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When Do I Take Down My Hummingbird Feeder in the Fall?

September 15th, 2011

If you put up a hummingbird feeder in the summer you may wonder when you need to take it down. It has been rumored that if you leave it up the little birds will stick around delaying their migration, but this is not the case. There is no need to worry that you’re keeping them around. It’s actually a good idea to keep the feeder up well into fall for the opposite reason. Even though the hummingbirds that frequented your feeder all summer may have left already, migrating birds from farther north may use your feeder for a quick pit stop on their way south.

Here at Chiot’s Run we leave the hummingbird feeders up until mid to late October (I wait 2 weeks after seeing the last hummingbird). They get taken down and washed in a non-toxic soap every 3 days and then they’re filled with homemade organic nectar. Making your own hummingbird nectar is quick and easy.

Simply mix 1/4 cup organic sugar with 1 cup of filtered water in a cup or bottle. Mix until combined, fill feeders, store any extra in the fridge (although I make just enough to fill the feeders each time). Contrary to popular theories, you don’t need to boil the water or use hot water.  The nectar does not last longer if it is boiled since bacteria is introduced the first time a bird drinks.  It is also not necessary to add red food coloring either.  In fact the red coloring can be detrimental for the little birds.  I make sure I use organic sugar and filtered water because birds are more sensitive to toxins (read through your oven manual and they say to never clean your oven with a bird in the house and think about the canary in the coal mine).

To give the little hummingbirds a helping hand you can also make sure you have some late blooming flowering in the garden. Nicotiana, or flowering tobacco does very well at seeding down and blooming through frost here at Chiot’s Run. I also have Cardinal Climber vines and a few other nectar rich flowers for them.

Keep those feeders up and have some late blooming flowers in your garden for the little birds traveling the LONG way down for the winter!

Do you feed the hummingbirds in your garden? When do you take down your feeder?

Make Your Own: Suet Cakes

April 7th, 2011

I’ve been wanting to make suet cakes for the longest time but I had trouble finding suet for them. Finally I broke down and bought a 5 gallon pail of pastured beef tallow from US Wellness Meats (I know 5 gallon is a lot). We’ll be using some of this in our cooking, and some of it will be added to the homemade pet food. It will also be used to make suet cakes for our little feathered friends. We love providing suet because we get a lot of woodpeckers at our feeder by having it. A lot of other birds love it as well and it provides a good source of fat and energy for them during the cold winter months.

One of the reasons I want to make my own suet is because I try not to support CAFO’s in any way – buying ready made suet cakes supports them. I asked around and none of the local farmers were able to get suet from their cows, so local beef tallow/suet was out. I found a small farm on-line, but they were out and weren’t going to get any in until later this year. Finally I decided to purchase some from US Wellness Meats when they had it on sale. US Wellness now has ground grass fed suet for sale (they were out when I bought my tallow). If you don’t want to go to the trouble of melting suet, you can simply put out the suet as is for the birds, they’ll eat that as well.

Another reason I wanted to buy pastured organic tallow for homemade suet was because birds are very sensitive to chemicals (you know the whole canary in a coal mine thing). If you notice your oven booklet will tell you to remove birds from your home when you use the cleaning cycle. This is because birds are very sensitive to VOC’s – which always makes me wonder why they don’t recommend humans leaving the house? I know that the beef tallow I purchased will not be contaminated with any hormones, antibiotics or chemicals that will hurt my feathered friends and their offspring.

Making suet cakes at home is really simple and surprisingly, even with the cost of pastured suet, cheaper. I spent some time researching recipes on-line and didn’t particularly find any that sounded great, so I made my own.

