The farmer spends a fortune on bird food. We buy it from our feed merchants, along with the hen food and the dog and cat food. We feed the birds all year round, but moreso in Winter - and this kind of weather especially.
They get peanuts, sunflower seeds, mixed seed, niger seed. fat balls, dried meal worms and kitchen scraps (in moderation). The meal worms go on to the bird table and the robin guards them with his life - they are an aggressive little bird despite their pretty appearance and robins would kill for a dried meal worm!
The greater spotted woodpeckers like the peanuts best of all and when they are around all the other birds keep away - there is definitely a pecking order.
The blue, coal and great tits adore half coconut shells filled with seeds and fat. We buy two each week and both are gone in two days. Then they turn their attention to the niger seeds and the mixed seed.
I also throw suet on to the ground when the weather is really bad, because the blackbirds really love this. The goldfinches and greenfinches prefer the mixed seed and the sunflower hearts.
But none of this prepares us for the biggest surprise of all - it happens every year. Once the cooler weather comes we get - literally - a flock of pheasants. At present we have eleven hens and one cock bird, but I have no doubt the number will increase; last year we ended up with twenty four hens. I don't think they leave the bird table and the garden all day. They come in and stand waiting for the poultry wheat the farmer throws down for them - they gather round his feet for it and never move away. Then they spend some time under the bird feeders hoovering up the smaller seeds which have dropped when the small birds are feeding. Then they all go into our front, walled garden, where they scratch about in the soil for grubs. Once they have had their fill they stand about in the sun, or in bad weather they huddle under the shrubs looking thoroughly miserable.
Later in the afternoon they go back to the bird table to peck at any small seeds on the ground, and then they sit in a row on the garden wall and wait for evening. Just before sunset they fly up into the Scots Pine Trees and roost for the night. How they manage on these very stormy nights I really don't know - they must have to cling on like mad and surely get little sleep.
I am sure if we had a hen hut for them they would probably go in it.
We just hope they stay here. There are so many 'shoots' around the area (including ours) and if they stay here then they are safe. It is almost as though they understand that.
But whatever the reason, we look forward to 'our' pheasants coming each year and taking up residence. There is always at least one hen who rears her young in our front garden. I think they must know instinctively that we mean them no harm.