Wild Animal Feeding


Feeding the animals who wander into our gardens is growing in popularity — do you cater to this market?

There is no doubt we are a nation of animal lovers — and that doesn’t stop with our much loved pets. Feeding wild animals is part of the collective conscience that sees so many people caring for nature, and in particular, the visitors to their outdoor spaces.


Wild feeding market

In 2022, UK Pet Food, the association for pet food manufacturers, suppliers, and the wider industry, whose members account for over 90% of the pet food market, reported that over half of UK households feed wild birds. Of those with an outdoor space, 58% feed birds with this becoming more common with age. Of those between the ages of 65 — 74, an incredible 71% feed wild birds. UK Pet Food estimates that the wild bird food market in 2023 is worth £380m, up by £35m on the previous year.


The two main reasons cited for feeding wild birds were for enjoyment (71%) and a general desire to support local wildlife (54%). That latter statistic is particularly enlightening to a key point — it’s not just about wild birds. While wild birds is undoubtedly the largest sector of wild animal feeding, people want to support various types of wildlife that wanders into their outdoor space.


The garden animals people want to help include birds, hedgehogs, badgers, squirrels, and foxes, as well as ducks and swans in their local area. There are products on the market to cater for all of these species.


Feeding wild animals is a growing market and is even increasing with the younger generations. Nicole Paley, Deputy Chief Executive of UK Pet Food commented on the wild bird feeding survey: “Bird feeding has traditionally been a hobby for older generations but our survey highlighted that 43% of 16-24 year olds and 50% of 25-34 year olds feed the birds, which is wonderful.”


The wild animal feeding market provides opportunities for your business. If you’re weren’t already convinced, the UK Pet Food survey also found that pet owners are more likely to feed wild birds, compared to non pet owners! While you may have thought wild animal feeding was more of the domain of garden centres, then this stat shows that you already have an audience to which wild animal feeding is likely to appeal. Wild bird foods could provide that extra basket spend from your regular pet-owning customers. And of course, offering catering for garden visitors could attract new custom too.


Feeding wild birds top tips


All year round feeding

People are often aware of feeding birds when food is scarce during winter, but it actually helps birds if people provide for them all year round. The RSPB gives advice on feeding in autumn and winter, as well as spring and summer.


Richard Johnston of Johnston & Jeff and Chair of the PFMA Bird Group commented: “PFMA data confirms that most people (56%) feed the birds in the Winter. However, during Spring and Summer this figure falls to 47% and 41% respectively. We want to raise awareness of the little-known period in Spring which is called the ‘Feeding Gap’.  This is when natural food supplies are depleted following the winter. It is also a busy time for the bird population who are feeding to satisfy the demands of their young. Supplementing their feed at this time can be particularly beneficial.”


Educating customers on how birds can benefit from feeding all year round can help the wild birds and increase revenue! Here some top tips: 


Different types of birds

Many birds will eat a variety of feeds, but some species have certain preferences. For example, some prefer to eat from the ground, whereas others prefer a feeder. Some species may prefer specific foods, such as Goldfinches that seem to love nyer seeds. With a little research — the RSPB website (www.rspb.org.uk) is very handy, you can help guide customers to buy the right equipment and foods.


Provide water

It is important to provide birds with clean, fresh water. Shallow containers, such as plant saucers, are ideal for giving birds access. Just be sure to clean water providers regularly.


Keep feeders clean

It is important to keep feeders, bird tables, and baths clean. If bacteria is allowed to build up it can spread viruses and disease which can hit birds hard. Use a warm, soapy water to get equipment clean, as well as a mild, non-toxic disinfectant. If you ever see signs of disease in the birds in your garden, stop feeding them for at least two weeks.


How often

It is recommended feeding birds once a day. This will attract more birds and they will get accustomed to the food being provided.


Wild bird products you could stock


Food — birds eat a variety of different seeds, suet, fat balls, peanuts, mealworms and insects. Manufacturers produce a vast range of foods you can supply to your customers. If you’re unsure of what to stock, it’s a good idea to tap into their expertise.


Bird tables — a bird table is suitable for year-round feeding. Different designs can have pros and cons, so it is worth doing your homework so you can promote the benefits of what you stock to customers.


Feeders — from hanging varieties and ground feeders, to mesh or solid walled, there are a range of feeders on offer. Different food types need different feeders. For example, seed mixes will need a solid walled plastic tube feeder with access at the bottom, whereas peanuts work better with a mesh feeder.


Next boxes — providing a safe place for birds to roost is popular with bird lovers, and gives added enjoyment and interest to customers.


Feeding wildlife


  • Do not leave bread or milk for hedgehogs — it’s not good for them!
  • When feeding hedgehogs, provide specialist hedgehog food, or use plain kitten biscuits or wet dog or cat food.
  • Provide fresh water for the wildlife in your garden.
  • Check the food and water dishes each day. Remove any left-over food and top the dishes up with fresh provisions.
  • Clean the dishes with hot, soapy water to reduce of spreading disease. Do this outside so as not to risk bringing any contamination inside.
  • If the wildlife food is being stolen by cats, you can build a shelter from a few bricks with a entrance only big enough for smaller wildlife.
  •  If you have any ponds, provide a sloped edge to any wildlife can get out if they accidentally fall in.
  • Scattering food can make wildlife need to forage which can give you more time to watch and enjoy their movements!