1 1/2 pound of beef tallow or lard (preferable organic & pastured)
2 cups birdseed mix
2 cups black oil sunflower seeds
2 cups organic whole grain flour
1 cup dried fruit or peanuts (I used dried cherries from my bounty this past summer)

Mix all seed and flour in large mixing bowl while melting tallow or lard in a skillet over low heat. When tallow is melted, mix in with birdseed. If tallow thickens too quickly place entire bowl in a warm oven until melted again. If your house it cold it would be beneficial to warm birdseed mix and bowl in oven before adding melted tallow. Pour into 9 x 13 pan lined with a sheet of parchment paper. Let cool for a few hours. Cut into 6 squares, which fit perfectly into a regular suet feeder.

I put some of this out on Sunday and the birds are loving it. They’ve been flocking to the feeder. I haven’t figured up the cost to the penny, but this suet cost me about $5 for this batch of 6 cakes and they’re larger than the ones you buy at the store. This would be a great project to do with your kids, especially for a handmade gift (time to start thinking about your handmade holidays).

My next plan for the birds is to try to find a local source for healthier organic bird seed. When the new garden area is finished I’ll have some space to grow some grains and sunflowers just for the birds. Then the birds will be able to glean naturally. I’ll be adding a lot of bird friendly shrubs to my new garden area as well, I’ll be talking about that specifically soon.

Do you consider the birds when you select plants for your garden? Do you put out suet?

Hello Little Bluebirds

February 1st, 2011

Over the past week Mr Chiots and I have been spotting bluebirds coming to our heated bird bath every morning around 10, we’ve seen up to 5 of them at once. I never see blue birds in the garden during the summer, and have only seen one bird once a few years ago in late February. They’re quite lovely birds and I’m so happy to see them around.

I’m going to be doing some research as to what I can do to make my gardens more friendly to them. I’ve read that they love meal worms during the winter, and I may buy some of those for them, they’re kind of pricey though. I have noticed that they are eating rose hips from the wild rose bush in the lot below us. Planting some rosebushes that produce a nice crop of rose hips might also help attract them.

I have a bluebird house in one area of the garden, but I think it’s too close to the edge of the woods, I’ve never seen any birds nesting in it. I think I’ll try to move it to a more open location this spring, somewhere in the front garden since that’s where the bluebirds seem to be. I’ve read that trying a blue ribbon to it might help attract the bluebirds. The first year we lives here we had an oriole nesting by our garage door, I haven’t seen any since. I’d love to read up on attracting them to the garden as well.

Do you have bluebirds in your garden? Any other birds that are rare for your area?

Unexpected Sprouts

January 5th, 2011

We have a heated bird bath on the side porch by the bird feeder. The birds especially love it when it’s cold and all the other water is frozen. We see birds at it all the time. I empty it out and add fresh water several times a week since birds can be dirty.

Yesterday when I went out to empty it I noticed that a sunflower seeds a bird had dropped in there had sprouted. I guess the warmth of the water provided the perfect conditions despite the below freezing temps outside. What a funny little thing to find in the midst of the cold winter.

You can see all the junk in the water, which is exactly why I empty it out and refill it several times a week. Every couple weeks I scrub it out with vinegar to get rid of the mineral deposits and the germs.

We love providing this service for our little feathered friends. My dad always teases us about creating welfare birds, but they provide us with a lot of entertainment throughout the cold winter months. We gladly pay the little electric it costs to keep them well watered and for the seed and suet we feed them. (we even put filtered water in their bird bath since I’m sure chlorine and all those other chemicals aren’t good for them)

Do you provide any kind of water for the birds in your garden?

First Hummingbird of the Season

May 3rd, 2010

I’ve been watching for the first hummingbird for the last month. I put out the feeder on April 1, knowing that they don’t usually come back until April 15, but I wanted to be ready. I’ve been faithfully changing the nectar (homemade of course) every couple days to keep it fresh and I’ve been keeping an eye on the feeders. Every so often I catch something zooming by but haven’t officially spotted one until last night!

Mr Chiots and I were eating dinner and I saw one at the feeder by the back door. Fortunately my camera was right there and managed to get a quick photo before he zoomed off.

Do you have a hummingbird feeder?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.