Make Your Own Bird Feeders
Making your own bird feeders for year-round use can be a lifeline for many birds. Most people think of feeding birds during the harsher winter months. However, food shortages can occur all through the year. During springtime, late frosts and wet weather can spell disaster particularly for insect eating birds. During summer, droughts or flooding can be equally as devastating.
For this reason, making the right type of food available at different times of the year is important. For instance, a homemade fat or suet feeder is not suitable for the warmer winter months, as they may be subject to fungal growths. Likewise, whole peanuts and other large seeds could prove fatal if taken back to the nest for chicks during periods of food shortage.
So whilst making your own bird feeders is admirable, make sure that you are putting the right sort of food out at the right time of year. You can find more information regarding this and bird feeder hygiene on the RSPB website.
Fat Feeders for Winter MonthsDuring the later autumn, winter and cooler beginnings of spring, many birds will take full advantage of hanging or ground fat feeders. Fat is a vital source of energy that will help to keep birds warm in the sub-zero temperatures, helping to see them through the long winter nights.
There are two different ways to make fat feeders for birds. The first is in the form of a Fat Cake. This is literally a wedge of fat mixed in with other energy-rich foods like seed and berries, which can be hung up or put on ground feeders.
To make a Fat Cake you'll need the following:
- Wild Bird Seed Mix (not salted peanuts)
- Vegetable Suet or Lard
- Empty Yoghurt Pots or Small Plastic Containers
- Mixing Bowl
The amount of suet and birdseed you need depends entirely on how many Fat Cakes you intend to make. However, the basic ration is that for every measure of suet that you use, you'll need two measures of wild birdseed.
To start you'll need to cut the suet into small chunks and mix in with the dry birdseed in the mixing bowl. Once the mixtures are evenly combined, transfer the suet and seed into a saucepan. You'll need a gentle heat to melt down the suet until it is absorbed and the mixture is sticking together.
Whilst the fat is melting, you can prepare your containers. You'll need to make a small hole in the bottom of the pots, through which you can thread some garden twine. Knot the twine at the end and leave enough twine to tie to the tree branch or feeder stand.
Once the fat has been thoroughly melted, you can then transfer the mixture into your pots and containers. Leave the mixture to set in the fridge overnight, after which you can cut the pot and remove the fat cake. It can then be hung outside ready for the birds.
Pine Cone Fat FeederAn alternative to the Fat Cake is the Pine Cone Feeder. As you may expect, you'll need to collect a few pine cones - the larger the better.
To make a pine cone fat feeder you can simply attach a pine cone to a piece of string and dip into melted suet or fat, before rolling in wild birdseed. Alternatively, using a blunt or palette knife, you could apply a coating of peanut butter to the pine cone, again before rolling in wild birdseed. The pine cones can then be hung out or placed on the ground for ground feeding birds.
An alternative to the pine cone fat feeder is a small branch or log with holes drilled in and filled with suet and seed mix.
Recycled Bird FeederYou can make your own recycled bird feeder using just a simple used plastic squash or soft drinks bottle, or a used plastic milk carton. Make sure that you thoroughly wash and dry the bottle before use.
Then, leaving the bottle lid on, cut a small hole around half way down the bottle. The hole should be just about big enough so that the birds can access the seeds, and the seed itself can flow down, but not so large that the seed dribbles out at the slightest breeze!
You should also add in a few small holes at the bottom of the bottle, to aid drainage in case any rainwater finds it's way into the feeder. A few small holes at the top of the feeder will also encourage ventilation, helping to reduce moisture that may encourage fungal growths.
Then using garden wire, you can make a small hook and fix to the bottle screw cap. The recycled bird feeder can then be hung out on a branch. Make sure that you replace the feeder with a new bottle if it starts to go green or appears mouldy at all.