Chickadees are one of the MOST entertaining birds you can attract to your yard and bird feeders!
I love their bold personality and the fact that they aren’t intimidated by humans. In fact, many people train their chickadees to land and eat from their hands!
They also have distinctive calls and sounds, which are easy for even novice birders to identify. Just listen for them saying their name – “Chicka-dee-dee-dee.”
Today, you will learn 6 ways to attract chickadees!
And as you will see, it’s not hard to get these small but entertaining birds to come to your backyard and bird feeders. Before we begin, you may be able to see Black-capped Chickadees on my LIVE bird feeder cam right now! JUST PRESS PLAY BELOW.
#1. Provide foods that chickadees can’t resist!
Chickadees are incredibly active birds and search for food almost continuously throughout the day. So luckily, if you provide their favorite foods, it’s nearly a guarantee that one of these birds will find you!
So what do chickadees like to eat?
The list is relatively long. In nature, they eat a large number of insects during summer. Then in winter, berries and seeds make up the majority of their diet.
But for people who want to feed chickadees themselves, here are 6 foods that they LOVE!
A. Sunflower Seeds:
*Nutrition Information: 40% fat, 16% protein, 20% carbohydrates Check $ on Amazon
If you could only use one food to attract chickadees, then you want to use SUNFLOWER seeds. They can’t resist this healthy and nutritious food. You can use any type of sunflower seeds (black oil or striped), and it doesn’t matter whether it’s in or out of the shell.
One of the BEST parts about sunflower seeds is that they attract the widest amount of birds versus any other food. Seriously, you can expect cardinals, jays, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, finches, nutcrackers, juncos, sparrows, blackbirds, doves, and grackles, in addition to chickadees!
Peanuts are a great food to provide at your feeding station. Not only do chickadees love eating them, but they are healthy and provide a significant amount of fat and protein, both of which are important to birds, especially during cold winter months.
To make it easy for your chickadees, make sure to buy peanuts that are already SHELLED. These small birds have a tough time breaking through the hard shell of unshelled peanuts.
*Nutrition Info: 49% fat, 26% protein, 19% carbohydrates View Today's Price
Because of their high fat and protein content, offering mealworms at your feeding station is a healthy treat for many backyard birds, including chickadees.
In fact, using mealworms comes naturally to chickadees since they love eating insects.
There are two ways to purchase mealworms:
Using living mealworms is not as gross as it may sound. They are not slimy or kept in the dirt. When you purchase mealworms that are alive, they typically come in a small, plastic container and are kept in your refrigerator, where they go dormant and can survive for a few months!
*Nutrition Info: 22% fat, 18% protein, 2.5% carbohydrates View $ on Amazon
Buying dried mealworms is less hassle than keeping live mealworms in your fridge! For example, you can buy 5 pounds of them on Amazon for a relatively low cost. View $ on Amazon
*Nutrition Info: 32% fat, 49% protein, 6.9% carbs
Chickadees prefer eating LIVE mealworms and may even reject dried mealworms at first. If this happens, you may need to combine both types to slowly introduce dried mealworms. Personally, it’s much more convenient to keep a big pouch of dried mealworms in my shed than to have living ones in my refrigerator!
D. Nyjer Seed:
*Nutrition Info: 36% fat, 21% protein, 13% carbohydrates
Unfortunately, this seed is relatively expensive by weight when compared to other types of birdseed. But the good news is that you won’t have to refill nyjer feeders nearly as often as other feeders that contain sunflower seeds or a general bird mix.
Chickadees enjoy safflower and eat it regularly. But a fantastic benefit of safflower is that many “problem” birds ignore it, which leaves more food for chickadees!
For example, safflower is used to prevent blackbirds (such as grackles and starlings) and squirrels because they both don’t generally eat it!
My guess is that you have seen suet cakes before, as they are commonly sold almost everywhere, including grocery, hardware, and even pet stores. The standard suet cake size is about 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) long and wide and 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) deep. You can see a picture of one below:
So what exactly is in suet?
Well, in general, the term suet refers to the kidney fat found on animals. Many birds, such as chickadees, enjoy eating this fat because it provides essential energy and nutrition.
And while square cakes are the most popular shape, suet also comes in the following varieties:
- A. Balls: Roughly the size of tennis balls that fit in many types of caged feeders.
- B. Nuggets: Typically slightly smaller than marbles. Nuggets also can be put in mesh feeders or on tray feeders.
