As we're heading into winter, the garden birds will definitely need feeding, and there are lots of different fun projects for homemade bird feeders to make with children. Here are some of our favourite easy (although often messy) ideas.
Basic recipe for fat and seed based feeders
For any of the feeders which require a fatty seedy mush, children can help to measure the different ingredients, and can have a lot of fun squidging it all together.
This is very gooey and sticky and greasy. Make sure you are near to some hot water and soap to get the grease off their hands when they are finished.
Have a large bowl for mixing because it needs quite a lot of squidging and in small bowls the seeds can end up going flying!
Make sure that no one involved in this activity is allergic to any of the ingredients because of the close hand contact and the possibility of breathing in particles when mixing.
Here is the basic recipe for a fat based mix:
- suet or lard chopped into cubes and left to reach room temperature
- some good quality bird seed
- some kind of fruit - raisins, chopped apricots, or grated apple
- optional high fat extras like peanuts or grated cheese
- optional starchy extras like popcorn (popped or unpopped) or oats
Mix these in a big bowl and squidge together with the fingers until the mixture is all holding together.
Add the mixture to any of the containers below.
Pine cones make brilliant bird feeders to make with children because the children can push the mixture into all the little spaces. You can also use nut butter and seeds or popcorn if you prefer.
Plant pots make a great feeder because you can thread the string for tying them up through the pre-made holes in the bottom, no drilling of holes required. Because they are stiff the children can really press the mixture in without fear of being heavy handed and breaking it, as can sometimes happen with things like orange shells. Small pots are best otherwise the mixture becomes too heavy and drops out.
Coconut shells are brilliant holders and if there is still a bit of coconut flesh left in that you couldn't scrape out, that's ok as it is high in energy. A grown up needs to drill or poke a hole through before filling. Use a strong string so the birds have something to hook onto to peck the filling out until there is enough shell to perch on. If you have a hacksaw and can cut a section out like the bottom picture, it makes a great perch for the birds while they eat.
If you have some slightly bumped windfall apples, you can make use of them by getting the children to push seeds into the surface and place them on your bird table.
If you have small offcuts of branches, with a few bits sticking out, you can make this cool feeder. Knock a hook into the top and thread through some string. Then the children can make a basic sweet dough of flour, fat (or suet) and a small amount of seeds or fruit, and then the children can squash it into all the joints of the branch. If someone in the house has a drill, you can drill some holes through the branch and children can push the dough or the normal fat mixture into the holes too.
Cereal necklaces are a fun indoor craft project which can then be used for feeding birds. A large child-safe needle, some sturdy wool, and some hooped cereal is all you need. Tying one end of the wool to a chair, as in the picture, is great for keeping the cereal from falling off the end while children build up the string. These necklaces can be tied anywhere in the garden, making sure they are taught so that birds can't get tangled, or they can be tied into tight loops. You can also make the same thing by threading them onto pipe cleaners and making a loop in one end to hang them up.
If you want to show your child what they will need to do to make their feeder, they can watch this fab and charming video of three year old Archie making his collection of bird feeders, from Dawn Isaac's