Birds can do a pretty good job of taking care of themselves. They’re happy with all sorts of bugs, worms and assorted bits of natural debris (fallen berries, seeds, pods, etc.). But if we enjoy their company and want to encourage them to hang around, setting up a few attractive “invitations” for them will do just the trick!
What catches their attention:
- Bird Feeders (continue reading for PLENTY of inspiration)
- Water Features (some here to wet your whistle)
- Housing (see this page for several ideas)
In harsh winter months though, their food options become quite limited and it can be a miserable job for them to find enough food to keep their wee bodies warm and energized.
We can help them throughout the cold weather season by setting out some edibles for them, but a good suet is especially beneficial since it contains high fat content (I’ve included a few options towards the bottom of this page for making a homemade batch).
In this resource sheet, I’ve put together quite the collection of ideas for setting up some convenient feeding bins & containers that you can make and then fill with their favorite victuals.
Depending on the kind of species you wish to attract will depend on the type of feeder and/or seed you use. For example, hummingbirds look for a totally different setup (see this page for all things “hummingbird”).
What You’ll Find Here:
The projects on this page are a mix of Tipnut Tutorials & Tips as well as dozens that I’ve handpicked from around the ‘net (what I consider the best of the best). They will suit quite a variety of feathered friends.
Because I have a few DIY instructions peppered throughout the collections, you’ll want to make sure to read all the way to the bottom so you don’t miss anything!
First up is a quick tutorial showing how to transform a sweet teacup into a lovely garden feature that entices our dear feathered friends with a fine dining option.
Next you’ll find the first collection of assorted Crafts/DIY/Upcycling bird feeders followed by pine cone treat instructions and the second collection showcasing over a dozen Woodworking projects (featuring only those that contain free plans).
Finishing things off are a few more ideas (suet recipes, etc.) and resources. Lot’s here to browse through, have fun!
Charming DIY Teacups
*First published July 13, 2009 and moved here for better organization
This project will not only add a touch of charm to your garden, it’s a great way to use those pretty china teacups and saucers you picked up at thrift markets and garage sales.
I love how the cup holds the food while the saucer makes a convenient perch for them (and keeps things tidy by catching stray seeds).
Here’s the easiest way I’ve found to make these…
- Teacup & Saucer
- 1/2″ Copper Tubing (Length will be the height you want the feeder to be plus a few inches)
- Copper Tubing End Cap (to fit the tubing)
- Epoxy Glue (clear)
- Copper Cutters
- Bird Seed
- Turn the teacup upside down and glue the saucer to the bottom of it.
- Glue the end cap to the bottom of the saucer.
- Allow to dry for 24 hours.
- Stick the copper tubing a few inches into the ground where you want the bird feeder placed, fit the teacup endcap onto the tubing. Make sure the copper tubing is in the ground deep enough that the feeder will stand securely.
- Fill the cup with food.
- Position the cup high enough to be out of reach for cats and other predators yet not too high that it will be awkward for you to re-fill.
- To hide the copper tubing, plant the feeder in a flowerbed where it can be covered by tall flowers and plants.
- Instead of copper tubing you can try a wooden dowel or post instead, for extra sturdiness affix a little wooden perch on top to hold the teacup and saucer (glued in place). Paint the wood or treat it to help it last longer in the elements.
- If you’d like to make one that hangs, use a ceramic drill bit to drill a hole in the center of the cup and saucer (or in three places around the inside edge of the saucer), attach chain(s) and hang from a tree branch.
- Teacups not your thing? Consider using pretty china bowls or teapots instead!
Free Bird Feeder Tutorials – Assorted Crafts
Birdhouse Neighborhood: Super sweet and so creative! Little craft store houses are painted and attached to a flat tray with lip (old baking tray, picture frame, et). Hung with string or twine.
Burlap Thistle Sock: It’s cheap, the weave is small enough that the seed won’t fall out and it’s more attractive than watching the birds eat from an old pantyhose :).
Cakes: Made with gelatin, birdseed, boiling water, molds, and hung by yarn or string.
Glass Candy Jar: A glass cylinder vase bought from Dollar Tree is glued between the lid and the base, finished piece hung by wire. The jar is tinted with glass paint. Clever!
Recycled Bottle: It’s amazing how a plastic bottle can be so transformed! 6″ wood disks; 1 wood ball finial; 2 standard Ball jar lids; 1 threaded crown bolt; 2 nuts; spray paint, eye hook.
Acorn: Now how clever is this, a thrifted wood bowl is the cap, wire mesh for the sides.
Shabby Chic: This one stacks assorted vases, saucers and cups together (held together with glue).
Tin Can: Lots of ways you can do this, but I like this DIY in particular because the ragged edge is protected by pre-cut foam flowers. Great idea!
Pumpkin Feeder: A pumpkin is cut in half, cleaned out and filled with seeds. Neat idea!
Instructions For Covered Pine Cone Seed Treats (Recipe)
*First published September 7, 2007 (moved to this page for better organization)
A little early for these yet since they should be set out when the weather is chilly enough for the peanut butter not to go rancid, but it’s nice to be reminded this time of year to snatch up all the pine cones you can–while you can get them free :).
6 large pine cones
6 strands of heavy duty string
1 1/2 C. bird seed
1 1/4 C. chunky peanut butter
1/2 C. cornmeal
1/2 C. vegetable shortening
- Securely tie a strand of string onto each pine cone.
