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Reminiscent of the classic Whole Earth Catalog, Country Wisdom & Know-How is the most complete volume on every aspect of country and self-sustained living-from home and garden to barn and beyond.
Compiled from the information in Storey Publishing’s landmark series of “Country Wisdom Bulletins,” this comprehensive collection offers step-by-step instructions on nearly 200 individual topics, providing everything you need to know about sustainability, self-sufficiency, homesteading, and DIY living. Topics include:
- Animals: attracting backyard birds; building bathouses and birdfeeders; training and caring for cats and dogs; raising rabbits, ducks, and game birds; buying and selling horses; building chicken coops; beginning beekeeping; butchering livestock
- Cooking: recipes for all seasons; the basics of bread baking; making cheese, butter, and yogurt; cooking game; preserving and pickling; homebrew equipment and making homemade wine
- Crafts: stenciling, quilting, and basket-weaving; making wreaths, potpourri, and natural soaps; homemade gifts and decorations
- Gardening: starting your garden; caring for flowers and shrubs; controlling weeds; landscaping; growing vegetables, root crops, fruits, berries, kitchen herbs, and more
- Health and Wellbeing: natural home remedies; herbs for lifelong health; essential oils and aromatherapy; teas and recipes for a healthy diet
- Home: simple home repairs; building furniture; restoring hardwood floors; making curtains; building fences, root cellars, and smokehouses
- And much more!
Birds and Bats
Easy-to-Build Bird Feeders
Bird Food Recipes
Building Nestboxes for Backyard Birds
Creating Habitat for Backyard Birds
Creating a Bird-Watcher’s Journal*
Helping Orphaned Wild Birds
Building Bat Houses
Cat Toys: How to Make Your Home a Feline Paradise?
Teaching Your Cat Simple Tricks
10 Herbs for Happy, Halthy Cats
Breaking Your Cat’s Bad Habits
Housebreaking and Training Your Puppy
Building a Doghouse
Homemade Treats for Happy, Healthy Dogs
10 Herbs for Happy, Healthy Dogs
Raising a Healthy Rabbit
Build Rabbit Housing
Buying and Selling a Horse
Tack: Care and Cleaning
Building or Renovating a Small Barn for Your Horse
Livestock and More
Eggs and Chickens
Building Chicken Coops
Raising Game Birds
Starting Right With Bees
Butchering Livestock at Home
BIRDS AND BATS
Birds can be attracted to your home if you offer food, water, and shelter. Trees and shrubs that yield fruit, berries, seeds, nuts, and cones will provide food. Tangles of wild plants and dense undergrowth left to thrive in chosen areas of your property, log piles, dead trees, and stacked branches will provide shelter, protection, and natural nesting and roosting sites. Nesting boxes can be secured to trees and posts to attract bluebirds, purple martins, wrens, downy woodpeckers, flickers, robins, and other species. Birdbaths or pools can be built to supply water, and feeders, strategically placed around the yard, will furnish supplementary food for the birds when natural sources diminish. Such pockets of refuge can be created on as little as a quarter-acre plot, and costs for a bird haven can be kept to a minimum.
Feeding the Birds
First think about feeding the birds from food supplied by trees and shrubs. Check the listings here to find the plant preferences of a variety of birds. For example, cardinals, whose flash of red brightens many a back yard, prefer to feast on seeds and berries and will nest in grape, holly, honeysuckle, juniper, multiflora rose, and willow.
Your vegetable garden will be a source of animal life to a variety of insect-devouring birds, including the voracious purple martins. Compost heaps are also a good source of free food. Daily deposits of vegetable and fruit peelings, chicken skin, meat fat scraps, and bread crusts will attract birds, particularly jays, crows, and starlings (also squirrels and raccoons), thus eliminating these aggressive species from your feeding stations. When forked over daily in early spring, the compost will be a constant source of insects and worms for fledglings.
To keep the birds in your area all year, it is advisable to provide supplementary feedings. Although the countryside has an abundance of food in the summer, most urban and some suburban landscapes are too manicured to supply sufficient grubs, insects, and weed seeds. If this is your problem, stock your feeders year-round, until you have established generous plant life.
