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Fat ball residue.

Does anyone else have this problem ? We have a number of fatball feeders in the tree and have noticed a build up of fat etc. on the soil and plants underneath. The sprouting seeds aren't really a problem as they are easy to remove but what concerns me is the '' crust '' that it leaves on the soil which I usually just hoe in . Does anyone know if this is beneficial to what is growing under the tree or could it be harmful ? 

Thanks Jean.


  • hi Jean i have fat balls over the path and my sweetpeas are underneath i haven't noticed any ill-effects but i'm sure we would.   i'd leave well alone and monitor it i watch the chaffinches and robins come down and peck around the plants and path so i'm sure nature has a way off tidying up after us image 

  • Aren't you lucky, having chaffinches and robins in your garden.  We have sparrows and starlings but still love to watch their antics fighting for the food.  My husband feeds the birds but the feeders are over pavers so are easy to clean.

  • higgy50higgy50 Posts: 184

    As Budlia63 says leave it for the groundfeeders such as blackbirds, dunnocks, robins etc. My only concern would be that if it builds up too much it could encourage rats which you probably don't want in your garden I would imagine!? As said above monitor it and see what happens....


  • What sort of fat is it?  The fact that it's on the ground indicates either that the birds aren't eating it, and are picking at the seeds, or that it melts and drips onto the ground.  I'm sure you know that only hard fats like beef fat/suet and lard should be used.  No vegetable fats at all. 

    "....Cooking fat

    Fat from cooking is bad for birds. The problem with cooked fat from roasting tins and dishes is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing, not good for birds' feathers. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, so potentially bad for birds' health. Salt levels depend on what meat is used and if any salt is added during cooking.

    Lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they re-solidify after warming and as they are pure fat, it is not as suitable for bacteria to breed on. 

    Polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils

    These are unsuitable for birds. Unlike humans, birds need high levels of saturated fat, such as raw suet and lard. They need the high energy content to keep warm in the worst of the winter weather, since their body reserves are quickly used up, particularly on cold winter nights. The soft fats can easily be smeared onto the feathers, destroying the waterproofing and insulating qualities...." (extract from RSPB website)

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Jean GenieJean Genie Posts: 1,724

    Hi everyone , Dove,  they are the fat balls that you buy in the netting. I always remove that and put them in the feeders and they do eat them. That much in fact that I have to replace them twice a week. We have a small army of birds that visit our garden as we live near woodland and my guess it's the sparrows that are dropping the bits everywhere. We have tree sparrows , housesparrows. , blue tits. great tits and some finches and they are on them everyday but the sparrows tend to visit in little gangs and have a feast up there. I turn the soil once a week with a daisy grubber to try and get rid of it as I thought of the rats as well, Higgy.

    I guess I'll just have to monitor the situation but they are messy little blighters !

    Thanks everyone.

  • Yes, you're probably right - the sparrows are possibly keener on the seeds than on the fat.  Don't think it'll do any harm to the plants or soil, but you're right to turn it in to deter rats.  I find that hedgehogs pick up a lot of the seeds etc dropped under the bird feeders.

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Jean GenieJean Genie Posts: 1,724

    Dove - I'ld love to have a hedgehog in the garden but we only have a resident toad ! Don't know if he would eat the bits of fatballs but at least he's keeping the slug population down. I hope !

    There has just been a big fight with 2 robins over the feeders.

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