Sunday, May 20, 2012

Feeding Finches

For years I've had a bird feeder hanging from a shepherd's hook on the deck.  It's attracted a nice variety of birds, but we've had our share of other creatures, too, like chipmunks, racoons, and squirrels.  The squirrels were particularly annoying.  Not only did they consume more than their share of birdseed, they'd also scare the birds away and sit on the seed tray to eat. When they'd jump off I'd always hear a batch of seed falling off.

Last summer we had rocks installed under the deck where we had trouble growing grass.  Even though the landscaper installed a plastic barrier, when the weather warmed up this spring there was just enough moisture on top of the barrier that we had seed sprouting in between the rocks.  I didn't have enough time to pull the seedlings out one by one.  I talked to the landscaper; his suggestion was to spray the rocks with Roundup on a regular schedule, but I didn't want to resort to chemicals.

I had just about decided to get out of the bird feeder business when a friend told me that I could still enjoy watching birds out of my kitchen window if I switched over to a finch feeder. The nyjer seed that the small birds enjoy eating is cultivated in Asia and Africa. Before it is imported the seed is sterilized, which prevents germination of both the nyjer and any other weed seeds that might be mixed in.

Nyjer is a tiny seed, so to go with the new food I'd need a new feeder that had small feeding holes.  Last week I used the last of my "Fancy" bird seed mix, then washed out the feeder and stored it in the basement.  For a couple of days I had a parade of birds land on the deck rail and look around for their meal, which of course wasn't there.  I didn't feel bad, though; it's springtime and there are enough natural sources of food that I knew they could find something to eat.

Today buying a new bird feeder made it to the top of the list.

I went to Valley Park Elevator & Hardware, an old-fashioned grain elevator/hardware store ten minutes from my house. They had a variety of finch feeders, but when I looked at the price tags I was shocked. (The one that I liked the best cost $35). I decided to shop around at a few other stores to see if I could find a better price.

Image source.  I hope my feeder looks like this soon!
However, I knew it would take at least another week before I could get around to more stores, and I really miss seeing birds on the deck. Next to the register there was a display of sack feeders (basically a mesh bag with a drawstring top). For less than a tenth of the price of a fancy feeder, I could get back in the bird feeding business.  According to the tag, the sack would hold approximately 8 ounces of seed.  I decided to buy a pound.  The store clerk walked to the back of the store with me, where he scooped out nyjer from a galvanized trash can into a brown paper bag, weighed it on an old-fashioned scale, then sealed the bag with a piece of masking tape.  I carried it up to the register, and paid for my purchases.

When I got home, I held the sack over a bowl and carefully poured some of the seed in, tightened the drawstring, then hung it on the shepherd's hook on the deck.  If I remember right, it didn't take long for birds to find the original feeder.  I hope the same thing happens again with this new one.


  1. Feeding birds is challenging work. Seems like there's always something interfering with our good intentions. I do love watching gold finches.

  2. We love feeding birds... Himself especially enjoys it. We mainly do the nyger for our finches and safflower for everyone else (because of the varmits too - they don't like it). We do keep some regular seed that we scatter on the ground for the doves.

    We are putting together a garden just for the birds that we can see from the kitchen and Himself's office.

  3. Oh I hope this works for you Kathy, but those pesky squirrels get at anything, they have the sharpest teeth. Maybe you should have a separate feeder for them.

  4. Great story... I have no luck with the stocking feeders. I have the 4 foot feeder that holds both nyjer and chushed sunflower seed which finches love. Susan