- C. Plugs: Resemble a small log. These fit into suet feeders that are specially made to fit suet plugs. Suet plug feeders are typically vertical and resemble the side of a tree.
#2. Attract chickadees with feeders they love using!
Honestly, almost every type of bird feeder will attract chickadees, assuming it’s filled with the foods listed above.
But here is the problem:
There is no getting around the fact that chickadees are SMALL birds!
Most individuals typically weigh less than half an ounce and are under 6 inches (15 cm) long, including the tail.
- RELATED: 5 Types of Chickadees That Live in the United States! (Includes Canada too)
Because of their small size, they can be easily intimidated by other larger birds that show up at your feeders. It’s very common for starlings, grackles, blackbirds, pigeons, jays, or doves to keep chickadees away while they eat.
Luckily, there is an easy solution to this problem.
Use feeders that ONLY small birds, like chickadees, can use!
Here are THREE different options and styles that have worked well in my backyard.
Buying a caged bird feeder is the BEST way to make sure chickadees have a safe place to eat. These feeders work by wrapping a metal cage around a tube feeder, which prevents larger birds from fitting inside.
The metal cage works incredibly well at keeping birds out except the very smallest. However, in my experience, chickadees show no fear of going through the cage openings and use this feeder all the time.
Audubon makes the caged feeder seen above:
- Features 4 feeding ports.
- The feeder is about 15.5 inches (39 cm) long from top to bottom.
- It is made of durable powder-coated metal.
Perky Pet Yellow Finch Feeder View Price - Amazon
The reason that this feeder is great for chickadees is not in the design but in the type of food that it feeds!
This metal feeder is explicitly designed to use Nyjer seed!
The great thing about Nyjer is not many bird species eat the stuff, and the ones that do are mostly small!
In addition to chickadees, the only birds that I’ve seen eating Nyjer seed from his feeder are goldfinches, and once in a while, House Finches and House Sparrows.
Honestly, almost any feeder that only feeds Nyjer see will be a great addition for chickadees at your feeding station. One common feature of these feeders is small ports to access the seed, so only the birds with the tiniest bills can obtain the food.
Here is what I like about the Perky Pet Yellow Feeder pictured above:
- Made of durable metal. I bang the mesh tube against things quite a bit to help empty old food.
- Both the top and bottom easily screw off, which makes the feeder easy to clean.
- The internal baffles create different feeding levels and make sure all the seed doesn’t fall to the bottom, which provides more surface area for birds to feed.
This hopper feeder made by Woodlink is made of durable steel. It has a huge reservoir for bird food, holding up to about 12 pounds/5.5 kg (depending on food type)!
Even though this feeder is large, it can be adjusted only to allow small birds, like chickadees, to eat. If too much weight is put on the spring-activated perches, access to the food is immediately cut off! Check out this video below:
The feeder has three sensitivity settings depending on the size and amount of birds you want to allow to feed at once. So if a flock of blackbirds moves into your area, you can make the perches ultra-sensitive to weight until they get the hint and move on! I usually keep mine on the highest weight sensitivity possible, which lets chickadees feed with no problems but closes under the weight of many other types of birds.
I also like that the food stays completely dry thanks to the roof. I have NEVER had a problem with moisture after heavy rain or snow. The design of the feeder also prevents birds from shoveling food out of the hopper as they look for their favorite seed.
As a bonus, this bird feeder is also great at preventing squirrels! The weight of these rodents closes access to the food no matter which setting you choose!
#3: Give chickadees places to hide!
Although they have bold personalities, chickadees don’t like to be exposed out in the open for long.
Naturally, chickadees live in forests. So if your bird feeder is in the middle of a field or lawn, then it may be hard to attract many chickadees.
And even when they visit bird feeders, chickadees don’t stay long. They typically just quickly grab a seed and then fly off somewhere else to eat it!
To help make chickadees feel more comfortable in your yard and around your feeders, make sure there are plenty of places for them to hide and take cover. No bird likes feeling exposed to predators!
Try to plant as many NATIVE trees and shrubs as possible.
These plants give chickadees, and other species, plenty of places to hide and take shelter. Oak, birch, and sumac trees are all excellent options because they also host hundreds of different types of NATIVE caterpillars, which chickadees LOVE to eat!
- The Audubon Society provides a database of native plants suitable for your area – Native Plants Database.
