How to help animals in the garden during the winter

Squirrel feeding
Squirrel feeding

For many hobby gardeners, autumn is the ideal time to clean up in the garden. Foliage is carefully hooked together and disposed of, shrubs and hedges cut back. Although these actions ensure a neat look, but take away the possibility for many animals for hibernation. If you want to provide birds, squirrels, hedgehogs, insects etc.winter quarters, you should keep your garden as close to nature as possible and not completely dispose all leaves.

Supply birds in winter

a bullfinch couple feeding in bird house
a bullfinch couple feeding in bird house

Feeding birds in winter is a good opportunity to help the animals while watching them at close range. While many species of birds migrate south in fall, some birds stay awake and active in winter. These include, for example:

  • Tits
  • Finches
  • Wrens
  • Robins
  • Blackbirds

To help them find enough food in the snow and frost, you can help with bird feeders and bird fat balls. Clean feeders regularly with hot water to prevent the spread of disease. Better are special feed dispensers, where the animals do not run in the feed and do not pollute it with feces.

Do not buy bird fat ball in plastic nets. The birds can become entangled and seriously injured. Sunflower seeds and feed mixtures with other seeds and kernels are particularly suitable as basic feed. Soft-food eaters such as robins and wrens can delight with raisins, fruits and oatmeal near the ground. Make sure, however, that the food does not spoil.

Salty food and bread are generally not recommended as bird food.

Feed squirrels in winter

Squirrel feeding place
Squirrel feeding place

While feeding birds in winter is common, squirrels are mostly forgotten. Especially in years with fewer nuts, it will be hard for them to find enough food..

Squirrels do not hibernate but rest. This means that they have to provide food in the winter, too. For this purpose, they already create supplies of nuts, acorns and beechnuts in the summer, which they buried in the ground. However, when temperatures drop below freezing point for a long time, the soil freezes so hard that the animals often can not reach their depots.

You can help squirrel by creating feeding sites. These can be filled with walnuts, hazelnuts, acorns, but also pine, spruce and fir cones. Peeled nuts are ideal for immediate relief, and you can offer whole nuts for animals to bury. If you find a weakened or very young animal on the ground, it is best to inform an animal protection association.

Help hedgehogs hibernate


A natural garden design is the best way to help a hedgehog get through the winter. A pile of foliage, brushwood and wood is an ideal winter habitat for the animals. From about the beginning of November, hedgehogs start to seek their shelter for the cold season. This means for you that existing piles of leaves must not be moved. Hedgehogs are hibernating. They can not react to disruptions, so do not flee.

Even when mowing under low-lying branches, caution is required. Hedgehogs often overwinter in hollows or under hedges. Alternatively, you can provide a hedgehog house made of wood or bricks for the animals. Hibernation in your house is not recommended. Hedgehogs should generally always spend the winter outside in nature. Therefore, do not pick hedgehog overhasty. Only conspicuously malnourished or sick hedgehogs should be cared for and in the best case handed over to a hedgehog station or veterinarian.

Shelter wild bees in the insect house

Bee house: It provides wild bees with a lodging for the winter.
Bee house: It provides wild bees with a lodging for the winter.

Wild bees spend the winter in tree hollows, old trees or hollow stems of various plants. These places are also used for the construction of brood cells for oviposition. Here, too, a natural garden with many natural elements such as hedges, meadows and stone walls provides ideal retreats. Leave faded perennials and branches.

With a so-called insect house you can provide shelter for the winter for wild bees, but also other useful creatures such as lacewings and earwigs. You can build this yourself from natural materials such as tree bark, straw, reeds and bamboo sticks.

Ladybugs need sheltered places

ladybug on a yellow flower
ladybug on a yellow flower

Especially in autumn ladybugs are often found in large swarms. Then they sit in groups on balconies and house walls and are on their way to their winter quarters.

While some species spend the cold season in warmer regions, other are looking for sheltered places for wintering. Ladybugs prefer to use cavities such as cracks in the wall or rafters. Leaf piles also serve as winter quarters. If you let the beetles hibernate in your garden or by your house, you have a reliable helper to fight aphids next year.

Winter habitats for butterflies

a painted lady / cosmopolitan butterfly on lavender
a painted lady / cosmopolitan butterfly on lavender

Even butterflies have to protect themselves in winter against the cold. Only a few species remain true to their shape as a butterfly over the winter. These include, for example, the large and the small tortoiseshell, the peacock butterfly and the brimstone butterflies. The latter is a true survivor. Thanks to a kind of antifreeze in its blood, it can survive temperatures of up to -20 °C/ -4 °F.

The peacock butterfly or the small tortoiseshell need protected places from the cold, such as tool shed or attics. To do so, open the windows or skylights a stand ajar, so that the insects can find shelter. In the spring, they wake up again from brumation and fly out. Many butterfly species spend the winter as a pupa on a branch or leaf. Leave some foliage on the lawn and do not cut branches too much.

Offer toads bottom holes

Toad in winter: In cold temperatures, toads fall into a winter stare.
Toad in winter: In cold temperatures, toads fall into a winter stare.

Toads are one of the useful animals in our gardens, because they feed preferably on woodlice, slugs and potato beetle larvae. They like to spend the winter in burrows of mice or moles, but also in rock or wall columns and in larger piles of leaves. Leave appropriate holes in the ground and leave leaves in a sheltered corner in the garden.

Tips for an animal-friendly garden

  • Use native plants and do without English turf and exotic woody plants.
  • Create a compost heap. This not only ensures a natural cycle, but also provides many insects with a habitat.
  • Plant a hedge for wildlife with shrubs like rowan berry or other that provide food for birds
  • Do not dispose of large amounts of leaves, but spread them under hedges and shrubs. Never burn down heaps of leaves. Hedgehogs could have lodged in it.
  • Partially leave faded perennials and dead shrubs.
  • Create stone walls or small cairns.
  • For garden ponds, look for gently sloping shores and a minimum depth of one meter / three feet.
  • Cover larger water containers, such as rain barrels, with nets.
  • Avoid unnecessary chemical use and use environmentally friendly alternatives for pest control and fertilization.
  • Do not use a vacuum cleaner. These also suck in small hedgehogs, spiders and insects and kill them.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.