Bird Watcher's General Store

Peanut Feeders - 03/14/03


Dear Bird Folks:

I was thinking about offering peanuts to my birds, but nuts are a little pricey. Before I invest in buying expensive peanuts, I would like to know if you think they are a good idea.

Mitch, Central MA

First Mitch,

I have a question for you. Are you from Worcester? Because only someone from Worcester would need financial advice before buying a bag of peanuts. I grew up around Worcester and we were so tight that even the People from Scotland made fun of us. I've sold peanuts for years. Every time someone bought a bag, I gave them a look like they were a drunken sailor throwing their money away. To me, there is no better or more popular food than sunflower seed. And most importantly, it's cheap. So why spend more money on nuts?

A peanut feeder is nothing more than a tube of fine wire mesh that holds the peanuts like a suet basket holds suet. I have been blindly selling them for years, assuming that they work fine, but have been too cheap to buy one myself. One day a customer pointed out that the holes in the feeder were much smaller than the peanuts. It would be impossible for a peanut to fit through the tiny holes. When the customer asked me how the birds got to the food, the only thing I could say was (in a dumb guy's voice) "I dunno." At that point I knew it was time for me to turn my back on my thrifty past and try a peanut feeder. It was a difficult decision, but I kept reminding myself that the nuts were a good tax write-off, so that gave me the strenth to go forward.

I brought my new peanut feeder home, hung it up with all of my other feeders, but the birds didn't seem interested. Days went by and the birds avoided it like it was a baked apple on a dessert cart. Finally, after about a week, a chickadee landed on it and tried to eat a peanut but couldn't get one out and flew away. The next day the same thing happened. I thought, "Oh man, that customer was right, these feeders don't work." I broke out into a cold sweat thinking that it was only a matter of time before I would be dragged up in front of Judge Judy. I could see myself doing five to ten for selling bad bird feeders.

In order to end the suspense and to speed this story up, I should tell you that the birds finally did figure out the new feeder. It turned out that the birds don't pull out the whole peanut, like they do sunflower seeds, they peck out little pieces like they do on a suet feeder. In fact, the peanut feeder is now one of the most popular feeders in my yard. All the birds love it, including chickadees, titmice, finches, jays and woodpeckers. Since they are only taking little pieces, the feeder stays full longer and thus actually costs less to use than a sunflower feeder. My Worcester friends will be thrilled to hear that.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you buy a peanut feeder. The wire mesh feeders offer no protection from the weather. To prevent spoilage, you must keep your nuts fresh. Really. You should only use raw, hulled peanuts; don't buy roasted peanuts, salted peanuts or peanut brittle. Also, don't be confused and buy peanut hearts. Peanut hearts are nastly little nibs that are a favorite of starlings and not a whole bunch else. Since nuts don't melt like suet can, peanut feeders are a great summertime alternative for woodpeckers. Plus, the small holes in the wire mesh will keep the squirrels from eating too much, even though they sure like to try.

Yes, try a peanut feeder, Mitch. It is totally worth the investment. If you decide to buy one, give me a call. I know of a place in Worcester that still gives Green Stamps.

Artwork by Catherine Clark




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