I was staring out my window watching a bird taking fiber from a nesting ball and thought this might be something worth writing about. I have been running a multi-year experiment on the fiber preferences of my local birds.
My experiment started in 2021 when I began spinning some llama I bought from a local farmer. Though the fiber was dehaired, when I got into the bags I discovered quite a bit of VM (aka vegetable matter).
VM is something spinners hate because if it gets into the singles there will be prickly bits stuck in the yarn. As a result, I ended up removing large sections of this fiber and putting it in the discard pile. I started with 200g of fiber and at the end had 158g of plied yarn. So quite a bit of fiber was passed over.
However, I found this neat metal hanger and thought I’d try filling it with fiber and see what the birds thought of it. It was spring and prime nest building season so it was worth a try. The VM filled llama got stuffed into the blue hanger. And as far as I could tell not much happened after that. We did not notice the birds taking any of the fiber and it seemed to be a total bust.
One day we had our cat Jupiter groomed by Purrdy Paws Mobile Pet Grooming. And as they were giving our cat back to me, they also handed me a pile of Jupiter’s fur. (Side note, Jupiter went over the Rainbow bridge in fall 2022 so looking through our photos or him to select one for this blog has been lovely.)
The blue hanger with the llama fiber was still on the feeder, and I added the handful of black cat fur to the top of the blue hanger. I wasn’t expecting much of anything but it seemed like a good way to use that handful of cat fur. What happened was that the birds, especially the chickadees, took the black cat fur away and continued to ignore the llama. Hmmm…
In May I went to a small fiber festival and a couple of my friends were selling nesting balls. Given my failure with the llama I was not sure how things would go with the nesting balls but I decided to expand my experiment. I purchased two nesting balls… one with Alpaca and another with wool and added them to our feeders.
We haven’t noticed much activity with the alpaca fiber, but the wool nesting ball has been a hit. We have seen both chickadees and goldfinches taking wool. It is really fun to watch them work.
I suspect I will have to refill the wool nesting ball next year to supply the birds with the material they prefer. I have also started collecting cat fur from our pet brushing efforts (we have 3 cats so collecting cat fur should be easy enough) and adding it to the blue hanger. It will be interesting to see which fibre gets the most attention next year.