Gardening with children and watching the birds flitting to and from a bird feeder is a fun experience that is both relaxing and exciting. Children enjoy watching the ways birds interact with one another and are thrilled when a favourite bird stops by for a snack. By creating their own edible feeders for the birds, they’ll add a level of participation to watching local wild birds from their garden.
Pine Cone Bird Feeders
Go outside and collect some pinecones. Look for ones with opened scales (those pieces that overlap) as opposed to a smooth cone with closed scales. Tie a piece of yarn around one end of the pine cone. It doesn’t matter which direction the scales open – either pointing up or pointing down. Pointing downward looks more natural, pointing upward may hold onto the seed a little better.
Use a spoon or butter knife to spread peanut butter or vegetable shortening all over the pine cone, pushing some into the nooks and crannies created by the open scales. Pour some birdseed into a cake pan. Roll the pinecone in the seed until it is coated. Set aside on a plate.
Cover all the pinecones and then bring outside and hang in a small tree or shrub. Avoid placing the feeder too close to the end of a branch where the birds may not have enough support to reach the seed.
String plain popped popcorn onto strong thread using a tapestry needle or craft wire. Younger children will have an easier time working with a shorter piece while older children can push the popcorn along a lengthier piece. Drape the garland over branches so the birds can perch on a twig and reach the popcorn. If the popcorn breaks into little pieces while threading it, try making a garland using circular-shaped unsweetened oat cereal. Incorporate uncooked cranberries into either garland.
Cookies for the Birds
Press a cookie cutter into a stale slice of bread. (Optional: toast the bread to make it firmer.) Thread a piece of yarn through the bread, near the top of the ornament and tie in a loop. Use a spatula or butter knife to spread peanut butter or vegetable shortening over one, or both, sides of the bread. Set the coated bread into a pan of birdseed. Set on a plate to carry outside and hang from a tree or shrub.
If possible, place the feeders near a window where everyone in the house can look out and enjoy the view of the birds. Remember that birds feel safest when they have protection when they eat. Out in the open feeders that don’t get visited within a day or two should be moved to an area where there are more branches to offer protection. A clothesline can be an option if there are close by trees and shrubs.
Each of these feeders uses items found in the kitchen. Vegetable shortening is an effective option for children with peanut butter allergies. Use mixed bird seed or black oil sunflowers to entice the birds toward your homemade feeders. Children can celebrate the birds in their garden with a treat for themselves – a chocolate and cereal bird nest to eat.