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Seeking Shelter: Providing Winter Habitat for Backyard Animals

Preparation for fall and winter includes everything from winterization of your home to yard maintenance. Many homeowners will scramble to clean their gutters or make roof repairs before winter sets in. Similarly, animals, like humans, also prepare for cold weather.

As the days get shorter, you may begin to notice waves of geese in the air. The summer birds are no longer singing, and the more sedate winter birds move into the neighborhood. Leaves change color, and before long your annual plants are drooping and fall has arrived. As the season turns toward winter, you can work to create a habitat for winter animals that can seek shelter in your yard.

Why Provide Habitats in Your Yard?

Both migratory and resident animals need places to live during the winter weather. Some of them continue to be active during the winter, while others need a place to hibernate. If you live in an urban area, you know that habitats for animals can be few and far between. By naturalizing your garden, you create a pocket of valuable space that can house local animal populations.

On a practical note, creating outdoor habitats can also deter animals from becoming household pests. For example, bats that have a place to roost around a pond are less likely to roost in your attic. The goal is to attract beneficial animals as well as any that you find interesting and fun to watch.

Winter habitat
Build bird houses, bat boxes, and bee houses to place in your yard.

Building Habitats

Some animal habitats aren’t as present in urban or suburban environments, and you may need to create them yourself. If you live near a pond, add a bat box to encourage local bat populations to settle in and eat your mosquitoes. They can hibernate there in the winter months. Drill holes into a block of wood and hang it in your garden as a mason bee house, ready for hibernating bees. You can also prepare for spring at the same time, creating bird houses that spring birds can use for nests.

Adding Shrubs

While winter birds like trees, they’re especially fond of shrubs as a hiding place and a potential food source. Fall is the perfect time to add some permanent perennials to your backyard habitat. Add dense shrubs in a corner of your yard, and you’ve created homes where small animals such as birds and squirrels can hide. The more sticks and leaves those shrubs have, the better the animals will enjoy them.

Planting Food Sources

In the winter, food becomes scarce. While many animals are hiding or hibernating, others still need to forage, and as the snow and ice becomes thick this becomes even more difficult. Add plants such as blackberry, elderberry, holly, serviceberry, mulberry, rose, viburnum, sumac, and crabapple. While some of these berries are not palatable to people, these plants grow berries in the fall and animals will enjoy them during the cooler months.

Winter habitat
Snow and ice can make it more difficult for animals to find food sources.

Creating Areas With Fresh Water

Even during the winter months, animals need fresh water to drink and bathe in. They might use rainwater on trees, or they may use a natural pond in your garden. If you’d like to provide easy access to water for winter birds, install a heated bird bath in your garden. Place this close enough to a window that you can take a look at the birds as they drink and bathe. They’ll appreciate it in the summer months as well!

If you’re renovating your yard, contact Harry Helmet. Our gutter systems reduce the amount of gutter cleaning that you have to do in the fall, and they also reduce the likelihood of having unwanted animals such as wasps nest in your gutter. Contact us today to learn more about our gutter covers and gutter heating products.

Written by Del Thebaud

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