Wintertime, everywhere, is another story. Even if there is no snow, the land will yield precious little food. Once you have decided to put up a feeder, it is essential that it is never left empty since your birds will become dependent on your winter feeding. Small birds must start eating at sunrise in order to replace body weight lost each night in their efforts to keep warm. Those that cannot find enough food to refuel sufficiently for the night ahead will die. If you leave on vacation and your feeders do not hold an adequate supply, ask a neighbor to keep them filled.
While the birds are feasting free in your yard during the summer, you can grow and gather food for the winter. Dried grains, seeds, nuts, berries, and ears of corn harvested in the autumn can be saved for a midwinter treat. Sunflower seeds are a particular favorite of birds and are very easy to grow. To harvest the seeds for later use and prevent the birds from quickly devouring your entire crop, tie a piece of plastic mesh (an orange bag saved for this purpose works well) around the stem of the growing sunflower and wrap it around the seed head.
If your land does not offer suitable nesting cover, homemade birdhouses and nesting boxes are acceptable to many birds, as long as they are built to the right dimensions (See “Building Nestboxes for Backyard Birds). Put the nesting boxes up in the autumn or in early spring.
All types of nesting paraphernalia are to be found at hardware stores, specialist suppliers, and seed merchants. However, it is more rewarding and definitely much cheaper to make your own. Although birdhouses come in varying sizes, the following requirements apply to all.
• Make the entrance hole the recommended diameter.
• Protect the nest from wind and rain.
• Do not set the house in a thickly wooded or shaded area.
• Mount them at the right height. (See table at the end of this section.)
• For mounting, poles and posts are better than trees, which are easily climbed by nest raiders, such as raccoons and squirrels.
• Rough up the inside front of the box to enable young nestlings to climb out.
• Screw together one side of the box to facilitate cleaning. At the end of the summer, discard the old nest to get rid of parasites.
• Bore a couple of small vent holes at the top of one side to give air to the nestlings.
Wood is the best material to use because it breathes and is durable. Try cedar, pine, poplar, and cypress of ¾-inch to 1-inch thickness. Metal should not be used; on sunny days it will become too hot.
Unless the adult birds are away looking for food, resist disturbing the nest. If done too frequently, there is a strong chance that the nest will be deserted.
You might consider suspending nesting materials from tree branches, clotheslines, or fences. Short pieces of string, yarn, and ribbon; dried grasses and flowers; small dried twigs; small pieces of cloth; cotton; feathers; and animal hair will all be used by nest-building birds.
List of Birds
Here is an alphabetical list of birds common to various parts of the United States that consume a significant quantity of garden bugs and weed seeds. The bird description covers the conspicuous summer plumage of the male. The trees and shrubs listed under Plant Preferences provide food in the form of buds, berries, nuts, and seeds. Where more than one bird is mentioned under each species, due to limited space, their plant food and nest choices have been combined. For example, the Western Kingbird might not consume all the plant and animal foods listed, but the Eastern Kingbird will. Under Sparrows and Wood Warblers, only the names of the commonest have been given and the listings for nest choice, plant, feeder, and insect preferences have been generalized.
There are books that can help you learn more about bird identification, birdhouses, and feeders. In particular, I recommend Audubon Bird Guide by R. H. Pough; Birds of North America by Robbins, Bruun, and Zim; A Field Guide to the Birds updated version by Roger Tory Peterson; Homes for Birds, Conservation Bulletin 14, Superintendent of Documents (US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402).
Eastern: blue with rust breast; 5½”. Western: similar, with blue throat and rust on upper back; 5½”. Mountain: deep blue above; pale chest, white belly; 6”. Plant preferences: mountain ash, bittersweet, blackberry, blueberry, wild cherry, dogwood, elder, firethorn, holly, juniper, poison ivy, pokeberry, sassafras, sumac, viburnum, Virginia creeper. Nest choice: holes in trees and fence posts, birdhouses. Insect preferences: armyworms, cankerworms, centipedes, cicadas, crickets, cutworms, grasshoppers, gypsy moth and tent larvae, leafhoppers and treehoppers, May and wood-boring beetles, spiders, wasps. Feeder food: dried fruit, peanut butter, suet.
