Head down to your local garden centre on a mission to buy a bird feeder and you’ll find feeders of all shapes and styles.
You’ll no doubt see long, tubular models: some made of wire with squares of various sizes designed to let all manner of beaks get at the feed inside. There’ll probably be attractive ceramic affairs, too: little hanging domes that one or two birds can perch on at suppertime.
Further to the two types mentioned above you’ll probably also see feeding stations, birdhouses with removable food trays, fat balls, window feeders, and myriad others – all testament to the power of free-market capitalism and human creativity to overwhelm us with choice, possibly to the point of indecision.
If, like us, you just want something simple and reliable to attract birds into your garden, then let us help. In this article we’ve pulled together three simple bird feeder ideas that you can make with things you’ve got laying around the house.
No specialist tools are involved, and there’s no expectation to go down to B&Q for a job lot of timber.
These bird feeder ideas are fantastic activities for kids (with adult supervision, of course), but they’re also perfectly suited to grown-up gardeners looking to give their local birdies somewhere to chow down of an evening.
Let’s start with something rather intriguing…
While researching options for homemade bird feeders, we came across this enchanting solution on the CBeebies website! Not where we expected to find ideas, but captivating nonetheless.
We included this in our guide because it’s the perfect blend of charming and easy to make. All you need is an apple, a handful of seeds, two short sticks, and a length of string.
And here’s what you need to do:
- Poke a hole through the apple with the sharpened end of a stick, top to bottom.
- Thread the string through the resulting hole.
- Use the string to bind the two sticks together in an X shape at the bottom of the apple: this is the platform the birds will perch on!
- Poke the seeds into the surface of the apple: the birds will eat these as well as the apple itself.
- Tie the top of the string to a branch or other suitable spot.
- Wait for the birds to arrive!
Isn’t it simple? This bird feeder shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to make, and is a great place to start for beginners. You’ll attract birds without having to spend too much time or money to do so.
While we’re on the subject of bird feeders made of food, let us introduce you to fruit hoops. Here you thread a selection of bird-friendly foodstuffs onto some wire, curl it into a circle, then hang it up for nearby birds to visit.
Again, this doesn’t require any specialist gear or tools. In fact, the equipment list only varies slightly from the apple bird feeder. Here’s what you’ll need:
- An apple
- Some cheese (a hard cheese like cheddar or red Leicester works best)
- Garden wire
The steps are simple, too:
- Cut your apple and cheese into cubes (feel free to eat a couple of pieces while you’re at it: we would).
- Cut a length of wire, about 30cm.
- Thread raisins and pieces of apple and cheese along the wire until it’s full.
- Twine the two ends of the wire together, then tie one end of the string around this.
- Use the other end of the string to suspend the fruit hoops from a branch or other suitable surface.
You’ll be amazed how quickly birds scope out these new feeding spots in your garden. You may also be amazed how quick and easy these two bird feeders are to make as well: both well suited to making again and again as birds consume the originals.
One thing about both of these feeders is that they are perishable, meaning you’ll have to replace them after a while whether the birds eat them or not. If you’re looking for something a little more permanent however, read on.
Here’s another bird feeder you can make out of materials you’ve got kicking around the house. This is a permanent feeder with drainage holes to keep food fresh, and that can easily be refilled as and when the birds finish off the food inside.
The list of things you’ll need is short and sweet:
- A plastic bottle
- Two sticks, each about twice the width of the bottle
- Bird seed
- A drawing pin
The instructions are fairly easy, too. If you’re doing this activity with kids make sure they’re well supervised, and that an adult helps with scissors!
Here’s how to make a bird feeder out of a plastic bottle:
- Use the pin to make small holes on opposite sides at the bottom of the bottle, about 2cm from the bottom.
- Use scissors to make the hole wider: wide enough that the sticks can go through.
- Repeat this step by making holes 2cm above the first, at a 90 degree angle so that the two sticks form a cross shape.
- Poke a couple of holes in the bottom of the bottle for drainage. Use the scissors to make these bigger as well, but not quite as big as the stick holes.
- About 3cm above the ends of each stick, poke another hole. Then use the scissors to cut these out so they’re a few millimetres in diameter.
- Fill the bottle with seeds. Make sure the holes are big enough for a seed to be pulled through, but not so big that they’ll spill out.
- Screw the lid onto the bottle.
- Poke a hole each side of the lid, and poke the string through each hole.
- Suspend the bottle above the ground by tying the other two ends of the string together above a branch or other surface.
And here’s what the end product should look like:
While birds are inevitably hungry creatures, they can’t eat everything. Understanding what to feed birds is a good way to make sure your bird feeders help them to get the nutrients they require, putting them in good stead to survive the lean months.
According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), here’s what winged critters like to eat.
In the summer birds need protein-rich foods like oatmeal, sultanas, cheese, sunflower seeds, and mealworms. Avoid peanuts, bread, and other high-fat food. Soft fruits are OK as well.
This is the time of year where birds are moulting, meaning they need food that helps with the production of feathers.
In these months, birds are building their fat reserves to help them through the tougher, colder winter conditions. This means your priority should shift from high protein food to food with a high-fat content!
Use things like peanuts, suet, mixed seeds, mealworms, cracked corn, fruit, fat balls, and more. You’ll begin to see which foods go down well: make sure to put these out again. If something doesn’t get eaten, remove it and avoid putting it out again. Over time you’ll get a feel for what the birds in your garden like to eat.
Once you get into the rhythm of feeding birds in your garden, you’ll start to see the same cast of colourful visitors. Maybe you’ll see the blue and yellow streaks of a blue tit? Or perhaps the red face markings of a goldfinch?
Whatever birds you manage to attract to your garden, make sure to be gentle and careful around them. Birds like to feel secure and safe while they’re eating, and if they’re scared too much while having their feed they may be wary of coming back.
Making homemade bird feeders is a lovely way to connect with your local wildlife. Having made the feeders yourself, you’ll feel more invested and rewarded when birds come to use them. And over time, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to add a few extra feeding spots around your garden!
This is great, as a variety of food types and feeders opens up your outdoor space to a wider range of flying visitors.
We hope the three feeder ideas in this article make a good starting point for your bird feeder adventures, and that you manage to attract some pretty birds to your garden!