Some Things You Should Know About Bird Feeding in Cold Climates

– Posted in: Garden chores

The simplest of chores can get really complicated . . .

Feeding the birds is one of the most delightful things a cold climate gardener can do while she is waiting for the snow to melt and the snowdrops to bloom. No, wait–I take that back. Watching the birds flutter and feed and jockey for position at the feeders is delightful. Actually filling the bird feeders, that’s another story.

First of all, keep the path to the feeders shoveled. Otherwise, you will have to break your own path through a foot of snow, like this:

snowy path on deck

When you don’t keep the path to the bird feeder shoveled, you have to wade through a lot of snow to get this chore done.

Mind Your Grip

And take your gloves off before hanging the full bird feeder back on its hook, or it will slip out of your fingers and fall to the ground below, like this:

I dropped the bird feeder in the snow.


And then you will have to go down a flight of stairs which are also unshoveled, like this:
Down the snowy steps to fetch the bird feeder

If I’d been a little younger or a little braver, I could have slid down on my butt. Instead I held onto both rails to make sure I didn’t slip.

And then walk around a lilac bush through an expanse of unbroken snow to get the dropped bird feeder, like this:
snowy path to fetch bird feeder

I’d say there’s about a foot and a half of accumulated snow where it hasn’t ever been shoveled.

And then brush the snow off your jeans, like this:
snow is knee high

When the snow is higher than your boots, it gets on your knees.

Mind the Bird Bath

Also? Make sure your heated bird bath can keep the water from freezing.

snowed over heated bird bath

This bird bath can keep water from freezing at temperatures as low as -10F. But we’ve had a couple of nights where it got down to -13F.

Mind The Bears

And finally, if bears frequent your area (you know who you are), take your feeders down in March, before the bears come out of their dens. No, a bear has never gotten into my bird feeders. Just the chicken feed. In the chicken coop. But that’s a story for another day.

The bird feeder pictured is the the Baffler Squirrel-Be-Gone bird feeder by Perky Pet which I received as a free sample. I have not seen any squirrels raid this feeder as they do my other “squirrel-proof” feeder, so I think it works.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern February 17, 2014, 9:06 am

Ha ha! This is sound advice. I have been procrastinating taking out the compost for many of the very same reasons. And you have reminded me to check on my bird bath – it’s probably low on water. Thank you.

Donna@Gardens Eye View February 14, 2014, 9:10 pm

Great advice for safety….no bears here thankfully.

Frank February 14, 2014, 5:08 pm

Haha! At least you wore boots and jeans, I know someone who tries to get out there in crocs and PJ bottoms and sometimes a coat…. it never works out, but they never learn. In my defense it’s the first thing I see in the morning and they look so hungry!
at least we have no bears 🙂

Kerry February 14, 2014, 3:41 pm

Funny! I probably would’ve had a similar story as you; however, I took the easy route and threw cups of bird feed off my deck and into the snow. Back during Thanksgiving weekend, I did have a black bear come and bend all of my shepherd hooks in half to get to the bird feed and suet. All of my feeders were destroyed. I finally convinced my husband a few weeks ago that all of the bears are hibernating and I just put up a new one. I love watching birds and other wildlife in my backyard, but I prefer not to have a black bear on my patio anymore! The feeder will be put away at the first sign of spring!!

Leesburg, VA

Donalyn@The Creekside Cook February 14, 2014, 10:17 am

Good advice, Kathy. In the winter, I ask Larry to tend to the feeders – we have big ones that are quite heavy and he is afraid I’ll hurt myself standing on snow and hoisting them up on the hooks. He is probably right. I do get a kick out of watching the squirrels trying to defeat them – we have two different squirrel-proof ones and they both work, so long as they don’t get snow jammed in the mechanism.

Jean February 14, 2014, 9:35 am

Thanks for the laugh! You really have to be dedicated to feed the birds through the winter. My husband traipses out to the feeders to bring them inside for the night to keep our deer herd from raiding them.

Lynn February 13, 2014, 10:14 pm

Funny 🙂 I really miss feeding and watching the birds, and dearly want to do so with my boy, but two huge cats live next door and are out most of the time. I feel it’d just be inviting murder. We do have a lot of cardinals that eat the fruit off the “non-bearing” Callery pear though!

Ilona E February 13, 2014, 9:33 pm

HAHA! I was wading around in the snow the other day, too- but for no good reason and without a fun story to tell. Enjoyed your account and the tips;)

Deborah B February 13, 2014, 9:32 pm

Funny! I was reminded today of another feature of deep snow. I have to remember to make a lot of noise for a few seconds at the back door before I let the dogs out to chase the squirrels away from the bird feeders. Without that headstart, the dogs can catch them in this deep snow. Lucky for the squirrel, the dog that chased him was our Homer baby, who has never killed even a chicken.

Leslie February 14, 2014, 12:44 am

Good advice and practical! I’m glad you held on to those railings, I know I would have too.