Black below, with cream nape; white shoulder patches on lower back; 6”. Plant preferences: barley, barnyard grass, bristle grass, millet, oat, ragweed, rice, sunflower, wheat. Insect preferences: ants, beetles, caterpillars, centipedes, chinch bugs, cotton worms, cutworms, grasshoppers, locusts, weevils. Nest choice: in leaves and grasses in meadowlands. Feeder food: none.
Red brown with gray tail; white throat and eyebrow stripe; 8”. Plant preferences: blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, dogwood, firethorn, lespedeza, mulberry, wax myrtle, oak, pecan, pine, plum, pokeberry, privet, raspberry, and a huge variety of weed seeds. Nest choice: corn shocks, log and brush piles, grass clumps. Insect preferences: cucumber and potato beetles, caterpillars, centipedes, crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, leafhoppers, snails. Feeder food: cracked corn, mixed grains, sunflower.
Indigo: brilliant blue with darker crown; 4½”. Lazuli: blue with red chest; white belly and wing bars; 4½”. Plant preferences: blackberry, bluestem, corn, crabgrass, dandelion, elder, hemp, millet, mulberry, oat, ragweed, rye, wheat. Nest choice: blackberry, coralberry, maple, raspberry, rose. Insect preferences: beetles, cankerworms, caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, wasps, weevils, measuring worms. Feeder food: cracked corn, crumbs, mixed grains, nutmeats.
Red bird with crest; black encircles red conical beak; 7¾”. Plant preferences: a large variety of weed seeds; fruit and berry-bearing trees, shrubs, and vines. Nest choice: abelia, camellia, grape, holly, honeysuckle, juniper, multiflora rose, willow. Insect preferences: ants, beetles, caterpillars, cutworms, codling moths, leafhoppers, plant lice, scale insects, weevils. Feeder food: cracked corn, dried fruit, nutmeats, safflower, squash and sunflower seeds.
Yellow-billed: brown above, white below with black splotches under tail; chestnut pinion feathers; 11”. Black-billed: similar with less distinct tail spots and chestnut wing markings; 11”. Plant preferences: elder, grape, mulberry. Nest choice: near water in alder, apple, cottonwood, crabapple, elm, hawthorn, oak, pine, red cedar. Insect preferences: beetles, gypsy moth and tent larvae and pupae, other hairy caterpillars, grasshoppers, locusts, moths, sawflies, spiders. Feeder food: none.
Sparrowlike with yellow eyestripe and chest; black V-shaped bib in summer; 5¾”. Plant preferences: alfalfa, clover, millet, oat, panicum, wheat. Nest choice: elm, hackberry, mulberry, osage, orange, clumps of tufted grass. Insect preferences: ants, beetles, crickets, flies, grasshoppers, katydids, locusts, weevils. Feeder food: peanuts, wild birdseed mix.
House: slighter than the purple with more brown on wings and chest; tail less notched and thinner bill; 5¼”. Pine Siskin: streaked olive brown above, lighter below; yellow at base of tail and on wings; 4¼”. Purple: sparrowlike with raspberry head, back, and chest; small heavy beak; notched tail; 5½”. Plant preferences: alder, ash, birch, box-elder, butternut, canary grass, chickweed, corn, elm, fir, goldenrod, hawthorn, honeysuckle, juniper, larch, maple, mulberry, oat, pine, privet, ragweed, safflower, smartweed, sudan grass, sweet gum. Nest choice: alder, box-elder, fir, pine, spruce, willow. Insect preferences: aphids, caterpillars, plant lice, weevils. Feeder food: bread crumbs, corn, hemp, millet, chopped nuts, rape, sunflower.
Illustrations by Alison Kolesar
Different Foods for Different Folks
Birds that use feeders are either insect eaters (such as the woodpecker, brown creeper, white-throated sparrow, tree sparrow, blue jay, and nuthatch), which prefer animal foods; or seed eaters (such as the house sparrow and junco), which prefer vegetable foods. The insect eaters choose suet (beef fat), while the seed eaters flock to feeders with commercial seed mixtures. Some birds (such as the bluebird, chickadee, and titmouse) eat both kinds of foods.
