heat and blistering cold.

With winter quickly creeping up on us, we thought it was time to share some tips for looking after birds in winter.

So whether you've got budgies, parrots or lovebirds, we hope you find the answers to these common questions useful! More...

wet weather bird feeding

With the weather forecast looking wet, wet, WET for the foreseeable future, it's worth taking a look at our bird feeding practices to ensure we give our feathered friends a fighting chance as the season changes, the temperature drops and natural food sources diminish.

Birds naturally waterproof themselves by preening their feathers, coating them with oil from glands at the base of their tail to help water run off. They also trap pockets of air in the downy under layers of feathers to keep them warm - like a duvet!

So in light showers, you may see them fluff up their feathers, but in heavy rain, they will flatten them down to help water run off. More...

As the summer begins to drift further and further away in the rear-view mirror, the days begin to get shorter and the temperature predictably drops with seasonal regularity. There’s no escaping it: the autumn has undoubtedly arrived and winter is once again well on its way.

With that being said, now is the perfect time to begin thinking about how you plan on feeding your feathery garden visitors over the coming months. 

As the winter draws near, the colder weather makes life tough for many garden birds, particularly when it comes to sourcing food. Give your colourful companions a helping hand this year by providing them with a winter bird feeder to see them through the season. More...

Pet birds

Whether you've owned birds before or you're a completely new bird owner, it's important that you familiarise yourself with your pet's dietary needs. If you want your feathered companion to have a long life, a happy disposition and gorgeous, glossy feathers, then try and take these pet bird diet tips on board!

The best diet for your pet bird is not made up of only pellets and birdseed, to provide your bird with all the nutrients it needs, you need to make sure you're offering a mixture of seeds, pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables.More...

most common garden birds

British gardens are a veritable playground for UK wildlife, providing the perfect landscape for natural beauty.

Wild birds are a big part of that beauty and add an inimitable element of organic charm to the scenery.

That being said, gardens aren’t a universal aviary of birds of each species and there are a few familiar faces that crop up with regularity in gardens across the country. More...

A much-loved garden-dweller across the globe, the songful sparrow is a welcome addition to any garden, providing a cheery sight and a wholesome ambience.

However, a decline in numbers has led to concern over the humble sparrow’s ability to survive in the UK. 

In fact, certain areas of the UK (such as Yorkshire and London) have seen the population of House Sparrows in particular drop by a staggering 70% between 1995 and 2017, according to the Breeding Bird Survey 2018. More...

live mealworms

The breeding season of April - July is a great time to feed live foods to your garden birds if you don't already!

Of the many varieties of garden birds whose numbers are in decline in the UK, it is the insectivores who are the worst hit. The lack of mature, native trees in our gardens, and ever-decreasing areas of natural woodland means that birds are not provided with the insects they need to feed their young, resulting in fewer eggs and fledglings. This makes live foods a more conscientious choice, particularly in colder weather when insects will hide away in warm places, and especially when you consider that the birds' activity rate during the breeding season can be 100 times greater than during the Winter months.

Live mealworms and wax worms are easily-digestible, with a high moisture content which is essential for fledglings who cannot leave the nest to drink. Other sources of moisture for them include unripe seeds, earthworms and caterpillars, but there is growing evidence to show that the peak time for earthworms and caterpillars is possibly earlier than the peak fledgling explosion, so live mealworms and wax worms are a great option to bridge that gap. It has been proven that feeding live foods can have a significant positive effect on the number of chicks reared by their parents.

They are also rich in essential protein (50.4%), very safe to feed due to their vegetarian diet (no spread of nasty diseases), and are much easier to store and use than you might think. 

If the mealworms come supplied in a tub then it should already have a ventilated lid and have some bran inside to keep them going, so you can just keep them cool until you're ready to use them - ideally 8-10 degrees C. They can go in the fridge (although much less than 5 degrees C will kill them), but this can make them a bit dormant and less wriggly - and it's the wriggling which attracts the birds' keen eye. Temperatures above 22 degrees C will make them pupate very quickly.

They do not need light - in fact, dark is good - and if you notice their food has depleted then you can add a bit of carrot or potato peelings, oats or apple. They can be kept this way for several months at the correct temperature.

Bulk bags of live worms are more economical but need to be unpacked on arrival. They can be stored in a large open plastic container such as a cat litter tray or similar, at a maximum depth of 1". There is no need for a lid as long as the sides are deep and clean, and the container is placed somewhere where it won't be knocked over!

 mealworms

Here is a very informative Q&A from our founder and resident vet, Lesley:

 

Q. Which birds eat live mealworms?

A. Well - the insect and invertebrate eaters! Robins, sparrows, tits, starlings, blackbirds, wrens and thrushes.

Q. What are live mealworms?

A. They are the larvae of the Flour Beetle (tenebrio molitor) - a native British insect which eats flour, meal, grain and other related crops. They are vegetarian, which is important because when fresh, they don't smell!