- Melt the peanut butter and vegetable shortening over medium heat in a saucepan.
- Mix in cornmeal, heat for 3 – 5 minutes (stirring often).
- Pour mixture onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Roll pine cones in the mix and use a spoon or spatula to fill between the cracks.
- Dip the covered cones in seed.
- Chill or freeze until ready to use.
- Hang from tree branches in cold weather (fall and winter).
Quick Tip: You can forgo the string and just pile the cones in a chicken wire basket or a wire frame moss basket. I think it looks so much nicer and it gives the little fellas an interesting pile to work through.
For The Carpenter: Free Woodworking Plans
Porch Swing: This unique take brings in cardinals, titmice, woodpeckers, and more. Cut list and directions are available via pdf download.
Handsome: This project is built in two phases: Start by cutting all the parts to length and prepping for assembly – this part of the project is best done by an adult familiar with woodworking tools. Then you’ll need your favorite assistant to help assemble the rest.
Simple Platform: These are one of the most popular options for attracting feather friends, it’s easy to make and will cost less than $10 for supplies!
Cedar: A six-foot 1×6 cedar board will run you about $4 & the rest of the supplies you can “make do” with whatever you have lying around the house.
Cedar w/Plexiglass Sides: This is homemade but it looks better than what you can buy in the stores nowadays!
Gazebo: Simple for people to build, easy for their feathered friends to love. This fly-through gazebo-style has a simple yet attractive “hatbox” design.
With Perch: Super simple but does the trick! Assorted pieces of cedar (including a shingle), window screen, dowel and deck screws. Stands on a 4″ post.
How To Make Homemade Suet Cakes / Balls: Three Recipes
Good for Attracting:
Chickadees, Titmouse, Nuthatches, Wrens, Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Jays
These highly nourishing cakes are ideal for harsh winter months since they contain a good amount of fat, providing energy that our feathered friends need to keep warm on long, cold days.
Note: Avoid setting out after Spring, they’ll melt quickly and turn rancid in the heat.
*Once you’ve mixed the ingredients: (Recipes found below)
- Pack into molds (Ideas: ice cube trays; paper cups; muffin tins; cupcake wrapper lined tins; mini-bundt pans; the bottom of plastic soda bottles; bottom of milk cartons).
- You can also shape into balls with your hands or with an ice cream scoop.
- Put in fridge a couple hours or leave out overnight to harden.
- Remove from molds & hang from mesh bags or cages.
- If making a big batch, the extra can be stored in the freezer until you need them (just keep them wrapped).
Quick Project: Take a look at the bottom image of the banner to the right for an example. Staple some chicken wire around a trimmed tree branch to make a tube, put in a couple suet balls then close the end with a piece of the trimmed branch (held in place by more chicken wire). Easy!
Also visit this page on RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds): Speedy Cakes. Ingredients are mixed together then packed into empty yogurt containers to set. Once firm, hang cups upside down with a bit of twine or string. They have a nice video tutorial too with more ideas for working with suet.
Basic Recipe #1:
One part beef suet or vegetable suet or lard
Two parts bird seed mix
- Melt the suet on low, cool a bit then add the seed.
Vegetarian Option #2 (Source: audubon.org)
1 1/2 C. shortening (palm oil free)
3/4 C. nut butter (any kind)
3 1/2 C. wild bird seed
1 C. quick oats
1/2 C. corn meal
- Combine the first two ingredients in a bowl/pot and melt over low heat (either microwave or stove top).
- Cool a bit (but still liquid).
- Add the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
Simple Winter Mix #3: (source: naturecanada.ca)
2/3 C. coconut oil
2/3 C. black oil sunflower seeds
3 TBS peanut butter (no salt added)
3 TBS cornmeal
- Oats, corn kernels, peanuts out of the shell, and unsalted almond butter can also be added to the mixture.
- Melt coconut oil over low heat, add peanut butter.
- Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients, combine well.
- Pour into a shallow pan and leave to set.
- Cut into cakes and wrap individually to store in freezer.
Raised Dishes / Hanging Tart Tins / DIY Ideas
Not feeling too confident about your homemade/crafting abilities? Here are some simple ideas that do the job:
A tray with a raised edge for our friends to perch on is all that’s needed! Keep your eyes open in home decor shops, oftentimes they’ll have pretty ceramic pieces on sale that will work just fine.
You’ll want something that will hold up in inclement weather (meaning nothing with cork or fabric).
For a “floating” or “raised height” option, set a tomato cage deep in a flower bed so tall plants will camouflage the sides of the cage. Arrange the ceramic dish securely inside.
You’ll want a piece wide enough for the cage to be able to support the sides (use wire snips to trim the cage down if needed).
Old metal pie or tart tins can be easily altered by drilling a few holes then attaching a strands of chain for hanging.
Keep your eye out for old brick or cinder blocks with center holes that will contain edibles nicely. These can be found in home and garden stores as well as garage sales. Feel free to paint them if you’d like something bright and cheery.
If you have questions about:
Is peanut butter safe?
Isn’t vegetable shortening a laxative for them?
Is Crisco safe?
Does peanut butter choke them…What?
What kind of fruit pieces can I set out for them?
You’ll find these pages interesting reading:
- “The Great Crisco Debate” – The Suet vs. Lard vs. Shortening question (web archive link since page no longer online)
- A Guide to Feeding Wild Birds: It’s easy to attract them to your backyard if you know what to feed them.