SERVICING THE SEED EATERS
Seeds are available either as a single variety or in commercial mixes called wild bird seed mixtures. Such mixtures may contain 8 to 10 different seed varieties (usually white and red millet, cracked corn, niger seeds, peanut hearts, wheat, oat groats, sunflower seeds, canary seeds, and milo). These mixes are convenient and half the cost of sunflower seeds (which explains their popularity). However, you may discover that if you don’t know the species you are feeding, seeds go uneaten. Birds rifle through your offering, picking out the sunflower seeds and moving on. If this happens, much of your effort and money is wasted, and the filler seeds (oats, rape, wheat, rice, milo) may either rot or attract rodents.
To discover which bird species live in your area, set out test trays with different seeds in each. The trays can be as simple as multiple pie plates or a home-built test tray. If sunflower seeds are the heavy favorite, your population is high in chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and cardinals; if the millet and cracked corn supplies are depleted, you have a preponderance of tree sparrows, white-throats, and juncos. Then make your own mix or buy only the seeds that are most popular (usually black oil sunflower, millet, and cracked corn).
Sunflower seeds are the most popular; grosbeaks will devour them. The seeds come in three types. The largest are gray-striped seeds. There are also medium-sized black-striped sunflower seeds, and a third type, the smallest, an all-black oil type (these seeds are made into sunflower oil).
Seed eaters prefer the black oil seeds, which have a high percentage of oil and a thin hull; for small birds, the thinner shell makes these seeds easier to open. The seeds are more nutritious, provide more calories for their weight, and of all the sunflower seeds are the least expensive.
Hull-less sunflower seeds are also available. These are much more expensive but easy for the birds, and for you — there are no scattered hulls to clean up.
Cracked corn, popular with cardinals, sparrows, juncos, bluebirds, and game birds, is water resistant. It is ideal fed daily to birds from an open platform or scattered on the ground. It’s inexpensive, but it will attract crows.
Niger seeds, once thought of as for canaries only, are now sold as food for wild birds (redpolls, goldfinches, purple finches, siskins). They’re tiny black seeds, imported from India and Africa (Nigeria). Although expensive (twice the cost of sunflower seeds), there is no waste. Special feeders with tiny holes are necessary because the seeds are so small.
White or red proso millet is a major component of commercial bird mixes; it is inexpensive, easy to store, and a favorite of ground-feeding birds, especially goldfinches, juncos, and sparrows.
Peanut hearts, a by-product of peanut butter manufacture, appeal to starlings. Blue jays, titmice, chickadees, goldfinches, woodpeckers, and sparrows will eat whole-shelled peanuts, but so will squirrels. Blue jays and woodpeckers will even crack open the shells.
Safflower seeds attract cardinals but are disliked by crows, grackles, and squirrels. As they are more expensive than sunflower seeds, try mixing the two together to help stretch your supply.
RECYCLING TABLE SCRAPS
Birds will eat the following table scraps:
• Snacks: Popcorn, cheese, potato chips, raisins, currants, nuts
• Pasta: Spaghetti, noodles, orzo
• Fruits: Apples, pears, berries, bananas, grapefruit, orange halves
• Stale breads: Sandwich bread, cake, cookies, breakfast cereal, doughnuts
• Seeds: Melon, pumpkin
In addition, certain birds have a soft spot for particular treats:
• Corn on the cob: Blue jays
• Coconut: Chickadees
• Peanut butter: Chickadees, tree sparrows, juncos, brown creepers, nuthatches
SWEETENING THE SUET
Other ingredients that may be added to the suet include millet, oatmeal, peanut butter, cornmeal, seeds, nuts, raisins, and cooked rice. Birds love the added tidbits but aren’t fussy about what they are.
