Urban, rural, or suburban… here’s how to get started. It’s easy, and affordable to start a bird feeding hobby and attract many wonderful species of birds to your backyard birdfeeder.I started up my bird feeder hobby almost 5 years ago on a whim and not much of budget. It has turned out to be a very rewarding activity for me personally and, unlike other hobbies, wasn’t one I made a ton of mistakes on before I “got it right”. However, mastering the art of keeping squirrels (and even a black bear) away from robbing my bird feeders took a bit of time. More on that below.
Here’s what you’ll need for attracting wild birds. I’m leaving hummingbirds out of the equation.
How to Start A Bird Feeding Hobby – Tree or Stand (birdfeeder pole)?
Simply hang any type of birdfeeder from a sturdy tree branch OR you can affix a metal arm hook(s) (like this one) to your house (near a window) or deck to get the birds to come to you. The downside of these is that birds can get close, too close, to your house and may knock themselves trying to fly into your window. Also, these are far from squirrel-proof. More on that later.
I recommend bird feeder pole / birdfeeder station located away from your house but still highly visible from your window(s). I recommend this bird feeding station. It’s affordable and has (almost) everything a beginner would need to attract birds quickly en masse. More on these features in a second. If you don’t purchase a station, you can simply go to Home Depot and buy any Shepherd’s Hook you seen in the garden area – but there’s a lot of value in just buying that pole / station.
How to Start A Bird Feeding Hobby – Types of Bird Feeders
Hanging Bird Feeder Tube – Functional or decoratively ornate, there is no shortage of choices when it comes to a clear tube feeder. I recommend this very durable, very functional one from Royal Wing I purchased online here. All should all have multiple ports where the seed comes from and comfortable place to perch.
Platform Bird Feeder – A flat, screened “platform” design. Simply pile the seed in. The birds at my feeder, especially the winter birds, prefer the platform feeder to other feeders. Simple platform feeders (like this one) are a functional hanging board with a screened bottom or a mesh basket. Fancier versions (like this one) are sturdier and include baffles or a roof enclosure which keeps the seed dry.
Thistle Feeder – If you want to attract finches, your best bet is a Thistle or Nyjer feeder like this one
Suet Cakes Feeder Basket – Basically a cage on a hook, like these. Just put a suet cake in the cage and you’ll be attracting woodpeckers in no time!
How to Start A Bird Feeding Hobby – A birdfeeder station has almost all the feeders
I can’t recommend the bird feeding station I mentioned above enough when it comes to beginners who don’t want to spend a lot of money (HERE). The pole comes with (admittedly not ornate) a suet cage feeder AND a platform feeder PLUS plenty of hooks for whatever other feeders you want to purchase. Mine even came with an inexpensive tube/thistle feeder and a tiny water dish/bird bath. The quality and sturdiness of the pole isn’t ideal (don’t put HEAVY feeders on it or anything else that might weigh it down on the top hooks), but it gets the job done.
Types of Birdseed – Recommendations
With the exception of whatever type of thistle you buy, I only recommend black oil sunflower seed. Buy it in bulk if you can to save money and always keep whatever container you use for it sealed or rodents/mice will find it. You can buy mixed wild bird feed for a lot cheaper, but the birds disregard 80% of it (just garbage filler) and only eat the sunflower seeds. I recommend Royal Wing (a Tractor Supply brand) because it is nutritious and usually the cheapest you can find. Stock up! In the winter, my backyard birds easily clear a 40lb bag a month!
Suet Cakes – You can buy boxes of suet cakes just about anywhere, go cheap! I’ve purchased expensive fruity suet cakes and cheap peanut suet cakes and the woodpeckers don’t seem to know the difference and don’t seem to care. I keep mine in a garage freezer which keeps them solid and less messy.
How to Keep Squirrels Off of Your Bird Feeder
This baffle is easy to assemble to any pole / shepherd’s hook and keeps squirrels from raiding your birdfeeder! Just make sure you put the baffle up high enough on the hook/pole/station because they can leap it if it’s too low. If you use a hanging feeder from a tree, you can attach a similar type of model to the top of the feeder to deter squirrels descending from the branches or attachment hook.
You’ll never keep squirrels / chipmunks AWAY from your feeder but the baffle will keep them off. I like squirrels, it’s nothing personal, but they will chow ALL the birdseed and all the suet without protection. Plus, they squirrels will have plenty of leftover seed at the bottom of your birdfeeder on the ground while the birds are enjoying their seed at their feeders.