These homemade bird feeders are a great way to give your local wild birds a real treat. You can make a bird feeder 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 in colder months.
Providing a winter food source (such as a winter bird feeder) for birds is not just a perfect way to help your local wildlife. Encouraging a lot of birds to visit your garden will supply you with plenty of interest during the cold winter months.
How do you make a simple bird feeder?
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 of all ages involved with.
How to make homemade bird feeders
Here’s how to make easy 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)
Homemade bird seed mix. 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 own 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, pop them on a plate or cookie sheet and put them in the fridge to set. This can take quite a while; we usually leave our bird feeders overnight.
Hanging your handmade 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.
Fun things to do after you’ve made your DIY bird feeders
Here are some questions you might like to explore with the kids once your homemade bird feeders are in position.
- Could you do some bird watching and keep a diary of the different birds who visit your homemade feeder?
- What time of day are your feeders most popular? Why do you think this is?
- Do particular types of bird visit at the same time each day? Can you think about why this might happen?
- How long does it take for your own DIY bird feeder to disappear?
- If you hang more than one feeder in the garden, is one more popular than the others? Why might this be?
These are all a fun way to help kids learn about their local wildlife, and encourage them to stay engaged with the garden all year round.
More ideas for easy homemade garden bird feeders
Looking for more ideas for bird feeders? Here are some great variations on homemade 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 easy DIY bird feeder for kids post for full instructions on this great project.
Easy drinks bottle DIY bird feeder for kids – make a bird feeder out of a bottle
This easy way to make your own bird feeder with waste household items is so much fun. Empty plastic bottles or (empty plastic milk jugs) and old wooden spoons or a wooden dowel are great for making bird feeders with dry bird seed.
Simply make small holes in opposite sides of the bottles or plastic containers, push a thin dowel or wooden spoon through, pop the lid back on, fill with bird seed, and use a piece of twine to hang the feeder up.
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; my pumpkin bird feeder post has a step-by-step guide to this great craft. 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. You could even grow sunflowers and use the seed heads to feed backyard birds.
Pine cone bird feeders
You can make a simple bird feeder with a pine cone – so quick and easy!
This video shows you how to make pinecone bird feeders with peanut butter, but you can also use vegetable fat or lard if a peanut butter bird feeder isn’t an option due to peanut allergies.
Simple upcycled bird feeders for small birds
This is another easy bird feeder crafts idea – perfect for a rainy day. Just use 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 bird species 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 a simple bird feeder diy is just one of the fun nature projects in my 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, nature games, art and science experiments – perfect for inspiring kids to get creative with nature and explore the amazing natural world. You might like to take a look at my other book *‘A Year of Nature Walks and Games’ too.
You might also like to check out my posts on spring nature crafts, autumn nature crafts, winter nature crafts, 60 fun garden activities for when you’re stuck at home with the kids, and Twinkl’s winter activities for families resource for more ways to keep them busy!
I’ve also got a useful post on how to garden for wildlife, this has lots of other ideas for making your garden more wildlife friendly that children can join in with. You could even grow some low maintenance outdoor plants in pots with the kids, or have fun with some bee puns.
And finally, take a look at this post on how to keep greedy squirrels off bird feeders.
Do you think you’ll have a go at making your own homemade bird feeders? What birdseed feeder do you use to encourage wild birds to visit your garden?
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