If you already live near the woods or a dense shrubby area, then put your bird feeder as close to it as possible. This way, birds can stay hidden nearby until they feel ready to come to eat.
Don’t cut down dead trees!
I know dead trees can be an eyesore, but rotting wood is excellent for chickadees (and woodpeckers) to create nest cavities!
Don’t trim dead limbs off trees!
Dead limbs are commonly trimmed off trees. These dead limbs may look terrible to a homeowner, but many birds use these old branches as perches. Perches are vital for chickadees because it provides them a place to sit, rest, groom, look for food, and defend their territory.
#4: Install bird houses to attract BABY chickadees!
All species of chickadees are cavity nesters, which means they will ONLY nest inside a cavity or hole. Mated pairs either excavate the hole together, use a natural cavity, or sometimes use abandoned woodpecker nests.
But here is the neat thing:
Chickadees regularly use and nest inside HUMAN-MADE bird houses!
If you have an appropriate space, I highly recommend installing a few appropriately sized nest boxes for chickadees. Just think how awesome it would be to raise a chickadee family in your yard!
Here are some tips for having success with chickadee birdhouses:
- Make sure the diameter of the entrance hole is 1.125 inches (2.9 cm). Having a hole this small doesn’t allow larger birds, like House Sparrows or European Starlings, to fit inside and steal the nesting space.
- Place the nest box in the woods. Remember, chickadees are FOREST birds. If the house is in a field, then another bird, like a wren, will probably take it over to use.
- Attach the box to a building, post, or tree between 5 -15 feet (1.5 – 4.5 m) above the ground. Chickadees want the house secure!
- Box spacing: If you put up multiple nest boxes, make sure they are 650 feet (198 m) apart!
FREE chickadee nest box plans!
- The video advises drilling the hole 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) in diameter for chickadees. While that distance will work for chickadees, I recommend drilling the hole at 1.125 inches (2.9 cm). This diameter will still allow chickadees but prevent larger birds.
Buy a pre-made chickadee birdhouse.
Do you really want to build your own? Me neither! Try one of these birdhouses that can be purchased on Amazon:
#5. DON’T USE PESTICIDES ON OR NEAR YOUR HOUSE!
Pesticides and insecticides are designed to kill insects.
Chickadees LOVE eating insects.
I hope you can see the problem!
Using chemicals to kill bugs means that chickadees won’t have their favorite food to eat.
And even worse, some insects will inevitably survive pesticides. So when chickadees eat these individuals, they are potentially consuming harmful poisons. It’s also likely that chemical residue will enter the water supply, causing other unknown problems.
Also, do you have a garden near your house? If your home is sprayed for bugs, there is a considerable risk that some of the pesticides will end up on the food YOU eat.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t use pesticides.
And hopefully, you won’t even need them because if you successfully attract chickadees to your yard, they will help serve as a natural pesticide!
- RELATED: 7 Easy Ways To Attract Bats To Your Yard! (To help eat all your mosquitoes 🙂 )
Tip #6: Attract chickadees by providing water!
The final way to get chickadees to visit your yard is to provide a constant, consistent water source.
So, how exactly do you accomplish this?
Well, unless you are lucky enough to have a stream or lake nearby, the best way to offer water is to buy a bird bath.
Honestly, there was a time when I didn’t think having a bird bath was that important, especially since they require a bit of maintenance to keep them fresh and clean.
But once I finally tried a bird bath, my opinion changed forever. Birds LOVE having a safe, clean water source. And the best part is that bird baths attract not only chickadees but also countless other species, including many birds that typically don’t visit bird feeders.
Seriously, check out this video of a Red-shouldered Hawk at my bird bath!
When it comes to bird baths, there are HUNDREDS of options, including many different styles. To help guide your decision, here are a few additional articles that will help.
12 Best Bird Baths To Consider This Year! (I own #5)
- Making sure that you have unfrozen water during a cold winter is one of the best things you can do for your birds. I think you will be amazed at the diversity of creatures that end up visiting.
Before buying a new bird bath, please learn how to maintain them properly! Bird baths typically get dirty fast, and if they are not cleaned and changed often, they become a perfect place for bacteria and algae to grow and mosquitoes to lay eggs.
Do you have any additional tips for attracting chickadees?
Today, I provided multiple strategies you can use to attract these entertaining birds to your yard. We talked about the best foods and feeders, along with ways to make the surrounding habitat appealing.
I’d love to know what strategies have worked best for you?
Please leave a comment below!