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  • Marina Pacheco

Improve your space for nature: supplemental feeding

Supplemental feeding is when we put out food to add to what is naturally available. This can be particularly useful to animals during periods of food scarcity. We tend to think of the key food scarcity time as over the winter but, the period in spring before all the food ripens can also be a time when animals may be struggling. This is especially true if they have young to feed.

Birds are easy and uncontroversial to feed. Just be aware that mice, rats and squirrels are also capable of getting at bird feeders, even if you have them hung along thin wires or think they are secure from marauders. You might like to invest in a camera trap to see exactly what is visiting your bird feeder day and night. Be sure to clean up any seeds that fall to the ground if you don’t want it being scavenged by animals you’d rather not have in your garden.

Hedgehog eating dry pet food from a bowl in the garden
Hedgehogs will happily eat dry pet food

Most people don’t have a problem with putting out food for hedgehogs either. Just make sure you put out food that isn’t harmful to them. You can buy special food for hedgehogs or simply put out pet food, they’ll snaffle it up. DON’T put milk out for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs can’t digest milk properly. It gives them diarrhoea, and they may die from subsequent dehydration.

Bedger eating in a patch of weeds
There are more urban badgers than people realise and they will visit gardens that leave out food

Many people also like putting out food for badgers or foxes. This is slightly more controversial. Supplemental feeding will help support a larger population of those animals so think about whether we want or should have more of these animals around. Your neighbours might not be half as keen as you on having badgers or foxes around so think about the wider impact before you start feeding these larger animals.

Be aware that all animals may become dependent on the food you put out. This is especially true when they are rearing young. If you suddenly stop feeding them, they might find themselves with insufficient food.

If you'd like to support the Kingston Biodiversity Network then clicking through on these links and buying these products will earn us a small commission. Dried mealworms are a great food for both birds and mammals.

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