Short days, increasingly non-existent shelter and scarce food: winter is a difficult season for birds, hedgehogs, bees and other inhabitants of our gardens.
Houses are essential for animals going into hibernation, food is necessary for those who do not sleep, such as birds.
They enliven the garden and, if you love and admire them, you don’t always know how to help them.
They’ve thought they were summer until now. They were still frolicking a few days ago… Even the mosquitoes were there to feed them, to the despair of the gardeners who were bitten in December! In a well-designed garden, they find berries and seeds for food, but the frosts have arrived in many areas, and food aid is beneficial to them.
Until March, bring them additional food – balls of fat, seeds, dried fruits. But beware of the fat balls: forget those presented in a net, real traps: many birds get caught in the mesh, and we find them, dead, hanging by the legs. Introduce them to foods high in fat, as well as lukewarm water, changed daily, in shallow containers. Feeding must be constant and regular: in the morning (they have spent a lot of energy fighting the cold during the night) and in the late afternoon. Modulate the quantities according to climatic conditions.
Install the feeder sheltered from bad weather, in the sun, in an open place so that the birds can watch the arrival of any predators, and near a tree or other support, so that they can perch in case of danger. Feeder bought in the trade, or recovered in your cupboards.
To enjoy the incessant ballets of the most gourmet, make a garland to hang in front of a window. Thread and insert, on a kitchen string, using a large upholstery needle, fruits that have soaked for an hour in lukewarm water: dried apricots, raisins, walnut kernels, large apple slices, etc.
Be careful not to give the birds to eat all year round: they will lose the habit of looking for their food and that would be the biggest disservice to them.
With permanent feeding, they would become not only dependent, but granivorous, and would forget to hunt insects! And that would be a shame, because they are precious helpers.
A little more advice? In the orchard, leave apples on the ground in the fall. This provides them with food and refreshments for many months to come. In the vegetable garden, “forget” one or two squash …
► Other small animals
In addition to the life that it gives to the garden, the small fauna provides invaluable help to the gardener, by attacking plant pests.
Birds, bees and butterflies first come to mind, but many very discreet helpers frequent the place without the gardener realizing it.
Pollinating insects carry pollen and are essential for fruiting and seed production. Hedgehogs, frogs, toads and lizards also gorge themselves with quantities of pests.
By favoring the natural garden, with its plant diversity where shrubs, vegetables, flowers mingle, and, of course, a little corner of wild herbs so that all kinds of small critters live there, and by gardening without chemicals, the bet is successful! A pile of wood forgotten in a corner, straw, a few piled up stones… Here are so many improvised shelters.
► The hedgehog, our darling
It has become the symbol of natural gardens. So that he wants to come to your garden, and to stay there, favor dense vegetation and mulch. And why not give it a specific shelter?
Nothing is easier to build, for DIY enthusiasts, than a small doghouse with an opening of 12 to 15 cm.
You can also improvise a house in a wooden box in which bottles of wine are sometimes sold. Place this box on its side, partially closing the lid to leave an entrance door, and fill it with straw and dead leaves.