Do you love watching birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife in your backyard? Do you want to help them thrive and coexist peacefully with you and your pets? Do you care about the environment and want to reduce your impact on it? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might want to consider creating a humane backyard.
A humane backyard is a natural habitat with plenty of food, water and cover that gives wildlife a safe place to live free from pesticides, chemicals, free-roaming pets, inhumane practices and other threats. And it’s so easy to build! You don’t need a lot of space or money to make a difference. You can turn any outdoor space, from a small balcony to a large yard, into a haven for wildlife.
In this blog post, I’ll share some tips and tricks on how to create a humane backyard, based on the resources from The Humane Society of the United States1. I’ll also show you some examples of how other people have transformed their outdoor spaces into wildlife sanctuaries.
Water is essential for all living beings, especially in hot or dry seasons. You can provide water for wildlife by setting up a birdbath, a fountain, a pond or even a shallow dish. Make sure to keep the water fresh and clean, and place it in a shady spot where animals can drink and bathe safely. You can also add some rocks or sticks to the water to help insects and amphibians get in and out.
Offer natural food sources
The best way to feed wildlife is to plant native plants, bushes and trees that produce seeds, fruits, nuts, nectar and pollen. Native plants are adapted to your local climate and soil, and they attract and support the animals that coevolved with them. You can also supplement your natural food sources with birdfeeders, especially in winter when food is scarce. Choose feeders that are easy to clean and refill, and that prevent waste and mold. Avoid feeding bread, crackers or other human foods that can harm wildlife.
Skip the lawn chemicals
Many lawn chemicals, such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, are toxic to wildlife, pets and people. They can also contaminate the soil and water sources. Instead of using chemicals, opt for organic or natural methods of lawn care. For example, you can use compost or mulch to enrich the soil, pull out weeds by hand or use vinegar as a natural herbicide, and attract beneficial insects that prey on pests.
Make your windows bird-safe
One of the biggest threats to birds is window collisions. Birds can’t see glass and often mistake reflections for open sky or vegetation. To prevent birds from flying into your windows, you can apply decals, stickers or tape to the glass, hang curtains or blinds inside, or install screens or netting outside. You can also move your birdfeeders closer or farther away from the windows, so that birds have less momentum or more time to avoid them.
Shrink your lawn a little
Lawns are not very friendly to wildlife. They require a lot of water, mowing and chemicals, and they offer little food or shelter for animals. By reducing the size of your lawn, you can save water, time and money, and create more space for wildlife habitat. You can replace some of your grass with native plants, wildflowers, groundcovers or even vegetables. You can also leave some areas unmowed or let them grow naturally.
Build a brush pile
A brush pile is a simple way to provide extra shelter for wildlife. It’s basically a pile of leaves, twigs, branches and other yard debris that creates hiding places and nesting materials for animals. You can build a brush pile in a corner of your yard or under a tree or shrub. Make sure to keep it away from buildings or fire hazards. You can also add some rocks or logs to create more diversity and stability.
Be a friend to bees
Bees are vital pollinators that help plants reproduce and produce fruits and seeds. They also provide food for many other animals. Unfortunately, bees are facing many threats such as habitat loss, pesticides and diseases. You can help bees by providing safe and healthy habitat for them. Plant bee-friendly flowers that bloom throughout the seasons, such as lavender, sunflower, mint and clover. Avoid using pesticides or herbicides that can harm bees. Provide water sources with landing pads for bees to drink from. You can also install a bee house or hive in your yard if you have enough space and interest.
Put up a bat house
Bats are amazing animals that pollinate plants, disperse seeds and eat insects. They are also very beneficial for humans as they help control pests such as mosquitoes and moths. You can attract bats to your yard by putting up a bat house. A bat house is a wooden box with narrow slits that provide roosting space for bats. You can buy a bat house or make your own following some simple instructions. Place the bat house on a pole or a building, facing south or southeast, at least 10 feet above the ground. Avoid placing it near bright lights or noisy areas.
Make your swimming pool safe
Backyard pools can be deadly for wildlife. Animals can fall into the water and drown, or get trapped by pool covers or skimmers. You can make your pool safer for wildlife by taking some precautions. For example, you can install a fence around your pool to prevent animals from entering. You can also add ramps, ladders or ropes to the water to help animals get out. You can cover your pool when not in use, but make sure the cover is tight and secure. You can also check your pool regularly for any animals that might need help.
Help out bugs (they’re animals too!)
Insects make up 70% of the animal kingdom and most of them are harmless or even helpful. They pollinate plants, decompose organic matter, provide food for other animals and more. You can attract beneficial insects to your yard by planting a variety of flowers, herbs and vegetables. You can also create habitats for insects by leaving some dead wood, rocks, leaves or straw in your yard. For insect control, look for eco- and animal-friendly approaches, such as using natural repellents, traps or predators.
Keep cats inside
Cats are wonderful companions, but they can also be predators to wildlife. Cats can kill or injure birds, rodents, reptiles and other animals, even if they are well-fed and have bells on their collars. Keeping your cat indoors is the best way to protect wildlife, as well as your cat’s health and safety. Indoor cats are less likely to get lost, injured, sick or killed by cars, dogs or other dangers. You can make your cat happy indoors by providing toys, scratching posts, windowsills and other enrichment.
Change with the seasons
Maintaining a humane backyard is not a one-time project, but an ongoing process that changes with the seasons. As the weather and the wildlife needs change throughout the year, you can adjust your backyard accordingly. For example, you can clean up your yard in fall, winter and spring, but leave some leaves, stalks and seeds for wildlife to use. You can also provide extra food and water in winter when natural sources are scarce. You can also monitor your backyard for any new wildlife visitors or problems that might arise.
Find humane solutions to any wildlife problems
Sometimes, you might encounter some wildlife problems in your backyard, such as birds nesting in your attic, squirrels digging in your garden or raccoons raiding your trash cans. Instead of resorting to harmful methods such as trapping, poisoning or shooting, you can find humane solutions that respect both the animals and your property. The Humane Society of the United States has a wealth of resources on how to deal with common wildlife conflicts in a peaceful and effective way2.
Creating a humane backyard is not only good for wildlife, but also for you and your community. It’s a rewarding and enjoyable way to connect with nature and appreciate its beauty and diversity. It’s also a way to contribute to the conservation of our planet and its precious resources. By creating a humane backyard, you are making a difference for yourself and for all living beings.