Pet Corner: ‘Cheep’ feeders and seed are ‘for the birds’

In one of my last columns, I spoke of the fact that I got a “new to me” motorhome. Well, I took my first trip in it. Due to the fact that I have never had my own RV, and that I have only stayed with friends in theirs just a few times, I didn’t know too much about how everything functions on them.

The first trip I had planned was from a Tuesday through the following Sunday at a dog show in York, Pa., so for a few days prior to that, I went and “camped out” in my friends’ front yard so they could teach me about the RV. So, this took me away from home for about 10 days.

I took the two dogs, Bo the bloodhound and Noel the bichon, with me. My cat, Bootsie, and my daughter’s cat, Nala, that lives with me, stayed home, and my daughter and son-in-law took care of them while I was gone. However, they all forgot to fill my outside bird feeders that my grandson and I have put up.

My 2-year-old grandson, Samuel, loves to watch the birds, so he and I have five bird feeders that we have put up so far, plus we also place some seed on the ground for other types of birds. We already have two hummingbird feeders purchased and cleaned, ready for us to fill when the time is right. We also have some mealworms that we haven’t started feeding yet but hope to place out soon so we can start attracting bluebirds.

Currently, we fill one red and one green feeder (that’s how Samuel identifies them) with finch food, another red-and-green one with what is called cardinal seed, and the wooden feeder with what the seed bag calls “chickadee food.” We then sprinkle a woodpecker seed, some peanuts and a wild bird seed on the ground in a clearing area.

For the first couple of weeks after we put up our feeders, not much happened. Then, slowly, the birds started discovering them. So, the last several weeks, we have generally needed to fill them weekly. However, now the birds are telling all of their friends that they have located an easy meal, and we sometimes need to fill some of them twice a week. Probably in a few more weeks, we will need to fill them even more often.

So, needless to say, the birds were glad I came home.

I know that some people say you should only feed birds in the winter months, but I do not agree with that. I think you should feed them year-round. I also enjoy watching to see the different kinds of birds that come at the different seasons.

I don’t know all of the different kinds of birds, but I do enjoy trying to match them to pictures in bird species books and figure out what kinds they are. So far, a few of my favorites that we have visiting us are cardinals, mourning doves, red and yellow finches (at least that’s what I call them), mocking birds, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, sparrows, chickadees and many others, and many that I can’t identify yet.

Learning to identify the species of birds also helps to determine what types of seed and what types of feeders to put up. Some birds are ground-feeders; some prefer hanging feeders. Then there are many different types of hanging feeders, too. There are not only different styles for decorative looks, but there are different ones that are designed to hold different types of seeds and are designed for different types of birds.

While it is true that you can buy “wild bird seed” in many different places, such as pet stores, hardware stores, grocery stores and even those big-box stores, you have to be careful where you buy it. Bird seed gets bugs very easily and very quickly.

If bird seed is not stored properly, it will quickly get bugs. If the seed sits on the store shelf for long periods of time, it will get bugs. It is true that the bugs, in general, will not harm the birds, but do you really want those bugs in your car and in your home? Also, the seed can get moldy, and this will harm the birds.

Wild About Birds at 19 Atlantic Avenue in Ocean View (302-537-7180) is an excellent resource for all of your bird supplies and advice. They can help you choose the correct feeders and seeds to attract the different types of birds. Their staff is friendly and knowledgeable and are always willing to answer all of your questions. Their seed is good-quality seed.

Yes, it costs more than the bag of seed you can buy in the local grocery store, but the less expensive seed has a lot of filler and garbage in it that often just gets wasted anyway. The seed you buy from a specialty store is a better quality food, designed for a specific type of bird and does not have a bunch of stuff in it that the birds are just going to waste. And a lot of that wasted seed, falls onto the ground around your feeder and then germinates, and usually grows into weeds that you don’t want growing in your yard.

Now, it is true that you can go into some of those big-box stores and buy an inexpensive plastic bird feeder for a lot less money than the nice glass or wooden one that you would buy in a specialty store, but take it from someone who knows from experience — that plastic one may make it through this season and maybe, if you are lucky, might even last a year. But it cannot be cleaned properly. It usually breaks or falls apart within the first year or, maybe, if you are very lucky, it might make it to the two-year mark, but usually not.

It is simpler to just go ahead and pay a little more upfront now and save yourself the heartache and hassle of constantly having to replace the cheaply-made ones.

Hummingbird feeders are even more important to go ahead and buy the better-made glass ones. They need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly, and there is no way to properly clean and disinfect those cheap plastic ones. If you do not keep them properly cleaned and the birds do feed from it, they can become sick and die. Also, the cheaper ones fall apart very quickly, and they do not hold up to the weather. The sun bakes them, and they crack and break very easily. (Again, been there, done that!)

So, drop by Wild About Birds, tell them where you live and what kind of birds you are trying to attract. They will guide you to the correct feeder and seed. But, be prepared, it does become an addiction very easily and you will be returning there often to get more and more feeders.

Then stop by Bethany Beach Books at 99 Garfield Parkway, and pick up a book on birds of the area so you can start identifying all of the different species of birds that start visiting your feeders. And, most importantly… Relax, enjoy and have fun!

Cheryl Loveland is a semi-retired dog groomer. Her pet menagerie has shrunk to Bo, her bloodhound; Noel, her bichon frisée and Bootsie, her cat. She currently resides between Keymar, Md., and Millsboro and Selbyville. She is currently not doing rescue work but hopes to resume that when she returns to a more permanent residence. She is a member of Colonial Bloodhound Club and membership chairperson for Misspillion Kennel Club in Milford. She also still helps out at a local boarding kennel in the Bethany Beach area. She has been working with all varieties of pets since she was a child growing up in Montgomery County, Md. She may be reached at