Have you ever wondered how you can help the birds in your area construct their nests? Well, did you know that one of the best ways to do this is by using your dog’s shedding hair?
Any season is shedding season around our house, but it strikes particularly hard between December and February when Hunter starts blowing his coat like crazy. This boy’s hair gets everywhere, and I’m not just talking little wispies—I mean full-on tufts of thick, white booty fur. There’s a reason we call him our Head of Shed, after all.
Having a super shedder isn’t always easy, especially on the vacuum cleaner mechanics (like, how has ours not caught fire yet?), but it sure offers our backyard birds their own personal flea market of nest-building materials, which I can’t complain about as it takes hours off the weekly lint roller battle in which it’s a score of 24-0, dog hair.
In this post, I’ll share the benefits of using the excess fur from your dog’s brushing sessions to provide materials for local birds during nesting season along with simple modifications and repurposing activities to make nest-building easier for our beloved avian friends!
Benefits of Using Dog Hair for Bird Nests
Birds, especially those that build nests in trees, rely on a variety of materials to construct their homes. Twigs, grasses, and moss are common materials, but many birds also incorporate hair and fur into their nests. For example, Eastern bluebirds, European starlings, black-capped chickadees, chimney swifts, and house wrens are known to use fur and hair to provide insulation for their eggs and chicks, particularly at the bottom of the nest. American robins appreciate it for the structure of the nest itself.
Additionally, this fur gives off pheromones that provide an extra layer of protection so when mother birds return they can easily identify if the nest is theirs or an intruder’s. This is fascinating since it shows just how resourceful birds are with the resources they find!
Using your dog’s hair to help backyard birds build their nests is a sustainable way to recycle and repurpose all that shed. The coarse texture of the hair makes it easier for small birds to attach other fibers like twigs or grasses onto their nests easily and provides insulation, keeping the birds warm in colder temperatures and helping to regulate their body temperature. It also provides a soft and comfortable lining for the nest, making it a more inviting place for the birds to lay their eggs, and given that hair can also help to deter parasites and other pests from making their way into the nest, using it improves the overall health and well-being of the birds.
Tips for Collecting Your Dog’s Hair for Bird Nest-Building
Dogs shed their hair throughout the year, and it can be found in various places. If your dog spends a lot of time on the couch or your bed, there’s a good chance that it’s transferred to your furniture. If he has his own bed (or four like Hunter does), you’ll likely find loose hair on his bedding as well, so grab a damp cloth or a lint roller to remove it from these surfaces.
Don’t forget to clean your car’s seats and floor mats too if your travels often include a furry co-pilot. Literally, there won’t be a crevice in your car that isn’t hiding some bit of hair…and maybe a few dried-up french fries from a few months back when you tossed ’em in the backseat as someone hungrily drooled over your shoulder.
Loose dog hair can also accumulate on the floors throughout your home, especially in high-traffic areas or where your dog spends most of his time. Since fur can float around in the air, you may find it in other nooks and crannies, so keep an eye out for those fluffy tumbleweeds.
Related: Tips for Setting Up a Pet-Friendly Home Office Space to Accommodate Your Dog
Collecting your pup’s hair for bird nests can be simple and satisfying, particularly when you get to see birds settling down in it. For a minimal-effort process, focus on the brush step, first checking that your dog is clean and free of any dirt or debris. Doing so ensures that only his soft fur will be collected and not anything else he may have encountered outside. You can then use either a slicker brush or a Furminator to slowly collect the fur while combing through his coat.
Start brushing at the head and work your way down the body, brushing in small sections. This will help you to be more efficient and avoid missing any spots. Brush gently and slowly in the direction of the hair growth to avoid irritating their skin. Use a light touch, and avoid brushing too hard or too fast. Be sure to brush the undercoat with a shedding blade or a rake; it’s where most of the loose floof is found. This can help to collect large amounts of hair quickly and easily.
Once the bulk of the fur is gathered and accumulated on the brush, use a lint roller or rubber gloves to finish collecting it. You can then take any old fabric such as an old t-shirt and use it to tie the loose fur into a bundle so that it’s easier for you to transport outdoors. (We actually brush Hunter outside most of the time so that fresh fur blows around the yard as we brush him). You can also store the collected fur in an airtight container or sealable bag until it is ready to be used by the birds.
If you’re ready to share the hair, add it to bird feeders or scatter it around birdhouses and tree branches to encourage birds to build their nests there. Stuffing it in a suet feeder, placing small piles in shrubs, or placing it inside a wire whisk to hang from a branch presents it in an accessible way and prevents it from getting scattered in the wind.
Safety Considerations When Using Dog Hair
Before using your pup’s fur for bird nesting purposes, there are some safety considerations that should be taken into account:
- Make sure that no fleas or ticks are present on either your pet or his fur before adding it to any nest boxes or other protected areas.
- Use only fur that is free from chemicals, such as topical flea and tick medications and grooming products.
- If possible, avoid using dyed or treated furs as these could contain chemicals that may not be good for wildlife consumption.
- When collecting and storing the fur always make sure that it stays away from areas with high humidity as this could lead to mold growth which could also negatively affect wildlife health.
Give Back to the Birds
Using your shedding dog’s hair is a straightforward and feel-good way to make a positive impact on the environment and give back to nature and your beautiful feathered friends! Not only does it reduce the amount of dog hair in your home, but his fur provides comfort and warmth for backyard birds during cold weather and offers diversity in terms of texture and color when compared with wood-based nesting materials, like straw and hay. Just ensure that both your dog and his coat are clean before collecting his shed and storing his fur safely until it’s ready for use! With these tips in mind, you can easily help contribute towards building strong nests for your favorite backyard visitors!
Did you enjoy this post? Great, there’s more coming your way because it’s part of a photography blog circle featuring photographers specializing in a variety of niches! Because our weekly theme is “Photographer’s Choice,” you can expect to see a variety of posts from this week’s participants, starting with Gretchen Decker with Gretchen Decker Photography, explaining the top milestones to have captured by a professional photographer. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here. If you get lost along the way, just look for the trail of dog hair. I (and the birds) won’t be far off…