Q. Where do your live mealworms come from?

A. Our live mealworms are grown in the UK for us and are British bred! There are many companies importing mealworms from Europe, however ours will be fresher as they won't have travelled far.

Q. If I order some, what can I expect to receive? 

A. Live mealworms are delivered by Royal Mail. They will arrive in a cardboard box and within the box will be either some plastic tubs, or larger quantities within a white polypropylene bag with a cable-tied top. Please don't worry if the plastic tubs don't have air holes punched in them - the lids are made of breathable material so the mealworms will be fine.

Q. Do the mealworms smell?

A. No! There is no smell given off by mealworms if they are kept in the correct conditions. There will be some bran or clean newspaper in with them when they arrive. For those that are in tubs, you need to do nothing. If you have bought a larger sack of them, we would suggest transferring them into a shallow, smooth-sided tray or tub.

Q. How long will they last?

A. Being larvae, their longevity is dependent on the conditions and temperature they are stored at. The cooler they are the longer they will last. If you find that there is a lot of black poo appearing, the chances are it is too warm for them or they are too deep in their container. 

Q. If I order them today, when will I receive them?

A. All live foods are sent by Royal Mail. They, therefore, take 3-5 working days and will arrive separately from the rest of your Really Wild Bird Food order (which should arrive next working day). Orders received before 12.00 on Monday to Thursday will be dispatched on the same day. Orders received on a Friday to Sunday will be dispatched on the following Monday. We are ultra careful around bank holidays (especially during the warm Summer months) - in case they get held up in a warm sorting office somewhere, speeding up their metamorphosis. Please order a few days earlier around a bank holiday.

Q. I would like to receive a regular weekly order, can you do this?

A. Of course! We have many customers who request that we send out scheduled live mealworms to them, either on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Please just give us a call or email us with your request.

Q. What sort of feeder should I offer live mealworms in?

A. They need to be contained in a smooth steep-sided container (otherwise you will find they wriggle up and out and will be gone in a flash!). Ideally, something with a roof/overhang to protect them from the rain and sun and drainage holes if there is no roof. Windows feeders lend themselves to mealworms, and it's fab to get a really close-up view of your robin and other smalls birds visiting. Caged feeders are also useful since they limit access to the bigger birds which can devour a whole pot in an instant!

Would you like to purchase some live or dried mealworms for your feathered friends? Here at Really Wild Bird Food, we offer a variety of mealworm treats and feeders for you to choose from! Click the link below to shop:

View our range of live and dried mealworms for birds here >

The official nesting season is defined as being 1st March to 31st July inclusive, so is well underway now. You may have noticed that farmers have finished hedge cutting, as it is illegal to disturb nests beyond 1st March, and you may also have seen squabbling birds fighting for territory. They may start to gather nesting materials in a likely spot, but these might not become occupied as it's usually just for practice, or to show off to a prospective mate.

With the possibility of another cold spell, it is recommended to continue with your high-energy Winter feeding until around mid-March. The birds still need to maintain Winter energy levels, and of course will need a boost for all the nest-building and showing off! 

Once things really start heating up into Spring, it is time to change your feeding routine.

  • Fat balls can easily go soft and rancid in the heat so should be avoided. Commercially made fat products are suitable for use in the summer, but may not be as popular and so any uneaten product should be discarded after three weeks. Our RWBF High Energy Fledgling mix (available from 1st April) contains MINI suet pellets, especially to reduce the choking risk for chicks while providing them with the sustenance they need.
  • Peanuts should only ever be fed from a mesh peanut feeder so that small chunks are taken back to the nest, reducing the choking risk. Seed mixes containing peanut granules are a good option.
  • Fruit such as raisins, sultanas, soft apples and pears cut in half, or even bananas and grapes can be fed.
  • Mealworms and 'buggy' treats are good to provide in case of natural insect shortages, such as during a cold or wet spell in Spring/Summer, or a particularly dry spell where earthworms cannot be picked out of the hard ground. 
  • If a lot of food is being left in Spring/Summer then reduce the amount given. It could be that there is plenty of natural food around - great! But it's best to minimise the amount of food left in and around feeders so as not to attract vermin and disease.
  • Consider helping the natural food sources - for example some plants are great at supporting caterpillars so you could grow the plant instead of providing the food itself, and let nature run its course. It need not be complicated - holly, ivy and nettles are popular!
  • Live foods such as live mealworms and waxworms are a good choice, to supplement the birds' natural diet.

