If you put up a bird feeder, chances are that chickadees will be the first to find it. This energetic bird is a familiar visitor to backyards across the upper half of North America year-round. It’s easy to attract Chickadees by adding a few simple things to your yard.
Chickadees are also remarkably tame. When I was a toddler, I walked right up to a chickadee in my backyard and touched it (thus giving me the title of “bird man” forever”). They can also be “taught” to eat seed straight from your hand if you’re patient enough!
Truth be told, if you hang up just about any bird feeder, a chickadee will likely appear. You don’t need special help for that! But there are certain foods and feeders you can put out to keep them coming back regularly.
These are my top tips below on bringing the chickadees to your yard.
1. Attract Chickadees by Offering Sunflower Seed
Chickadees love both shelled and de-shelled sunflower seeds. They will gladly eat any cardinal seed blend you find. One of my favorite sights is seeing a chickadee snag a sunflower seed, fly away and hide it in a nearby tree.
Sunflower chips, black oil sunflower and striped sunflower seeds all work really well at bringing in curious chickadees. It’s more a matter of preference (I use sunflower chips to avoid any mess of seed hulls beneath and around my feeders).
Oh, and please look for quality sunflower bird seeds that’s free from fillers. Some red flags: Red milo, oats and wheat. This tip applies for any bird you’re looking to attract! The only birds who enjoy eating seed mixes with fillers are “pest birds” like Starlings and House Sparrows.
2. Attract Chickadees with Mealworms
Mealworms are a secret weapon of mine to keep multiple chickadees coming to my feeders ever day. They go wild for both live and dried mealworms. I’ve noticed that they love them so much that they often stay at the feeder to eat them right away (this is an amusing sight as the chickadee puts the worm between its feet and chows down).
I usually keep things simple and use these dried mealworms. They can be served in a separate tray feeder, or mixed into a seed blend for some added protein. Birds (especially chickadees) love them! I’ve heard that live mealworms are even more successful at bringing in bluebirds and other species and plan to give them a spin next summer (the harsh Minnesota winters make this difficult).
3. Put Your Feeder Near Trees and Brush
Chickadees aren’t particular about the type of feeder you put out. It’s much more important to consider where you put the feeder.
Chickadees like having a tree or bush nearby they can fly back and forth to. As previously mentioned, Chickadees prefer to quickly snag a seed at my feeders before flying to a nearby spruce tree.
It can be helpful to put a feeder under or near any other natural cover you have so that the birds feel safer from predators when they visit. My options are limited with my feeders hanging from an apartment balcony, but I’m happy there’s natural cover with me being on the first floor.
4. Have a Water Source/Bird Bath
This tip applies to any bird you’re looking to attract to your yard and can be especially important if you’re in a cold climate region in the winter. Most of the water freezes and consuming snow for water can cost birds a lot of precious energy and body heat.
Offer a bird bath with a heater, and your yard will quickly become a beacon for thirsty birds (including chicakdees!) who need a drink or bath.
Bonus: You can also invest in a bird bath water wiggler to create movement in your water source. This will attract the attention of even more birds with the noise and visual it creates! Here’s an example from my local Wild Bird Store.
5. They Go Nuts for Peanuts
Looking for one more thing to offer at your feeders? Start putting out peanuts (unsalted/unseasoned)! Peanuts are a fun high-fat and protein treat for birds. Chickadees like peanuts out of the shell. Their tiny beaks makes it difficult to break into large peanut shells.
Bonus: Peanut also attract fun birds like the boisterous Blue Jay, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers! I often have a bird feeder specifically for peanuts and have had great results…just watch out for the squirrels.
Look for peanut pieces online, or at your local hardware or bird food store.
Beyond the five tips above, I’ve also seen chickadees eat suet (peanut-flavored especially), nyjer and safflower seeds! The beauty of chickadees is that they’re curious birds and will be consistent guests at your home once you put out some of their favorite treats.
My current bird feeding set up consistently draws in a trio of chickadees daily to a mix of sunflower seed, peanuts and mealworms that I serve in a house-style hopper feeder.
I recommend this webpage by the Cornell Bird Lab if you’re curious about learning more about chickadees.