As winter sets in on the farm and homestead, it’s natural for children and grown-ups alike to want to make their furry and feathered friends as comfortable as possible. Each of us has our own livestock chores, of course, but you can make special treats to please the many birds that live on your land, as well.
Whatever avian species you’re trying to feed, Jenny Wrens or your prize flock of layers, these bird feeders can be put together with what you have in your kitchen or garden. They’re perfect for the colder months because they’re frozen and provide birds both a treat and entertainment on a dull, winter’s day.
What You’ll Need:
- Bundt pan of any size or shape*
- water to fill the pan
- collection of berries, rinds, pine needs, seeds, herbs and any mom-approved snack a bird might like to eat
- butter or oil
- string or baling twine
*If you don’t have a Bundt pan, get any sized glass or metal dish (like a deep pie plate) and place a similar but much smaller dish (like a ramekin) inside, weighed down with marbles or beans. The smaller dish will create a hole in the middle or your finished bird feeder, reminiscent of Bundt a pan. You may get a sheath of ice that forms underneath your smaller dish if the weight isn’t heavy enough to keep it out, but you should be able to break through it easily.
Step 1: Assemble Your Feeder
Smooth a small amount of oil or soft butter inside the Bundt pan; this will help you remove the bird feeder from the pan once it’s frozen. Fill the dish about three-quarters full with water, and place your edible items into the water.
Certain foods, like pumpkin seeds and dried oregano, can be used as medicine for your wintering birds. Pumpkin seeds help control internal parasites and oregano leaves are great for the immune system. Other healthful items, like bits of banana and Rugosa rose hips, are ingredients that any bird would enjoy eating.
When adding in the foods, try to think like a bird. A chicken can especially turn her beak up at certain foods, so try to imagine what might make her cluck with delight. After all, she is the one stuck out there, in the cold and the damp, faithfully laying eggs each day. We always hope our bird feeders will work as a bribe to keep the chickens laying because we really fancy an omelet on these dark, winter mornings.
Step 2: Freeze Your Feeder
After your treats are placed into the water, put the whole thing into your freezer or on an outside porch until it hardens. Once the contents are frozen, turn the pan upside down to release the now frozen ring of treats. If you have any trouble releasing the feeder from the pan, gently tap the dish or run a bit of warm water across the back it.
Step 3: Hang Your Feeder
Use a loose bit of string or baling twine to loop through the hole in the center of your frozen bird feeder, tying a few sturdy knots at the top. For the wild birds, hang it from any obliging structure or tree. If it’s destined for your poultry, hang it right outside your chicken coop.
If you live in a warmer climate, where your frozen bird feeder is likely to thaw quickly, hang it where the dripping water won’t dampen animal bedding or the animals themselves. Don’t worry, your birdies can still eat their treats from the ground as your bird feeder melts.
We live in a snowy place and both our chickens and our wild birds keep occupied by pecking at these bird feeders until they’re simply eaten away. Make sure to make time to go watch your birds figure out how to get to their treasures through all that ice—it’s quite entertaining. Who needs TV when you have birds around?
Alternative: Fats and Flours Bird Feeder
A similar bird feeder can be made by replacing the water with fats and flours. Mix 1 cup lard, 1 cup nut butter, 2½ cups non-GMO cornmeal, 1 cup whole wheat flour and about 4 cups of birdseed. It’s best to use standard birdseed with this mixture so that it will hold together well.
Mix all ingredients and smoosh them into your Bundt pan. The birds will probably eat it up pretty quickly, but if you want to make sure it holds together longer, coil a 1 to 2 foot length of vine in the Bundt pan to create a frame. The mixture will form around the vine as you firm it into the pan. (Vines actually come in quite handy around the farm and homestead. I’ve even made baskets out of them.)
Place the Bundt pan into the freezer until the mixture hardens. Remove and hang.