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If you have a backyard of any size, then you know how lovely it is to be able to sit outside and enjoy nature throughout the year. What makes it even more enjoyable is watching all the birds and other animals working together to do their part in keeping the local ecosystem balanced. By having an area of your backyard or a garden dedicated as a natural wildlife habitat, you are contributing a little part of your world to the planet, even if it’s just a little section in the back corner.

However, it’s not as simple as tossing critter mix outside on the ground! Start by having a plan, and harmony will follow. Furthermore, here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to feeding backyard creatures:

DO Make a Plan

Know what kind of wildlife come into your yard and where you will be setting up food and water stations. Do your research on those animals and, if you are serious about creating a small natural habitat, plan your yard accordingly! This means planning on providing food, water, wildlife landscaping, and natural cover for safety.

DO Provide the Right Kind of Food

It’s best to get organic nuts and seeds. Find a seed and nut mix with a healthy nutritional balance of foods like black oil sunflower seeds, corn kernels, pieces of tree nuts, buckwheat, peanuts in-shell, alfalfa pellets, even fresh fruit on the side will be eaten.

DO Provide Water

When leaving food out for wildlife like squirrels and birds, it can be easy to forget to also provide water. Leave a saucer of water out or fill a birdbath year-round, not just during the hotter months. And hey, birdbaths are great for birds while acting as pretty garden decorations for us.

DO Landscape, Leave Natural Debris

In regards to landscaping, this means to plant plants native to the area and natural food sources that offer a view for you as well as a habitat for backyard wildlife. Animals of all sizes prefer safe hiding places and cover from predators or weather when they are eating — bushes, trees, hedges. Ornamental grasses are a good bet! Also, while it’s good to have a clean yard, do leave some natural yard debris (fallen sticks, leaves, non-invasive weeds) where you feed wildlife to make them feel comfortable.

DON’T Give Junk or Processed Foods

Many people foods are inadequate nutritionally for wild animals, which can cause serious health problems, especially when animals are still developing youngsters. It should be common sense, but don’t feed animals things like cake, candy, chips, dairy, leftover Chinese take-out!  A deformity commonly found in waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and swans called “angel wing” is said to be caused by eating an unhealthy high protein or carbohydrate-based diet, sometimes both, that can consist of foods like white bread, popcorn, and crackers.

DON’T Hang Bird Feeders Close to Windows

You likely got a bird feeder so you could provide food as well as enjoy watching them. However, hanging feeders too close to windows on your home or shed can cause injury to birds that accidentally fly into the glass. Place bird feeders away from windows and, as a precaution, consider making windows appear less clear by planting trees, tall bushes, or adding full screens to windows.

DON’T set out Food Near Vehicles or Homes

Providing food too close to homes and vehicles can cause property damage, which can occur when creatures fight over food or when they use property as stepping-stones to get to food. Damage can include scratches, cracks, dings, broken windows, busted tires, and bears breaking into cars, etc.

DON’T Attract Wildlife Near Family Pet Hangouts

Dogs and cats have the natural tendency to want to explore and “play” with smaller critters. By designating a safe area of your yard away from furry family members, you will be providing wildlife food and protection. If you can, block off space in the backyard with a barrier like a fence dogs cannot jump or use an area far away from stalking pet or feral cats.

Green Monsters: Share with us some of your own dos and don’ts when it comes to feeding backyard wildlife!

Image source: Stephen Shellard/Flickr