Making a recycled bird feeder

JoCraft & Baking, Editor's Pick, Family Life

Recycled bird feeder in a tree

The birds are back in town, or strictly speaking, our gardens. Busily hunting for food their presence presents a great opportunity for making a recycled bird feeder to hang outside. It could adorn a bare branch or an empty hanging basket bracket. What’s more this is a lovely creative task that can be enjoyed as a family.

Many birds don’t migrate for the winter. They brave the cold elements of the UK and find nourishment from winter berries, fallen seeds and sheltering mini beasts. Towards the end of the winter though, the natural world isn’t entirely synchronised. Whilst food sources start to dwindle, and new plant growth and insect life is yet to flourish, some birds are already eyeing up their preferred nesting place for the season ahead. During this time, I notice a real buzz of activity around our bird feeders. This gives us an opportunity to provide a helping hand in bridging the gap between supply and demand.

What do wild birds eat?

Below I have detailed how we make a simple recycled bird feeder from an empty drinks carton. Before I leap into that though, here are some ideas of food that you can leave out to help your winter visitors:

  • Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein and unsaturated fat, and are sure to go down well. If possible, put out sunflower hearts, which will save the birds the task of de-husking them;
  • Crushed peanuts or peanuts offered within a suitable feeder are another super source of protein;
  • Fat balls or fat blocks are a good source of energy. You can make one of these yourself, or buy from a reputable store;
  • Cereals in small quantities can offer a good food source too. You could try threading some on a string and hanging it in a bush, hedge or tree;
  • Grated cheese is often appreciated by smaller birds such as wrens or dunnocks. I tend to put this on our bird table to prevent it being snaffled up by our dogs, but you could scatter it along the edge of your garden or in a border too;
  • Apples and pears that are perhaps a little past their best for you, may be ideal for the birds, If you can, halve them to make it easer for little beaks to peck out the goodness!

Making a feeder

Making a recycled bird feeder for your outdoor space doesn’t need to be an onerous task. The one that we are demonstrating here was made with my 7 year old and took just a few minutes! Below are the simple steps that we followed to turn a carton destined for recycling, into a handy feeder for our feathered visitors.

Empty drinks carton
  • Choose what you are going to use carefully. A drinks carton is ideal as it provides basic waterproofing so it won’t go totally soggy in the rain. Alternatively you could use some string and a plastic tray. You would just need to explore drainage options for that so it doesn’t fill up with water and leave you and your visitors with a mushy mess.
  • With our drinks carton, we carefully cut two large holes at the front and back. These will be used as openings for the birds to get in and out of.
Carton with holes cut out
  • Using a pencil, we made small holes through the sides to poke natural sticks through. This will give the birds somewhere to perch, both in front of and within the feeder.
  • Making an additional hole at the top, and using the existing pouring hole, we threaded some string through so that we could hang our recycled bird feeder up. We chose to put ours in a tree, but you could use an unoccupied hanging basket hook, or loop over the top of a fence post. Just take care not to put it directly in the path of local predators, such as cats.
Recycled bird feeder
Feeder in a tree

Extra features

When we have made these recycled bird feeders previously, we have also painted them. You may choose to do this as a way of either brightening up your garden, or to help them blend in!

Final point

Sadly it is common for diseases to spread quickly through the natural world, and birds often fall victim to various illnesses. It is therefore really important that feeders are kept clean. I would recommend washing them once a week, and making sure that fresh drinking water is changed as often as possible too (I clean the water in our garden almost every day). If you have used a drinks carton or plastic tray, this cleaning process is pretty quick and simple as well. It also allows you to keep an eye on the general wear and tear of your feeder. When it is no longer fit for purpose, give it a final clean and check your local recycling to see if it will be accepted there.

If you want to read more about recycling, you might be interested in – Playing Our Part: Recycling More.