If you're like me you can't stand to see a hungry animal. It just kills me. I put out deer feed blocks in the snowy days of winter and hang suet from the trees. We have several bird seed feeders and I make sure they're always full in the winter. I love seeing the wild birds. We have so many different varieties here! While I love to see the birds, I need to keep my poultry in mind when I'm deciding how to feed the wild birds. Wild birds can transmit diseases like Exotic Newcastle disease, Avian Influenza, Fowl Cholera and Mycoplasmosis. These can be devastating to your flock! They can also have a variety of parasites like lice and mites. Sadly, having wild birds hanging out in your yard can expose you chicken flock to these problems. So...what to do?
First, place your wild bird feeders away from your coop and free range area. This puts our feeders at the front of the property and the flock at the back, several hundred yards apart. I also put some feeders in a clearing in the woods....which is an acre or two from the chickens area.
Keep feeders off the ground. Hang them as high as you can. You wouldn't want your chickens pecking at the same stuff the wild birds are eating.
Enclose the area under the feeders so the chickens can't get to it. A simple plastic fence will do. Something the chickens can't hop over. Hopefully they will never even find your wild bird feeding area, but if they do you don't want them to have access to spilled bird seed.
Clean up wild bird poop. Many diseases are spread through the droppings so if you're walking through the poo and tracking it back to the coop, you'll be spreading disease yourself! Keep the area clean.
We put the feeders away in the Spring. There are plenty of natural food options for birds during growing season. I would hate to get them reliant on us for feed so we don't feed in the warmer months. I like to think of it as 'helping them through the winter'. I'm afraid if I have wild bird feed of some type available year round, I will end up with an uncontrollable amount of wild birds. While I may be able to contain my own poultry flock, I can't guarantee the wild birds only go where I want them to. I already worry about them 'cleaning up' any spilled feed in the poultry area.
Keep an eye on the health of the wild birds. Watch for watery eyes, infected sores, lumps, and other signs of disease. Look at droppings left behind, they shouldn't be runny, bloody or mucous-y.
There are some who will disagree with me I'm sure. Some people believe that any type of wild bird feeder is a bad idea when you have chickens. I'm not a vet, I'm only a Pa state poultry technician......so while I know a bit about transmittable diseases and testing for them (that's what I do....the testing) I certainly am not claiming to know what works for your individual flock. There are lots of wild birds anyway, and putting out feeders far from the coops seem to cut down the amount of wild birds trying to get to the poultry feed. Your experience may vary, and as always.....do what works best for your flock!