What’s the connection between alpaca farming and birds? Like most aspects of alpaca farming, it comes down to the fleece - the glorious fleece that alpacas produce that we make into sumptuous yarn for knitting, crocheting and other fibre arts.
When an alpaca is shorn, mostly in May and June in Ontario, there can be up to five different distinct “qualities” of fleece from a single alpaca. There can also be colour variations and other factors that determine the final grade of fleece. The very best grades are what we send to the mills to produce our yarns. The lesser quality grades are used to produce large sheets of felt, which are then used in a variety of products including insoles and slippers. The very worst fleece (which normally comes from the legs) is totally unusable for fibre related products and considered “waste." However, it does still have unique wicking and warming properties. For this reason, we value it for something completely unique and useful for the birds...
Our fleece feeders are stuffed with that “waste” fleece and hung up during the spring nesting season. Birds happily pull the fleece from these feeders to line their nests making them warm and soft for nesting with their babies. On the farm in January, we hang the feeders filled with suet to provide a much needed food source for birds during the cold winter months – but when spring is in the air, we switch them over to the alpaca fleece and enjoy many hours watching as the birds dart between their nesting area and the fleece feeder.
It’s another way that the alpaca is such a sustainable and environmentally impressive animal. We won’t even mention our “SHED-SHIT”, which is alpaca poo, an equally impressive bi-product of the alpaca, as a great garden soil enhancer. More on that in another blog, but it demonstrates that alpacas keep on giving!
Our fleece feeders come in a range of styles, some hand-forged locally, some with copper tops that age to a brilliant green patina over the years – and our basic powder-coated hanging feeder. Combined with suet cakes and extra packages of alpaca fleece, these feeders also come in a range of gift-boxes – perfect for any birder.
Spring is in the air now a bit early this year!