Birdhouses by nerdy Etsy artist Ben Mayer
In our family, spring means digging out the bird feeders from the basement, then watching the cat’s tail twitch in the window as he plots the murders of the first colorful birds nibbling tenuously on our offering. (Don’t worry, he’ll never catch anything.)
Making your own bird feeders is a great way to teach kids a variety of skills, from carpentry to conservation. Any family with a little skill and commitment can easily find a DIY bird feeder project to suit their style.
Pick your seed carefully
You might think that birdseed is just birdseed, but picking the right type of seed can help optimize the number of birds you attract and cut down on unwanted side effects. Don’t forget the main purpose of seeds is to grow into things. You’re definitely going to want to purchase non-germinating birdseed, unless you don’t mind weeds growing beneath the feeder (and pretty much everywhere else the birds go.)
Choosing the right seed is also a great opportunity to teach kids about local birding. Use this time to observe the birds that frequent your neck of the woods, and work with your kids to identify local species. Then teach them to consult a table like this one to pick out the seed that will best attract your feathered neighbors.
Now that you’ve picked out your birdseed, it’s time to determine what sort of feeder project you’d like to tackle. Do you want to cut a hole in a milk carton and be done with it? Or would you rather bust out that old miter saw and teach the kids about carpentry? Either way, the birds will flock and your kids (and cats and bears) will enjoy the show.
Choose the Right Paint
If you’re really going to use your feeder to attract and nourish your backyard birds, there’s a few things you need to consider if you’re going to paint your creation. Your paint should be non-toxic, preferably water-based latex paint. Don’t paint around the edge of the opening or inside the feeder, since birds could accidentally ingest paint chips.
You’ll also want to keep colors neutral if possible. White is best, since it will reflect heat to make a comfy environment for baby birds. Bright colors may attract predators, and dark colors may absorb heat, making the feeder too hot. These considerations are even more important if you’re making a house that birds will live in, rather than just a feeder.
This project is one of the best ways to teach kids about recycling and repurposing. Any old container in your home can be made into a birdfeeder, just be creative.
We’re pretty sure you can figure out how to make this milk carton feeder without our instructions, but just in case you wanted a little reassurance, just cut yourself a big hole, and a few little holes on top to put a string through. Couldn’t be easier! If you’d like craft time to be longer than the five minutes cutting the carton would take your kids, grab some paint.
A plastic gallon milk jug also makes a great feeder. Cut large holes in the sides, and add optional smaller holes to stick dowels through so the birds can perch comfortably as they snack. Wrap wire around the top of the jug and finish off with a loop, then thread string or twine through so you can hang your feeder from a branch. A bonus to this project is that permanent markers are a great way to decorate, so you don’t need to worry about the paint factor.
Bottles of all sorts make great feeders as well. To make this one, you’ll need a few extra wooden spoons, a small eye screw and some string or twine. Cut holes for the spoons, then slightly bigger holes right above the spoons so the seed can spill out. Screw the small eye screw into the lid of the bottle, or simply skip this step and tie the string around the bottle’s neck.
Want to teach your kids that reducing your environmental footprint can be fun and yield beautiful things? By using biodegradable items you probably already have, you can spark your kid’s creativity and make your garden the place to be for all the neighborhood birds.
To make this orange rind feeder, just empty out the orange and poke holes in the sides to thread the string through. This can be done with any citrus rind, especially lemons. Use a variety of oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit rinds to add a splash of color to your summer garden. And make a fruit salad while you’re at it.
To make these “bird cookies,” check out Design Sponge’s tutorial. This is a great chance to use all those geeky cookie cutters you’ve been collecting!
Ah, the classic peanut butter pinecone. Just go outside and scout some pinecones, smother them with peanut butter and roll them in your birdseed. Put your feeder in a plastic bag and pop it in the freezer for a few hours to harden the peanut butter, then string it up and watch the birds flock.
Besides fostering an appreciation for habitat preservation and local species, building a birdhouse is a great chance for handy parents to impart some carpentry skills unto their young ones. As you know, any time you have kids working with tools, it’s a great time to talk about the importance of safety.
For directions on how to make this simple, modern birdhouse, check out the directions at Skip to My Lou. Unlike the other feeders listed above, a wooden one will last for years and can even be left out in the winter.
There aren’t many projects better than a birdhouse or birdfeeder to get kids thinking about how to repurpose things you’re no longer using, or to teach them how to construct and create out of different materials. Help them think outside the box by using unconventional decorations. Glue wine corks, bottle caps or other objects to the outside, or even construct a house made of books.