Six kind things you can do for wildlife and magical reindeer

The festive season is well underway, and we’re continuing to campaign for kindness this Christmas to help the thousands of animals who’ll be in our care over the holidays.

As well as spreading kindness to animals who’ve been rescued from abuse and neglect – this week we’re also looking at ways that you can be kind to the wild animals who may be living in, or visiting, your garden.

1 – Help small birds stay snug and cosy

Robin in the snow © RSPCA

Roosting pockets are a great way of offering smaller birds a way to shelter from the extremes overnight. These cosy little homes aren’t expensive to buy, and are easy to install and maintain. Your summer nesting boxes can also serve as roosting spots for garden birds, just make sure that you’ve given them a clean to prevent them spreading illnesses.

2 – Feed the squirrels

Grey Squirrel holding monkey nut in mouth while climbing on tree

Squirrels don’t hibernate, although you may see less of them in the winter as they hunker down in their dens to stay out of the bitter cold. Because they don’t sleep through the cold season, they need to build up caches of food for the harder weather. You can help them out by leaving foods like hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, chopped apple, green beans, carrots or spinach out.

If you’re worried about squirrels digging on your lawn, then try shredding the food before you leave it out.

3 – Feed the badgers too

Three badgers in a field © RSPCA

Badgers don’t hibernate either, and they really struggle to get at their favourite food (nice tasty worms) when frost makes the ground to hard. If you have badger visitors to your garden, some nibbles like lightly cooked meats, cheese, peanuts and fruit would be welcomed.

4 – Don’t give your garden visitors an icy reception

Bird foot prints in the frost © RSPCA

Fresh water can be harder to come by after sub-zero temperatures leave many natural sources frozen over. If you have a bird bath in your garden, or regularly leave water bowls out for wild visitors, check these more regularly in the cold weather and refill if the water has frozen over. Never use salt or antifreeze to get rid of or prevent ice.

5 – Melt the ice for frogs and fish

Bird walking on ice © RSPCA

Frozen water can also be a hazard for the wildlife living in ponds and other larger water sources. A layer of ice can lead to a buildup of toxins in the water underneath. Help these animals out by placing a hot saucepan on the ice to gently melt a hole in it. Never smash the ice or pour hot water on the pond, as this can injure the creatures below.

6 – Leave treats for the magical flying reindeer

Magical flying reindeer © RSPCA

Only joking (or are we?).

On a more serious note, leaving food out for Santa’s helpers at Christmas can be a fun family activity, but many products contain plastic ingredients like glitter – even ‘edible’ glitter can be lethal to wildlife. We have some great all-animal friendly recipes for reindeer cookies and sprinkle mix, and a Christmas video on DIY Reindeer Sprinkle Dust!

We have more advice on helping animals through the winter on our website.

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