Don’t throw it away! Don’t chip it! Don’t burn it! Backyard brush piles protect wildlife. Do what many lovers of wildlife do: throw limbs, branches, twigs, and brush in a pile and ignore it. This isn’t to say you should never recycle wood by chipping and using it for mulch. But save some for a brush pile. It will provide something special for nearly every critter in your yard.
The most obvious benefit of a brush pile is that it provides cover. Opossums, rabbits, birds, and even insects will use it as a hiding place. And, it provides more:
- Escape routes for animals pursued by predators.
- Shelter from storms.
- Birds and dragonflies will perch on the tips of branches. Insects and lizards will sun themselves on outer surfaces.
- Birds, squirrels, opossums, toads, snakes, and others will scour it for the insects that inevitably take up residence.
- Butterflies may spend the night, tucked into crevices, or even hibernate there over the winter.
- Opossums, raccoons, and others may use it for dens.
- On a hillside, it helps hold soil in place.
Brush piles are easy to build
Begin with a layer of large branches, loosely stacked parallel to each other. It isn’t necessary, but you might want to use stones or bricks to form a base for the branches. Don’t use treated lumber, railroad ties, or lumber containing lead. Place smaller branches and twigs on the larger ones. When you trim shrubs, add the trimmings to the pile.
Every year the pile will shrink a little as wood rots and falls apart, so you can just keep adding to it.
If you wish to hide it, screen it with plants that offer something beneficial to wildlife, such as fruiting native shrubs and nectar plants for butterflies.