DIY project: An eco-friendly bird feeder

Photo: Tara Nolan
Attract birds to your yard with this easy to make feeder.

One thing I loved about growing up in the country was sitting in my parents' big kitchen picture window and watching the birds, and other woodland creatures, come to feed. While I don't have as wide a variety of birds that flock to my yard in the city, I still put out a little feeder to attract a few feathered friends.

As the first snowstorms hit, I wondered what would happen if I hollowed out fruit to create little mini suet feeders – to give the birds more variety, if you will. The fruit would add colour to a white winter landscape and eventually biodegrade over the winter leaving nothing but a little piece of string with which the birds could make a nest. And I guess if they were really hungry, the birds could peck away at the fruit, too, depending on what was used.

In order to stick to our 100-mile diet, I opted for a locally grown squash. This project is fairly simple and requires very little tools.

Feeder materials

  • Fruit, vegetable or gourd
  • Knife and spoon
  • Cutting board
  • Electric drill or hammer and nail
  • About one metre of string

Directions:

  • With a sharp knife, slice the very top off your squash leaving enough of an opening for birds to get into.
  • Scoop out the insides and put them aside to eat later.
  • Drill or use a hammer and nail to create a hole on each side of the rind near the top. For extra balance, you could poke four holes, one on each side.
  • From the outside of the squash, place string through the first hole and stretch across the squash to pull it through the hole to the other outside edge.
  • Leave a long piece on each side.
  • Lift the middle up of the string up and knot with the ends so you have a good length. (Tip: The longer the string, the more likely you are able to keep the feeder out of a squirrel's reach.)
  • Place hollowed out feeder in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to fill.

Other options 

For my first two feeders, I chose a coconut and a pomegranate. I'll admit both were pretty hard to work with. The coconut required a hammer, some strong drill bits and two extra people, but on the bright side, can be refilled over and over again. And the pomegranate, well, let's just say I had red juice all over my kitchen. Pomegranates are hard to get into on a good day, but try preserving a perfect exterior.Other fruits will work as well:

  • Citrus: try grapefruits or big oranges
  • Pineapple: cut the top off and use a special corer to hollow out the inside
  • Any type of melon: cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.
  • Pumpkin

The main ingredient: suet Now it's time to whip up the suet. After doing a bit of research, I came up with this recipe that the birds seem to enjoy. 

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup of mixed birdseed
  • ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • ½ cup of lard (I used the boxed kind from the store, but you could also make your own with animal fat such as bacon grease)
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup of cornmeal (I substituted this with oat bran for my first batch)
  • ½ cup flour
  • About ¼ cup of sugar
  • Saucepan and wooden spoon

Directions

  • In a saucepan, melt the peanut butter and lard together.
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
  • Pour mixture into your hollowed out fruits or vegetables and place the rest in the fridge (depending on how long it is before you need to refill) or pour it into a square pan and freeze. (I kept mine in a used peanut butter jar in the fridge.)
  • Keep your feeder cold until you are ready to put it outside.
  • Try to hang your feeder from a branch that squirrels cannot get to. Also, the more wildly it swings, the more it will deter those pesky critters. Birds don't seem to mind the movement.

If the animals in your yard haven't eaten it or carried it away when it's empty, you can either refill your feeder or send it to the compost.

Happy bird-watching! Wondering where to hang that bird feeder? Read more at How to feed our feathered friends this winter.