How to feed mammals in your garden

Feeding mammals in your garden is a great opportunity to learn more about their behaviour. We reveal the best food to feed some of our most popular wild animals.

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How to feed mammals in your garden

Feeding mammals in your garden is a great opportunity to learn more about their behaviour, and can help young fox or badger cubs survive when food is scarce.

 
SOME DOs AND DON'Ts FOR FEEDING MAMMALS: 
 
DOs
  • Offer small amounts regularly and adjust feeding rates where necessary. Badgers, for instance, go through a six-week period from the end of December when they eat very little, and on warm, wet nights both foxes and badgers are better left to forage for earthworms.
  • Use high-quality food to avoid disease problems.
  • Clean feeding utensils and soak them periodically in sterilising fluid.
  • If hedgehogs are breeding in your garden or that of a neighbour, avoid attracting badgers and foxes (if possible) until the young are well grown.
 
DON'Ts
  • Don’t encourage foxes to take food from your hands – this habit is likely to become a nuisance to other people.
  • Don’t encourage foxes to enter your house to be fed – they may enter other houses through cat-flaps and can cause mayhem.
  • Do not over-feed. Foxes spending too much time in one area could annoy neighbours by fouling their gardens.
  • Over-feeding can cause changes in behaviour, such as a reduction in territory size. When you are away or if you stop feeding, the animals may not have alternative food supplies.
  • Over-feeding can also lead to an increase in the numbers of foxes and badgers in a social group, thereby changing the local population dynamics.
  • Small birds can choke on whole peanuts, so put these out after dark and in small quantites so that none are left in the morning.

 

WHAT TO FEED WILD ANIMALS IN YOUR GARDEN:
 
Badger
  • Badgers love peanuts.
  • They also eat dog food, bread, cheese and sweet items, but peanuts are easiest to supply.
  • Contrary to some reports, badgers and adult hedgehogs often feed side-by-side and generally take no notice of each other.
 
Hedgehog
  • Commercial, cereal-based feeds are available but expensive. If you use them, make sure you provide water.
  • Hedgehogs also like peanuts and mixed seeds and dried fruit used as ground-feed for birds. These are cheaper and can be scattered on the lawn.
  • Tinned dog and cat foods are fine, but fish-based food goes off very quickly.
  • Do not feed bread and milk – this gives hedgehogs diarrhoea.
  • If you see a hedgehog out during the day, it may be ill, but during hot, dry periods, lactating females may forage in daylight hours. So offer it food and see if it eats; if you have any doubts, call St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital: 01844 292292.
 
Squirrel
  • Keep grey squirrels away from birdfeeders using baffles
  • Red squirrels can be fed using a hopper in which a treddle excludes the heavier greys, or a feeder with an entrance that excludes them.
 
Pine marten
  • Pine martens are best attracted to gardens with sweet items, such as jam sandwiches, peanut butter, cake and chocolate. But don’t overdo the junk food!
 
Small mammals
  • Build a feeding table against a window to watch mice, voles and shrews.
  • Cover the top and outer sides of the feeding table in small-gauge wire to protect them from predators.
  • Make a tunnel or covered walkway leading to the table from a pile of logs or some other natural cover.
  • Mice and bank voles like mixed grain.
  • Shrews also eat grain but prefer fly pupae, which are available from fishing tackle shops.
 
Deer
  • Deer often enter gardens to feed. You can supplement their food with cereals, carrots or cattle nuts, or hay in hard winters, but by encouraging deer you are asking for your garden to be trashed.
 
Fox
  • Foxes will eat almost anything from meat scraps to cake. Either cooked or uncooked bones are fine.
  • Foxes like peanuts and cereals and may try to knock down birdfeeders to get to the contents.
  • Homeopathic treatments for mange can be given in jam sandwiches.
  • Try The Fox Project; 01892 545468 or the National Fox Welfare Society; 01933 411996.

 

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