Make your own bird feeders

Birds need steady sources of food throughout the year to survive cold nights, migration, and harsh weather. This makes bird feeders of any kind perfect for birds! There are many options available for feeders both online and in stores. But sometimes, the best thing to do is to make your own.Here are some simple feeders that can easily be made with household items!

 


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Making a pine cone feeder.

Making a pine cone feeder.

Pine cone feeders

What you will need:

  • string
  • pinecones
  • peanut butter
  • bird seed (any type)

This feeder is simple and easy to make, costing very little, and easily reused or disposed of when done. Pine cones can be found outside near pine trees or often bought in craft stores.

Take a pine cone and gently brush off any lingering dirt.

Tie a string in a secure loop around the top of the pine cone, leaving enough to tie it to a tree or pole. Alternatively, use a pipe cleaner or twist tie.

A home-made bird feeder can attract many species, like this Black-capped Chickadee. Photo by Phil Khaler.

A home-made bird feeder can attract many species, like this Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Photo by Phil Khaler.

Carefully spread a generous layer of peanut butter on the pine cone, making sure that the outside is well covered. Note: If you have peanut allergies to consider, try using Crisco.

Roll your pine cone in bird seed until it is well covered.

Using smaller seeds like millet, milo, and nyjer will ensure that everything sticks better, but mixed seed or black-oil sunflower seed will work too so long as they are well-attached.

Hang your feeder on a tree branch or pole not too close to your window and watch the birds enjoy their winter feast!

*Note: Squirrels love this kind of feeder so be sure to hang it somewhere it will be difficult for squirrels to reach like on thin branches several feet off the ground.

 

 

Bird seed cookies

These feeders are festive and easy to make.

What you will need:

  • 2 cups bird seed (any type)
  • cookie cutters
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • string
  • skewer
  • non-stick cooking spray

Spray your cookie cutters with non-stick spray to make the cookies easier to pop out.

Empty 1 package of unflavored gelatin into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Let this sit for 1 minute. Add 1/3 cup of boiling water to the gelatin, stirring for a few minutes or until the gelatin is dissolved. This is the binder that keeps seeds together.

Next add 2 cups of bird seed to the gelatin and mix thoroughly.

On a tray or sheet of wax paper, lay out your desired cookie cutters. Fill the cookie cutters with the mixture and press into shape firmly. Make a small hole in each cookie with the skewer for the string.

Bird Seed Cookies. Photo by Heather Katsoulis.

Bird Seed Cookies. Photo by Heather Katsoulis.

Place in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow the seed mixture to set. After setting warm to room temperature before removing the cakes from the pan. Carefully pop the cookies out of their molds and thread a string through the hole. Hang the ornaments from a tree, pole, or hook outside your windows and watch the birds devour them!

 

Recycled feeders

We’ll let you in on a little secret: plastic containers make great bird feeders. Our friends at the Chebeague Island School have made bird feeders out of re-purposed yogurt containers to great success.

Chebeague Island School students with their feeders. Photo by Beverly Johnson.

Chebeague Island School students with their feeders. Photo by Beverly Johnson.

It’s easy to make your own feeder using anything from a square milk container to a round yogurt container!

What you will need:

  • medium-sized plastic container (milk, yogurt, juice, etc.)
  • scissors or box cutter
  • single hole punch or skewer
  • string
  • thin wooden dowels or spoons

Wash out your desired container and let it dry completely. Then very carefully cut out several small holes along the sides near the bottom*. Make sure they are large enough for a bird’s head to fit inside but small enough that a bird will not be able to climb inside.

*If you are using a square container, you can cut one large opening in the side so that birds may perch and feed.

Recycled feeders on display! Photo by Beverly Johnson.

Recycled feeders on display! Photo by Beverly Johnson.

 

Punch two small holes about the size of your dowels on opposite side of your container just below the openings you have cut. Insert the dowels into these holes so that the ends of the wood stick out on both sides. These will serve as perches for the feeding birds.

Punch two holes at the top of your container and thread a string through in a large loop. Fill your new feeder with desired birdseed and hang near your house. Be sure to hang it somewhere where birds will have space to perch.