Grey squirrels are a bit like marmite - you either love them or you hate them! Some people really enjoy watching the antics of squirrels as they raid the bird feeders and try to outsmart our inventive ideas for outsmarting them! However, more often than not, people ask us for advice about how to stop squirrels (and also larger birds to a lesser extent) getting onto feeders and scaring off your favourite garden birds. They are very determined animals and can cause major damage to property and land. They can also be extremely noisy, particularly during the breeding season.

 

 

Squirrels are rodents, and are born to gnaw. Their incisors never stop growing, so they must chew constantly to keep them worn down. They can have a seemingly insatiable appetite and can easily consume up to 1kg of food per week! They are also extremely cunning and physically equipped to successfully overcome obstacles that we put in their way, as you can see below.

 

Anyone who has ever tried to outwit a squirrel with a mechanical device knows how difficult this can be. Squirrels can climb polished steel poles. They can leap more than 8 feet. Their tails give them phenomenal balance, allowing them to effortlessly cross long lengths of thin wire. They can dig and, yes, they can even swim. However, building a moat to protect your bird feeders from squirrels is probably not the answer!

 

If you are troubled by squirrels in your garden and on your feeders and bird tables then you really have three options. The first is to adopt a few measures which may work. The second is to provide an alternative feeding station just for the squirrels. And thirdly- (no, we are probably not allowed to mention a catapult!) if the squirrel behaviour is becoming intolerable, then you can contact a local Squirrel Control Service who will come out, remove the offenders and give you advice about preventive measures. You are likely to find them on-line or in a local directory under Pest Control.

 

If you do decide to challenge their expertise (that is the squirrel expertise—not the pest control officer!) then here are a few things which you can try;

Try buying a squirrel proof feeder and hang it on a pole system in the middle of your lawn, approximately 10ft away from tree branches and bushes.

 

When buying a 'squirrel proof' feeder, it may be worth considering what this actually means!

 

Caged feeders like those in the NutteryTM range are also called 'Squirrel Resistant' since the cage surrounding the central chamber will prevent easy access to the bird food - but the squirrels can still be very adept at gaining access.

We do stock a range of tube feeder 'guardians' which are cylindrical mesh caged 'guards' which sit over the top of the tube feeders. These come in a range of sizes, depending on the size of feeder you wish to protect.

 

Finally, there are a range of feeders which will prevent the squirrels eating the food. One of the most effective is the Squirrel Buster Range. This range of seed feeders are weight activated and shut off feeding ports when a squirrel lands on them.

The biggest is the Squirrel Buster Plus which you can fill with seeds and mixes, without the need for frequent refills. It comes with a pole mount and a rain guard for wet weather.

 

 

 

Other things which might be worth trying are devices which help prevent the squirrels gaining access to hanging feeders. Squirrel baffles and squirrel domes (available for use either as a hanging dome or as a pole mounted dome) act as blockers.

 

Greasing poles or using a squirrel slinky to stop the squirrel scaling the pole may also be worth trying.  Ground feeding your garden birds may be another alternative. Rather than hanging feeders up, try feeding from trays which are protected by ground feeding guardians.

 

These guardians come in two mesh sizes and the small mesh (size 1) will prevent squirrels squeezing through and accessing the food.

 

And finally, if you haven't succeeded in keeping them off and are feeling despondent - just be grateful that its only a squirrel you will find in your garden helping himself!

 

Live mealworms and mini mealworms are a fantastic source of protein and water for garden birds. There are many of our resident garden bird species which are declining in number in the UK and the worst hit are those who rely on insects and invertebrates for food. 20 - 30 years ago farms and gardens tended to be more diverse and there were a lot more insects,invertebrates, bees, butterflies and birds than there are now. 

Oftentimes, birds nesting in gardens will lay fewer eggs and fledge fewer young than those living in natural woodland sites – this is likely due to the lack of mature, native trees. The absence of this habitat means that birds are not provided with the insects needed to feed their young, resulting in the reduction often witnessed in garden populations. However, you can help by providing some juicy mealworms of your own for the birds to feast on!

For chicks to survive, they obviously need to be fed by their parents, and it is important that they also receive a source of water. Moisture can be delivered by way of unripe seeds,but live mealworms are a fantastic source of water for youngsters. The two things most needed for rapid and healthy chick growth is a source of protein and a source of water. Of course, caterpillars and earthworms will supply these vital ingredients - but there is growing evidence to show that the the peak time for caterpillars and earthworms is now possibly earlier than the peak fledgeling explosion - so live mealworms are a great option to bridge the gap. Live meaworms comprise about 50% protein and 50% water - so a perfect compostion for garden birds!

