Have you ever wanted to draw flocks of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife to your backyard? No matter how rural or urban your home is, anybody can turn their yard into a wildlife refuge. All you need to do is offer the four things all animals search for – food, water, shelter, and room to raise their young. Here are a few tips and tricks for when you’re wondering how to attract wildlife to your yard.
Common backyard wildlife
Below is a list of a few of the more common animals that you might see in your backyard.
- White-tailed Deer
- Butterflies and bees
How to attract wildlife to your yard – 9 helpful tips
1. Put out feeders
Bird feeders are the traditional way to start a wildlife refuge in your backyard. They can be placed pretty much anywhere, and this is one of the only times where you can use human food to feed the animals. It’s a good rule of thumb most of the time to not feed wildlife, as it makes them dependent on human offerings, but feeders aren’t meant to be the only food in the animal’s life. This is a great tube feeder on Amazon.
The best way to start is simply by hanging a feeder with unsalted peanuts in it from a branch and wait. It won’t take long before the birds find it and are grateful for a quick rest and a quick snack.
Squirrels are considered to be the biggest nuisances when it comes to bird feeders. They’re incredibly agile and can stick their head in places it certainly doesn’t belong, so thankfully there are squirrel-proof bird feeders! However, it’s important to remember that the squirrels are hungry too and also a part of this ecosystem, so try to include a regular one meant specifically for squirrels.
If you’re looking to attract plenty of birds relatively quickly, fat balls and seed mixes are ideal for attracting a wide range of bird species. They’re also incredibly simple to make and can be done with kitchen scraps such as bacon rind and bits of grated cheese. This can be a fun little project to do with people of all ages, and is a great way to introduce upcycling and recycling to children.
Deer feeders like this one also exist to draw these majestic animals to your lawn. Gravity feeders are the preferred method for this, as it means minimal human contact when needing to refill it.
2. Have native plants
Native plants can be placed in your garden, either as landscaping or simply throughout your yard. These plants are also perfect for first time gardeners, as it’s practically guaranteed these plants can thrive in your specific climate. Try to grow a variety of plants that bloom during different seasons so wildlife can take advantage of food year round.
When considering which plants to choose, those that produce seeds, nuts, green, pollen, fruits, and berries are going to be the most likely to attract wildlife. Furthermore, specific plants attract certain insects, which themselves are a food source for many wild creatures.
Certain plants will attract certain animals, and most you can simply buy online. Clover, lettuce, and carrots attract rabbits, while deer enjoy snacking on wax myrtle, blackberries, and spicebush.
It’s also been shown that the colors red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple encourage bees and butterflies to come to your garden. An added bonus of these animals is that as pollinators, they’ll make sure the rest of your garden thrives with less work on your part! The easiest way to start this is with a simple bee-friendly wildflower seed mix to start our your pollinators garden.
When planting, be aware of where you’re placing certain plants. High grass and food foliage shouldn’t be too close to walkways or other places humans frequent. This gives the illusion that the food sources are too uncertain, and they’ll try to avoid them.
The best places to plant long grasses and flowers are along fence lines and surrounding the yard, both to encourage eating as well as to encourage babies to be born there.
3. Have water available for drinking
All animals need clean water sources for drinking as well as bathing. You can attract and sustain wildlife with strategic placement and use. For example, having multiple birdbaths of various widths, depths, and heights appeals broadly to birds as well as squirrels, deer, and other animals. Here is a great birdbath to get you started.
The placement of the birdbath is also important, as they’re more likely to venture out and use it if it’s near shelter, nests, and food sources. For the dedicated homeowner, you can create areas that collect natural rainwater, like ponds! You don’t even need to dig if you use something like a patio pond or a pond liner to place in a natural divet in your land.
It’s important to note that standing water needs to be changed out and can be home to many insect larvae like mosquitos. If you make a natural lake, try installing some fountains or pumps. To really make your pond as sustainable as possible, try this solar-powered floating fountain pump on Amazon. Wildlife are drawn to the sounds of water sources.
You can also try planting some light foliage in your pond to help smaller animals get in and out.
Even though it’s best to place water sources by food sources, try not to put flavored animal attractors such as salt licks or hummingbird feeders too close to keep the water tasting fresh. During the summer, especially once you’ve established your home as a safe place for wildlife, be sure not to let too many days go by without refilling your water sources.
4. Build dense, natural, and secure shelters
All animals, even humans, need shelter. It’s important to remember that the safer the animals feel, the more likely they’ll return to your shelter. Simply planting trees can make a huge impact – dense evergreen trees and shrubs are an easy way to offer natural shelter for wildlife year-round.
It’s important to note that if you have any household animals, they shouldn’t be allowed to go near the shelter. Dogs and cats naturally smell like predators and mark their territory, but this is highly discouraging to wildlife.
