Are you feeding your garden birds this winter? These homemade bird feeders are a great way to give them a helping hand!
Why it’s important to feed wild birds in winter
Winter is a tough time of year for wild birds, as natural food sources such as insects and berries are scarce. Also, birds need lots of energy-rich food to maintain fat reserves, which are called upon most when temperatures drop.
Providing a winter food source for birds is not only a great way to help your local wildlife; encouraging birds to visit your garden will supply you with plenty of interest during the winter months.
You can buy a wide variety of *bird seed and *fat balls to keep your feathered friends happy, but making your own homemade bird feeders is simple, low-cost and a lovely activity to get kids involved with. Here’s how to do it.
Homemade bird feeder recipe
You will need
Lard, suet or solid vegetable fat (this last option is great for vegetarian-friendly feeders)
Wild *bird seed, oats, breadcrumbs, sultanas, currants, unsalted peanuts (you don’t need all of these, a mixture of any is fine)
Empty, clean paper cups or yoghurt pots
Easy DIY bird feeder instructions
First you need to mix your dry ingredients in a bowl. We’ve found that a ratio of about 2 parts dry to 1 part fat/suet works well.
Melt the lard or suet in a saucepan, then add it to your dry ingredients and stir until everything is well mixed. Supervise children very carefully while doing this. I let mine do some mixing, but handle the heating and pouring myself to avoid any risk of burns.
Once your ingredients are well-mixed, leave them to cool a little while you prepare your paper cups. This will make the mixture safer to handle, but will also mean you get less leakage.
Cut a 40cm length of string. Use a pencil to make a small hole in the bottom of each paper cup, and thread the string through. Leave about 10cm on the outside of the cup, and about 20cm on the inside of the cup.
Tie a double knot in the string at the base of the cup, on the outside. It’s a good idea to put a small circle of cardboard with a hole in the centre at the bottom before tying the knot, this will help stop the feeder slipping off the string.
Fill the cup with your food mixture, making sure to pack it down quite tightly. Try to keep the string in the middle of the cup.
Once you’ve filled all your cups, put them in the fridge to set. This can take quite a while; we usually leave ours overnight.
Hanging your homemade bird feeders in the garden
When the mixture is set, you can cut away the cup. This can be a bit fiddly, so it’s best left to the adults and older children. Have some kitchen roll handy too, you’ll get quite greasy!
The knotted string is at the bottom of the feeder. Use the string at the other end to hang it up outdoors.
Remember to position your homemade bird feeders where you can see them from the house, and out of the reach of cats.
Once your homemade bird feeders are in position, you could try making a diary of the bird varieties who visit. This is a fun extension of the activity for kids, and also a nice way to maintain interest in the garden over the winter months.
If you’d like to try making some different shapes of bird feeder, check out my other post on fun bird feeders.
How long do homemade bird feeders last?
The answer to this question depends very much on how many birds there are visiting your garden. In our experience, homemade bird feeders are demolished in a matter of days – much more quickly than shop-bought ones. Our local birds clearly think they taste better!
You may also find that once you start providing homemade bird feeders, more and more birds will visit your garden. I think they must be spreading the word that there are rich pickings on offer 😉
Do you think you’ll have a go at making your own homemade bird feeders? What do you use to encourage wild birds to visit your garden?