 

Going Further:

  • If you’ve done any activities that benefit your local birds or habitat, share it on the BirdSleuth Action Map.
  • Download and use the Feathered Friends lessons to help support learning and teaching through birds.

 

19 Comments

  1.  by  Valerie Vervoort

    I like this idea. The instructions would have been helped with instructions on decorating the containers. Thanks from the non-artist types.

    •  by  Kelly

      Hi Valerie! I would recommend using acrylic paint. It works on most plastic surfaces and is water-soluble so it is easy to clean off of work surfaces and will generally wash out of clothes. If the paint won’t stick to the plastic, I have had success with using a little bit of sandpaper to roughen the surface enough for the paint to stick.

  2.  by  Jay Styles

    I am looking for a bird seed cookie feeder recipe without harmful contents. I don’t want to use high fructose corn syrup and gelatin. Any ideas?

    •  by  Kelly

      I have seen some recipes out there that use coconut oil. This does involve heating the oil, so it may not be the best recipe to use with young kids. Unfortunately, I have not used one of these recipes personally, so I can’t recommend a particular one. Hopefully a quick internet search can turn one up that you like.

    •  by  CJ

      They are not listing ingredients that would be harmful to birds. Remember, they need lots of calories and protein during winter months. (Also, corn syrup, such as you would find in the baking aisle, is not the same thing as high fructose corn syrup, just FYI.)

    •  by  Jean Eng

      1. Most corn syrups you can buy are not “high fructose”. You are confusing simple corn syrup (easily found in grocery stores) with an unnatural sweetener made for commercial use. 2. What’s harmful about gelatin? It’s made from easily digestible proteins that birds can consume.

  3.  by  Hillary

    I have seen a number of these bird-seed cookie recipes, all of which talk about the cakes molding very quickly. If we were wanting to use these as gifts, how long would you say they last at room temp, and do you have any suggestions to extend their life?

  4.  by  Tom May

    Please Peanut Butter clogs up birds beaks I thought everyone knew that!

  5. Pingback: Bird-friendly Winter Gardens : Cornell Lab of Ornithology: BirdSleuth K-12

  6.  by  Carol

    Could almond butter be used instead of peanut butter? I am a teacher who would like to make bird feeders as a class project, but we are a peanut-free school.

    •  by  Cindy Heffley

      We also use shortening instead of peanut butter for the allergy issue. It gives the birds some extra fat!

        •  by  Steph

          I’ve used the spectrum vegetable oil shortening and it works fine, as does Crisco. And sunflower nut butter works too!

          I just tried the cookies with the gelatin and they seem to work so far– waiting for them to dry. We didn’t have any cookie cutters at the nature center where I work, so I tried it in some rubber animal track molds, which will be neat looking if they turn out!

  7.  by  Sue

    With the recycled bird feeders what stops the seed from pouring out through the bottom feed holes, as you instruct above to ‘fill the container.’ Am I missing something here, Just can’t understand how this works?

    •  by  BirdSleuth

      Hi Sue, the gravity and pressure keep the seeds compacted. You only make the hole large enough so birds can still pull seed out, but not too large that seeds freely flow out.

  8.  by  J Carter

    I use the empty rolls from aluminum foil, they are more sturdy than other rolls, cover with peanut butter and roll it in the seeds till it’s completely covered. It serves as a feeder and a perch at the same time, they love it and you can reuse the same roll several times over.

  9.  by  Rita

    I would use organic peanut butter that only has peanuts and maybe some sea salt. The regular peanut butter I would never eat myself. You can also make your own in a food processor.
    Mix 1 cup peanut butter with 2 cups Bird seed in ceramic bowl until blended well.
    Cover refrigerate 2 hours or more until firm.
    Put mixture on was paper, spread out in till half inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters.

    Another one, take a stale bagel (plain) . Tie a string around it through the hole. Spread organic peanut butter all over it, dip in Bird seed until covered. Tie string around tree branch or anything that hangs off the ground.

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