These homemade bird feeders are a great way to give your local wild birds a real treat. You can make them at any time of year, but it’s particularly important to support wild birds in winter.
Why homemade bird feeders are great for feeding 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 food and *fat balls to keep your feathered friends happy, but making your own homemade bird feeders is simple to do. It’s also a lovely activity to get kids involved with.
How to make homemade bird feeders
Here’s how to make bird feeders with lard or other solid fats.
Homemade bird feeder recipe
You will need
Lard, suet or solid vegetable fat (this last option is great for vegetarian-friendly feeders)
Wild *bird food, 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
To make your bird feeders, start by mixing 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.
How to stop leaks!
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 our bird feeders overnight.
Hanging your homemade bird feeders in the garden
When the mixture is set, you can cut away the cup to remove the bird feeder. 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.
More ideas for easy homemade garden bird feeders
Here are a few more ideas for making your own wild bird feeders.
Fun shaped garden bird feeders
You can use the same fat and bird seed mixture to make homemade bird feeders in fun shapes too. Large shaped cookie cutters and hollowed out orange halves are perfect for this; check out my post on easy DIY bird feeders for kids for full instructions.
Easy drinks bottle DIY bird feeders
An empty drinks bottle and an old wooden spoon are great for making garden bird feeders with dry bird seed.
Wild bird feeders made from pumpkins
Pumpkins and squash make great bird seed feeders. We made this hanging bird feeder from half a hollowed-out pumpkin, sticks and string. Birds will love to eat the pumpkin as well as the bird food.
You could also use large oranges, grapefruits or coconuts for your bird food holder instead of a pumpkin.
Simple upcycled bird feeders for small birds
This is another super-simple idea for using an old plate or saucer to make a homemade bird feeder:
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, a homemade fat ball feeder is always 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 😉
More nature inspired craft and play ideas
Making bird feeders is just one of the fun nature projects in my new book, ‘A Year of Nature Craft and Play’. There’s a nature play activity for every week of the year and it includes fun crafts, gardening, games, art and science experiments – perfect for inspiring kids to get creative with nature and explore the amazing natural world.
You might also like to check out my post on 60 fun garden activities for when you’re stuck at home with the kids for more ways to keep them busy!
Do you think you’ll have a go at making your own homemade bird feeders? What bird feeders do you use to encourage wild birds to visit your garden?
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