You can feed live mealworms all year round, but the very best time to be offering them, is during the breeding season - the months of April to July, and particularly if the weather is cold, when insects stay buried in warm places and don't venture out. If you consider that during the breeding season, the activity rate of small birds can be 100 times greater than during the winter months, the energy requirements are phenomenal - which is why it is so important to feed them easily digestible food at this time of year.

It has been proven, that feeding live mealworms can have a significant positive effect on the number of live chicks reared by parents - so now is the time to give it a go!

I am often asked all sorts of question relating to feeding live mealworms by customers who are considering it ( but cautiously!) so I have put together a Q and A which will answer the most commonly asked questions. Go on - give it a go!

Q. What birds eat live mealworms?  A. Well - the insect and invertebrate eaters! robins, sparrows, tits, starlings, blackbirds,wrens and even our thrushes  will tuck in.

Q. What are live mealworms? A. They are the larvae of the Flour Beetle ( Tenebrio molitor to give it its posh name) a native British insect which eats flour, meal, grain and other related crops. They are vegetatian - which is important because when fresh, they don't smell!

Q. Where do your live mealworms come from? Our live mealworms are grown in the UK for us and are BRITISH BRED! There are many companies importing mealworms from the Continent. Ours are UK grown and will be fresher. They won't have travelled from Europe.

Q. If I order some - what can I expect to receive? A. Well live mealworms are delivered by Royal Mail. They will arrive in a cardboard box and within the box will be either some plastic tubs, or a white polypropylene bag with a cable tied top. Either option is available to try. The larger quantities come in white bags, but if you are new to feeding mealworms, plastic tubs can be really easy because you can just remove the lid and put them out on your bird table ( or the ground).

Please don't worry if the plastic tubs don't have air holes punched in them - the lids are made of breathable material so the mealworms will be fine! 

Q.Do the mealworms smell? No! There is no smell given off by mealworms if they are kept in the correct conditions. There will be some bran or some clean newspaper in with them when they arrive. For those that are in tubs - you need do nothing. If you have bought a larger sack of them, we would suggest transferring them into a shallow, smooth sided tray or tub.

Q. What do I feed them on? If you buy smaller amounts in tubs, they will come in bran, so there won't be any need to add anything, but if you have larger amounts, you can top up the bran, or add some cereal, and they do love carrot - roughly chopped will be easy.

Q.How do I store them?  A. It isn't necessary to store mealworms in your fridge. The best place to store them is in a cool, dark, well ventilated dry place ( ideally at a temperature of between 8-10 degrees C). If kept at this temperature they will survive for  2 - 3 weeks. If you buy larger amounts and decant them into your own containers, I would recommend that you store them so that they are at a maximal depth of 1" deep. Cat litter trays are quite good! If they are stored too deep - their waste material (poo!) will build up and their living environment will be less pleasant.

Q.How long will they last? A. Being larvae - their longevity is dependent on the conditions and temperature they are stored at. If you keep them in the fridge - they eat less, move less and poo less - so they remain clean and will last longer. If you keep them in warm conditions - they do the reverse. If you find that there is a lot of black poo appearing - the chances are it is too warm for them or they are too deep in their container.

Q. If I order them today, when will I receive them? A.  All live foods are sent by First Class Royal Mail. They may therefore take 3-5 working days and will arrive separately from the rest of your order ( which should arrive with you on next working day delivery). Orders received before 10.00am on Monday-Thursday will be dispatched on the same day. Orders received on a Friday-Sunday will be dispatched on the following Monday. We are ultra careful around Bank Holidays ( especially during the summer months). We tend not to dispatch immediately before a Bank Holiday just in case they get held up in a warm sorting office somewhere - which will speed up their metamorphosis!  So if you would like to order around a bank holiday, please order a few days earlier.

Q. I would like to receive a regular weekly order - can you do this?  A. Of course! we have many customers who request that we send out scheduled live mealworms to them- either on  a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Please just give us a call or email us with your request.

Q. What sort of feeder should I offer live mealworms in?  A. They need to be contaned in a smooth steep sided container ( otherwise you will find they wriggle up and out and will be gone in a flash!) Ideally, something with a roof/overhang to protect from the rain and drainage holes if you don't have a roof. Window feeders lend themseves to mealworms - and it is fab to get a really close up view of your robin and other small birds visiting. Caged feeders are also useful since they limit access to the bigger birds which can devour a whole pot of mealworms in an instant!