Furthermore, be sure not to hang homemade shelters, such as for birds and chipmunks, too close to windows or other places humans frequent. Nesting boxes should be placed where they are sheltered from the elements, and should be installed before spring so as not to disrupt the breeding season and are most easily built or bought from online retailers like Amazon. This bluebird house is very popular and is sure to get some tenants.
5. Maintain the food and water sources
Some say that this is the most difficult part of attracting wildlife – patience. By keeping your yard well-stocked, complete with food, shelter, and water, the more likely animals will feel secure in your habitat. If you keep this up, you’ll be lucky enough for the animals to feel safe enough to start having babies, right in your own backyard!
Once you get to this stage, you can start thinking about the unique needs each species has in raising their young in your yard. For instance, squirrels don’t like being out in the open. They prefer to raise their families in trees with easily scalable bark that also provides food.
Rabbits on the other hand feel safest raising their young in brush piles and in the tall, weedy grasses. This should be relatively self-explanatory, but don’t mow the lawn of your wildlife refuge! Keep those grasses tall and plentiful and you’ll be sure to have some cute critters come your way.
Deer are the most unlikely to live full-time in your backyard. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a yard adjacent to a forest or woods, they’ll likely bring their young into your yard to forage. They’re incredibly skittish, so if you see any in your yard it’s best to just watch through a window and if you can, take some photos as well!
It’s important to say you shouldn’t be too upset if you see animals eating the eggs or young of other animals. It’s understandable to develop an attachment to them, especially the babies, but creating a backyard habitat is about creating a natural environment.
If you have young children, this is a fantastic way to both teach about the circle of life as well as the importance of both predator and prey within an ecosystem.
6. Plant more trees
Planting trees is one of the most meaningful acts an aspiring conservationist can do. It’s well known the impact they have on the global environment, and those same benefits can be transferred to your home. Not only do they ensure cleaner air, better soil, and prevent flooding, but they also help to attract more birds and insects.
Species such as crab apple, conifers, silver birch, yew, and alder are fantastic smaller choices for your yard and can be bought online and delivered right to your door, ready for planting. If you have space for a larger tree, which will most likely attract larger animals and more birds like hawks, you can try elm, beech, or ash. These trees provide a nesting place for birds and squirrels.
If you’re looking to attract an even bigger variety of mammals, try willow trees – they’re the favored nesting tree for local bats!
7. Grow a hedge
A hedge is simply a fence or a boundary formed by closely growing bushes or shrubs. Hedges also provide additional nesting areas for birds and small animals and give additional shelter for your garden. The best hedge plants include blackthorn, buckthorn, cherry plum, elder, hawthorn, hazel, and privet.
If you’re looking for a simple way to start your hedge and begin your journey creating a haven for local wildlife, try some hedge starter kits that include native fruiting plants, such as this one on Amazon.
If you’re looking to provide further foliage and boost the insect population further (thereby attracting a wider variety of birds), climbers and creepers work wonders. Clematis, dog rose, and honeysuckle are the traditional favorites in this regard.
8. Keep your lawn wild
It goes without saying that wild animals thrive best in the wild, and that’s what’s best to mimic when creating your own ecosystem.
It doesn’t need to be the whole lawn, but there should be a designated area that should mimic a meadow, complete with overgrown grass, an abundance of “weeds”, and natural flowers like dandelions.
This encourages a wide variety of smaller mammals like shrews, voles, and mice to come and feed on the grass and the insects that live there.
Almost counterintuitively, this will also decrease the number of pests that make it into your home, since they’ll be kept in check by the new predators you just introduced.
9. Use specialized food to bring in your favorite smaller mammals
Birds and bees are some of the easiest to bring to a yard, but the mammals always seem to be the favorites. One of the most encouraged mammals is the hedgehog because they’re both incredibly cute and important to maintaining a biodiverse lawn.
You can buy special food specifically for hedgehogs from Amazon, and hedgehog houses are another good investment for making sure this prickly little guy feels right at home.
Badgers are another common mammal to attract. They’ll prefer to eat unsalted nuts, seeds, fruits, and root vegetables, which can just be laid out or scattered throughout the garden. Badgers are especially great to have in your backyard as they dig up worms and other critters in the soil which in turn creates some of the best planting soil a gardener could ask for.
When leaving food out for any mammals, be aware of the types of food you’re leaving out as not all food scraps are good for their digestion. Avoid bread and milk whenever possible.
Having a backyard full of wildlife and biodiversity is a rewarding experience for the whole family. It’s absolutely incredible what doing only a few low-effort things will do for your backyard, making it a healthier and happier place for all species.
Planting natural plants that produce seeds, fruit, and pollen while allowing a portion of your lawn to overgrow will make a world of difference in the types of animals you see as well. You’re also providing an amazing service and making a safe and reliable habitat for them by keeping food and water stocked up.
If you follow even one of these steps, you’re well on your way to having the kind of backyard animals will not only want to live in, but to start families in as well.