Some particularly good combinations are:
1 cup (235 ml) melted suet or fat
1 cup (235 ml) melted suet or fat
½ cup (140 ml) rolled oats
½ cup (120 ml) chunky peanut butter
½ cup (140 ml) raisins or peanuts
½ cup (140 ml) cornmeal
1 cup (275 ml) sunflower seeds or mixed grains
½ cup (140 ml) seeds (sunflower or other)
GRAVEL AND GRIT
Since birds lack teeth, they ingest bits of sand and gravel to grind or pulverize their food. In summer they get the necessary grit by pecking on the ground, but in winter this is impossible. Therefore, add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of sand to each quart (liter) of feed.
Eggshells, ground and crushed, are useful for the nesting female. They provide her with extra calcium. During nesting season, then, rinse, dry, and pulverize eggshells to add to your feed.
Finding the Best Location
First and foremost, if you’re installing bird feeders so that you can bird-watch, be sure that the feeder is visible. Once you’ve marked out the spots in the yard where bird-watching is best, take notes of which of those sites are safe from predators, available in all weather, and protected from the elements. Birds will also appreciate the following:
• Fresh food. Keep food in feeders dry; rain and snow cause the seed to rot quickly.
• Sturdy fixtures. Feeders should also be firmly attached or hung, lest a raccoon run off with the entire feeding station.
• Protection from the wind. Avoid sites that are exposed to prevailing winds; a sheltered southeastern exposure is best.
• Adequate vegetation or hiding places. Birds should find your feeder within 24 hours. If the feeder goes unused for 3 to 4 days, reexamine its location. It may be too exposed – or not exposed enough. Birds need nearby vegetation. Trees and shrubs allow the birds to escape predators, to rest, to assess activity at the feeder before committing themselves, and to retreat to while they open hulled seeds.
• A gradual introduction to humans. If the proximity of your house is a problem, let the birds become accustomed to your feeder, then gradually move it closer to the house. Bird feeders hung on a clothesline or pulley system can be slowly reeled in for better viewing.
• Winter warmth. Winter feeders need a sunny, sheltered location that will allow the birds to keep warm and the seeds to stay dry. Remember in winter to remove snow from feeder platforms.
• A hang for hanging feeders. Locate hanging feeders 5 feet (1.5 m) off the ground and within easy reach from a ladder for restocking. Hanging feeders should be surrounded by open space with a radius of 10 feet (3 m) in all directions.
• Close quarters for suet feeders. Hang or attach suet feeders on or close to tree trunks. Insect eaters do not like to fly through open spaces. If the feeder is mounted on a tree, birds can hold on to the trunk while eating. Never nail suet feeders to the house – when the suet begins to melt, it will create unsightly stains.
10 Tips for Building the Best Bird Feeders
1. To make birds feel at home, feeders should look as natural as possible. Adapt stumps or hollow logs; substitute shingle or shake material for milled lumber. If you don’t have the perfect natural material, stock lumber (#2 pine, spruce, or fir) is the most versatile. Exterior plywood (CDX) and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) can also be used. Redwood, cedar, and cypress are more expensive but will last longer.
2. Stainless-steel or brass screws are better than steel; they resist corrosion and don’t stain the wood. (Stainless plasterboard screws are very easy to use if you have a power drill and a Phillips-head screwdriver.) Brass hinges are preferable to steel ones.
3. Galvanized spiral or ring-shank nails will hold better than smooth ones.
4. The construction directions call for gluing all joints before nailing or screwing. Use an exterior (waterproof) glue.
5. For hanging feeders, choose wire or metal chain, not string (which may rot) and not monofilament fishing line. Squirrels will chew through either.
6. To prevent seeds from getting soaked, drill ⅛-inch (0.3 cm) holes in each corner of any platform bottom, or use wire mesh as the bottom.
7. A deep rim around the feeder bottom decreases seed loss on windy days.
8. Unless it is a hanging feeder (which is meant to sway), firmly mount the feeder to provide a steady perch. Swinging feeders encourage chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and cardinals, which all like to cling while eating, and discourage blue jays and house sparrows.
9. Directions for hopper feeders (see below) call for ⅛-inch (0.3 cm) acrylic. Glass may be substituted; it is cheaper, but breakable.
10. Feeders can be treated with a waterproof stain. If you prefer to paint, never paint the surface where birds will feed.
- On Sale
- Sep 1, 2004
- Page Count
- 488 pages
- Black Dog & Leventhal