Making your outdoor space inviting for local garden birds is one of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on your local ecosystem. Installing bird feeders provides filling meals for birds that spend most of their days hard at work foraging for themselves and their nestlings. Come migration season, your garden feeder will also give certain species the essential energy needed for their long haul flights. For the birds that stay behind during winter, they’re a lifesaver when snowfall and ground frost make usual food sources impossible to reach.
Make feathered friends
Learning about food webs and the importance of caring for animals of all sizes should be encouraged in children from a young age. Having a water source and different varieties of food between feeders will tempt more species to drop by and contribute to your backyard safari. You could make a garden bird ‘eye-spy’ checklist that your household could use to keep track of the different species you see and encourage young budding bird watchers to photograph or draw the daily guests to the garden.
If these weren’t reasons enough to encourage you to get your feeders on the go, birds keep slugs and other pests intent on devouring your plant beds under control, so you don’t have to resort to harsh chemicals and pellets.
There are countless ways to make bird feeders, depending on what craft materials you have at home, and whether you’re looking to make them a permanent refillable fixture, or would prefer to make entirely edible ones using regular items all from your grocery list.
1. Cookie-cutter feeders
These are good looking enough to hang as Christmas tree decorations but are far better put to use outdoors. This is a simple enough craft to do even with toddlers.
- Empty 2 sachets of gelatin into a mixing bowl, and add as much boiling water as the packet instructs - make sure your little ones are out of the way when pouring the water.
- Stir until the gelatin is fully dissolved.
- Add 500ml of birdseed with a few dried fruits and nuts added in if you’d like. The finer the birds feed is the better it will keep the shape of the cookie cutter.
- Stir it all together until there’s no water left at the bottom and the seed is evenly coated.
- Lay your cookie cutters or molds on some greaseproof paper on a tray and fill them with the mixture. Use another piece of baking paper laid over the top to pat them down flat to make sure the molds are packed nice and tightly and won’t crumble.
- Press pieces of drinking straw firmly near the top of each cookie cutter, to punch the hole that will be used to hang them.
- Put them in the fridge to set for a couple of hours, or overnight if you’re patient enough. Remove the straw segments and pop the feeders out of the molds.
- Thread a piece of ribbon or twine through the hole, tie onto a branch, then wait and watch to see who comes to nibble at them!
2. Pine Cones Feeders
Coat ice cream cones or pine cones in peanut butter (or any nut butter) and roll in fine birdseed until they’re fully coated. You can use a knotted pipe cleaner poked through the base of the ice cream cone to hang them. Instead of throwing out apples that are slightly past their prime, or the orange you juiced for breakfast these can also be put to good use. Half the apple, scoop out some of the flesh to fill with nut butter and birdseed, and fill the empty orange halves with the mixture like biodegradable bowls!
3. Classy color block feeder
Personally, I’m not so keen on feeders made from plastic drinks bottles - as they always remain recognizable as just that - a plastic bottle. Opt for one of the more chic upcycling options that will look more at home in your stylish outdoor space. I love this idea which makes ingenious use of a clear tennis ball or shuttlecock tube.
Use any type of house paint, premium quality acrylic paint or outdoor acrylic paint to make sure your feeder is all-weatherproof. When you pick your colors to consider the palette of your existing outdoor furniture and the tree or wall where you’re going to hang them.
- Create your pattern with masking or painter’s tape - you could opt for stripes of different width, a simple singular color block, an eye-catching chevron or zigzag pattern, whatever you feel like!
- Paint your design with a good quality bristle brush or sponge to get an even coating with no visible strokes. For an extra professional finish, you can apply two layers of paint.
- When the paint has completely dried you can proceed to the most satisfying part. Carefully peel off the tape to reveal your (hopefully) perfectly crisp design.
- With a permanent marker mark, a straight line the width of a large popsicle stick near the bottom of the feeder and carefully use a scalpel to make the slit. Once you’ve made sure the popsicle stick fits snugly, make an identical slit on the opposite side.
- Cut a small triangle above both of the two slits which will allow the little portions of birdseed to pour onto the popsicle sticks for your hungry garden guests. Slot the popsicle stick through.
- Thread a ribbon or piece of string through the top lid and knot it to make a loop to hang it pride of place in your chosen branch.
4. Afternoon Tea Inspired Feeder
This idea is a great way to repurpose thrift shop finds or lightly chipped and cracked crockery that would otherwise be thrown out. Glazed ceramics are weatherproof so these kinds of feeders are low maintenance and so should serve many generations of robins and chickadees to come.
- Make sure your chosen cup and saucer have been properly cleaned and dried.
- Squeeze a small amount of E6000 glue (or another similar strength adhesive) on the edge of the saucer.
- Upturn the teacup onto its side and angle it as you’d like. Let it fully dry for a day.
- Use a matching piece of ribbon, or hook to hang, fill it with bird food and wait for your guests to arrive!
Thanks for reading.
- Josie from Essen Team