Is your garden bird table or bird feeder looking a little sparse? Are you unable to get out and buy any seeds? If the answer is yes, you may be wondering what items that you already have in the house would be a good substitute for shop-bought seed. One of those things that you are likely to have in the house is some good old-fashioned porridge oats. Porridge oats are quite inexpensive, healthy and nutritious and can be eaten raw by humans, but can birds eat porridge oats?

Porridge Oats
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Can Birds Eat Porridge Oats?

Yes, birds can eat porridge oats but they must be left uncooked or be used as part of another treat such as fat balls. It is very important to remember that they MUST NOT be cooked. Cooked porridge oats will become sticky and harden around the birds’ beak which will be detrimental to the health of the bird. Birds forage and will eat many different things as part of their natural diet. Birds will seek out all sorts of insects; from earthworms to flies, they will also eat any seed that has been left in the open for them to find.

Pigeon Eating Dry Uncooked Porridge Oats
Pigeon Eating Dry Uncooked Porridge Oats

Are Porridge Oats Good for Birds?

Porridge oats are very good for birds in much the same way as they are for humans. Porridge oats can be used to complement a bird’s diet and should not be used at the expense of other seeds and grain altogether. Regardless of how nutritious they are, as with humans, a bird will not just be able to exclusively eat porridge oats, but they will need a balanced diet. Porridge oats are high in carbs and protein and when used in fat balls, they make a great winter food for birds which helps them retain fat and keep warm but if you can, it is a great idea to mix in some seed too.

Can Birds Eat Cooked Porridge?

No, birds cannot eat cooked porridge oats as when it dries, it hardens around a bird’s beak and can cause health complications. Although dry uncooked porridge is very good for birds, the same cannot be said if you cook it. If you have tried to wash up a bowl used for porridge after it has sat for a couple of hours, you will know how stubborn dried porridge is to remove.

Note: Cooked porridge also becomes too glutinous meaning that the health benefits of the oats are greatly diminished.

How to Prepare Porridge Oats for Birds

There are a few different ways to prepare bird food from porridge oats and they are best used alongside other regular birdseed to provide a more well-rounded diet. Porridge oats can be left out on the bird table or scattered on the ground for birds to find and eat just as they are, but we like to use porridge oats in our fat balls recipe.

Sparrow Eating a Fat Ball from a Bird Feeder
Sparrow Eating a Fat Ball from a Bird Feeder

Best Fat Balls Recipe

Fat balls are a great way to keep birds visiting your garden, they are nutritious and healthy and birds cannot get enough of them. Our age-old recipe is a hit with the birds and so easy that kids can help you do it. These fat balls can be made all year round and frozen to be hung in the winter to keep the birds coming back for more.

What You Need

  • Large Bowl
  • 2 Cups Lard
  • 2 Cups of Porridge Oats
  • 1 Cup Sunflower Seeds
  • 1 Cup Mixed Seeds
  • Bird Fat Ball Holder (Amazon link – opens in a new tab)

Instructions

  • Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. If you do not have seed, it can be replaced with other household items such as cheese or you can just use more porridge oats.
  • Melt your lard in a pan on medium heat, being careful not to burn it.
  • Remove the lard from the heat, pour over the dry ingredients mixture and mix it well until all of the lard has been absorbed.
  • Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes and then using your hands, mould the mixture into balls.
  • Place the lard balls in the ball holder and hang them in the garden. Leftover balls that do not fit can be frozen or stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for use at a later date.
A Picture of Rolled Oats
Rolled Oats, Perfect for Adding to Fat Balls

What Else Do Birds Eat?

While our primary focus has been on the suitability of porridge oats for birds, it’s essential to understand the broader context of bird feeding. Birds have diverse dietary needs, and what’s beneficial for one species might be harmful to another.

  • Seeds and Grains: These are staples in many bird diets. While porridge oats are a good source of nutrition, other grains like millet, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds also offer essential nutrients.
  • Fruits and Berries: Many birds enjoy fruits like apples, bananas, and berries. However, always ensure they are chopped into manageable sizes and are free from pesticides.
  • Insects: A natural source of protein for many bird species. While porridge oats can provide energy, insects cater to their protein needs.
  • Avoidable Foods: Just as cooked porridge oats can be problematic, other foods like chocolate, avocado, and caffeine are toxic to birds and should be avoided.

If you are interested, Colorado Mountain College has a great Free E-book on Vegan Suet For Birds.

Conclusion

In our exploration of whether birds can eat porridge oats, we’ve delved into the nutritional benefits and potential risks associated with feeding them to our feathered friends. Porridge oats, when given in moderation and in their raw form, can be a nutritious addition to a bird’s diet, although, it is essential to avoid cooked oats, which can pose health risks. As nature enthusiasts, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we provide safe and healthy food options for the birds that visit us. Our fat balls are great winter food for birds that they will love and keep birds visiting your garden even in the colder months.

How to Make Fat Balls for Birds Infographic

Garden Doctor Tips

“Never hang fat balls in the summer. In the heat, the fat will melt and if it gets on the bird’s feathers, it may prevent the bird from flying!”

“To make the perfect fat balls, ensure a 2:1 ratio of dry ingredients over lard!”

“Do not use cooked porridge oats for bird food. Cooked porridge can harden around a bird’s beak!”

“Mix in some porridge oats with your regular birdseed to give birds a little something different!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Can birds eat oats?

Yes, birds can and should eat oats as they are packed with carbs, protein and antioxidants. Birds should eat oats as part of a balanced diet and should not eat oats exclusively. Birds should also never be given oats that have been cooked as they will harden around the birds’ beaks and become extremely difficult to remove.

Can birds eat cooked oatmeal?

No. Cooked oatmeal and porridge are not something that you should give to birds. When oatmeal hardens, it becomes very hard and stubborn to remove. If a bird gets this on its beak, it will not be able to get it off.

Are oats OK for birds?

Dry uncooked oats are a good snack for birds and can be used in a bird food mix. Do not cook oats for birds as you will know if you have ever washed a porridge bowl. It becomes very hard to remove once it has hardened. If this happens to a bird’s beak, it could be disastrous.

Are porridge oats good for birds?

Yes, plain uncooked porridge oats can be a good source of nutrition for some bird species, such as ground-feeding birds like thrushes, blackbirds, and doves.

How do I prepare oats for birds?

You can use oats as part of a fat ball’s recipe. It’s important to avoid cooked oats, as they can become sticky and harden around a bird’s beak, which can be harmful to their health.

Can birds eat Quaker oats?

Yes, birds can eat plain uncooked Quaker oats. However, it’s important to avoid using flavoured or sweetened oats, as these can be harmful to birds.

Can birds and squirrels eat porridge oats?

Yes, both birds and squirrels can eat plain uncooked porridge oats as part of a varied diet. However, it’s important to offer them in moderation and not rely on oats as the sole food source.

Do Robins eat oats?

Yes, robins can eat plain uncooked oats.

What can I feed Robins?

Robins can be fed a variety of foods, including mealworms, suet, sunflower hearts, fruit, and plain uncooked oats.

Can Magpies eat rolled oats?

Magpies can eat plain uncooked rolled oats as part of a varied diet, but it’s important to offer them in moderation and not rely on oats as the sole food source. It’s also important to avoid using flavoured or sweetened oats, as these can be harmful to birds.


Author

Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.


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