Whether you’re a bird lover or a gardener who sees the benefit in having a thriving backyard with birds, making your own bird feeders is a great way to feed your backyard feathered friends. While I don’t always have bird feeders out, since they can also attract squirrels, I do like to use them in spring. These DIY bird feeders are a great project for kids, and the whole family can get involved in watching what kind of birds show up!
Should we feed birds with feeders?
Let’s start off this post with the ever-present question about whether we should actually feed birds with feeders. Some claim that it’s detrimental to bird populations to offer this “free food.” The birds may become dependent on the food source, stop migrating because of it, or even starve if it’s taken away. While there are all valid points, that seem logical, this article from Owlcation.com actually refutes some of these arguments.
His claim is that bird feeders can help to supplement our feather friends with extra calories and nutrients they may actually need, especially in the winter months. If you want specific information to your area, be sure to check with your local Cooperative Extension office.
What can you use to make bird feeders?
When the little gardeners and I decided to make some homemade bird feeders with a few of their friends, we went scrounging around the house and yard for supplies. There are many things around the house that can be used to create a bird feeder. But we did want to make sure that it was something that the birds won’t eat that could be hazardous. Here are some household items to use for homemade bird feeders:
- Toilet paper/paper towel rolls
- Paper plates
- pine cones
- Plastic lids
- Plastic bottles
- Peanut Butter (we stick to the natural kind, since I’m sure they don’t want any hydrogenated oils either, right?)
Using these household and backyard supplies, what kinds of bird feeders can we create? Here are four fun ideas for DIY bird feeders that are perfect for the whole family to get involved in!
Pine Cone Bird Feeder
What you’ll need for this pine cone bird feeder:
- Begin by choosing a pine cone that is open, this makes it much easier for the bird seed to have some place to “sit.”
- Using a plastic knife, spread peanut butter on the open pine cone. Once the cone is thoroughly covered, roll the cone around on a paper plate full of bird seed. Keep rolling until the cone is fairly well covered.
- Take a length of yarn or twine and tie it around the top of the pinecone. Make a loop at the other end of the yarn.
- Hang your pinecone bird feeder on a limb where it’s easy access to birds who may be perched on a nearby limb or branch.
Toilet Paper Tube Bird Feeder
What you’ll need for this homemade bird feeder:
- Begin by cutting your paper towel tube in half, if that’s what you’re using. Otherwise, take your toilet paper tube and begin covering it with peanut butter. (See a theme with these homemade bird feeders?)
- Take your peanut butter covered tube and place it in a plate filled with bird seed, rolling it around to cover. (It’s okay if the kids don’t cover the entire thing… see picture below.)
- Once tube is covered, leave it sitting in the dish, and thread a piece of yarn or twine through the tube. Tie both ends of the twine/yarn together, and hang your toilet paper tube bird feeder on a limb or branch.
- Be on the lookout for visitors to your new tube bird feeder! (And if you have extra tubes, don’t forget, they can always be composted!)
Orange Peel and Jelly Bird Feeder
This idea for a bird feeder actually came from my neighbor, an avid bird watcher. He has bird feeders and flowers galore, and I was so surprised by his grape jelly suggestion! Here’s what you’ll need for this bird feeder:
- Whole oranges
- Grape jelly
- Yarn or twine
- Begin by halving the orange and removing the fruit from inside. (Be sure to eat the fruit, or add it to a salad, like this Pomegranate Spinach Salad.)
- Using a small paring knife, make 3 small holes close to the top of the orange half. Take 3 equal length of twine and tie a knot at the end of each piece.
- Push each piece of twine, unknotted end first, through one of the holes in your orange peel, and pull it through until the knot stops it.
- Then gather the loose ends of your twine and tie them together in a knot. This is how your orange peel will hang.
- Next, fill your orange “cup” with good quality grape jelly.
- Hang your orange and grape jelly bird feeder on a nearby branch or twig and see what comes to investigate!
Simple Paper Plate Bird Feeder
This last DIY bird feeder is perfect for that paper plate that you used for the peanut butter feeders above. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Begin by punching 3 holes along the edge of your paper plate.
- Next, cut three lengths of string or yarn of equal length. Tie a knot in one end of each piece of yarn.
- Push each of the unknotted yarn ends into one of the holes in the plate, pulling it through until it’s stopped by the knot.
- Then gather the loose ends of yarn, and tie them together at the top. This creates your “hanger” for your paper plate.
- Fill your paper plate with bird seed and hang it on a branch or limb for the birds.
Note: if you’re having a difficult time keeping the bird seed on the plate (i.e. wind), then feel free to spread peanut butter (or grape jelly) thinly on the plate first to create a sticky surface.
So however you choose to treat your backyard feathered friends, just know that some extra calories in the winter may be just what they need. And these DIY bird feeders take just minutes to make and can easily be packed up in plastic bags to give as gifts to friends and neighbors. These are also great activities to do in a classroom if you’re working on an ornithology unit or studying nature!
Thank you for stopping by, and feel free to leave a comment if you have another suggestion for a DIY bird feeder!