Want to entice birds into your backyard so that your family can observe and nurture them?
Make them a snack! It’s a quick and easy way to enjoy nature’s creatures all year long.
In this article, I’ll show you how to make a simple bird feeder with your kids that will keep your feathered friends fed and happy—in 10 minutes or less.
Why Make a Bird Feeder?
This quick project is a fun way to spend time together as a family and teach your kids to appreciate wildlife right in your own backyard.
As the weather changes, some bird species migrate away, others visit your area while migrating through and still others stay close to home to stick out the winter months. With this project, you can help feed local and traveling birds any time of year.
My kids love being able to look out the window, even days after we hung our bird feeders, and watch the birds eating. It gives them a sense of satisfaction and fosters stewardship to see that they can help the creatures find something to eat when the snow on the ground would otherwise make that difficult.
And it’s always fun to get your hands dirty!
There are other benefits to feeding the birds as well. When you attract birds to your yard, they will help with insect control, weed control (they’ll eat seeds found in weeds, preventing them from spreading in your landscaping) and will help cross-pollinate flowers and plants.
The finished product is ready for feathered visitors. Use birdseed with many different kinds of seeds to attract a greater variety of birds.
When your kids observe birds at the bird feeders they’ve made, be sure to talk about what they see and encourage them to identify the different species that visit. This will hone their skills in observation and research and will help them develop an appreciation of nature.
Birds will enjoy this tasty peanut butter treat. (Screenshot from marghanita.com/earth-day-make-5-simple-changes)
You Will Need
- Several large pinecones (bought, or better yet, found on an outside adventure)
- Peanut butter (vegetable shortening for people with nut allergies)
- String, pipe cleaners or wire
- Scissors (if using string)
- Butter knife
- 2 or more plates
- A place to hang your bird feeder (a tree or bird feeder hanger work Nicely)
- Just a few supplies are needed to make a bird feeder with your kids.
- 5 minutes to gather materials from around the house
- You may need to visit a park or forest to gather some pinecones
- 10 minutes to hang your bird feeder
- Plus time to watch and observe the birds
Let’s get started.
#1: Prepare the Pinecones
First gather some pinecones. They should be medium to large in size. It’s a great opportunity for your family to go outside and enjoy nature for a while.
If you live somewhere with pine trees, you can take the kids on a neighborhood treasure hunt to find pinecones for your project.
Or you could plan a nature walk or hike somewhere nearby. If you go to a park or nature trail, check the regulations before you go to make sure you’re allowed to collect pinecones. It’s illegal to take anything (except trash) away from a nature preserve.
Go outside with the kids and collect some pinecones. They’re also available at craft stores or online. (Screenshot from save-on-crafts.com).
If there aren’t any available nearby, you can buy pinecones at most craft stores.
Check your pinecones. If they’re tightly closed up, let them sit inside the house for several days so they can “bloom,” or bake them in a 300° oven for about 10 minutes to get them to open up.
Caution: Some pinecones have sharp points on the tips of their petals, so be sure you and your kids handle them with care to avoid getting poked.
Attach pipe cleaners or string to hang the bird feeders by. Do this first to make less mess!
Once you have open pinecones, you can attach a pipe cleaner or a length of string or wire to the tip. We used pipe cleaners because they’re easy to attach to the tree, especially if your children are younger.
#2: Spread the Peanut Butter
Once you have your pinecone attached to a pipe cleaner or a piece of string, you can let the spreading begin!
Birds love the extra nutty treat in crunchy peanut butter. They love the creamy kind, too.
Use a butter knife to spread peanut butter all over the pinecone. Be sure to get it into all the cracks and crevices to fully coat your pinecone in peanut butter.
Is Peanut Butter Good for Birds? “Peanut butter could be considered the perfect bird food. It’s high in fat and full of protein. These are food qualities that are important to wild birds any time of the year. This is especially true in the winter when birds really need a boost.” (From alaskawild.org)
Peanut butter can be messy! Be sure your kids roll up their sleeves and that the area where you are doing this project is okay for a possible peanut butter mess.
A plate will contain some of the mess.
Allergy alert: Many people have allergies to nuts. If it isn’t safe for your family to use peanut butter, you can use vegetable shortening.
#3: Roll It in Birdseed
When your pinecone is covered in peanut butter (or vegetable shortening), pour birdseed onto a plate and get ready to roll.
Roll it in birdseed until it’s completely covered.
Roll the pinecone back and forth in the birdseed to completely cover it. Once it’s covered, press the birdseed into the peanut butter and roll some more.
Press the birdseed into the peanut butter to help it stick.
Tip: To save time, make all of your pinecone bird feeders at once and then take them outside at the same time.
#4: Hang Bird Feeders Outside
Once your pinecone is completely covered in birdseed, take it outside and find the perfect place to hang it.
Make several bird feeders at once to attract even more birds.
Hang your bird feeder outside a window where you can enjoy watching the birds come to dine.
Make sure to hang your bird feeder high enough that cats and dogs won’t be a problem for the birds that come to visit (younger children might need to be lifted up for this to happen).
Pipe cleaners are easy to wrap around the branches and hang your bird feeder.
If the branches are thick, you might need to add more string or pipe cleaners to attach your pinecone to the tree.
If you live in an apartment or don’t have a tree to use for this project, you can use a bird feeder hanger or hang it from the eaves of the building. You could also find a tree in a local park to use.
Put out a dish of fresh water for the birds, too. Make sure it’s somewhere that cats and dogs won’t disturb it.
#5: Enjoy and Educate
It won’t take long for birds to discover the treat you made for them. Watch your pinecone bird feeders for a while and see what happens. Use binoculars to get a better view.
The finished product is ready for feathered visitors. Be sure to talk about the birds you see.
While you sit back and enjoy watching different birds that come to visit, talk to your kids about what you see.
Guess what kinds of critters might visit your feeder. (We had several birds and even a squirrel attempt to dine on our pinecones.)
Try to identify the birds by what they look like or the calls they make. If it’s snowy in your area, see if you can identify birds by the shape of the tracks they leave. There are plenty of bird identification websites and guide books to help learn about bird watching. You can even enter your zip code and print a list of birds commonly seen in your area.
Identify the birds that visit your feeder and keep track in a journal.
Keep a journal of the kinds of birds you see eating from your peanut butter pinecone. You could make a special bird-watching notebook (see activity #9 in this article). Who knows? This may be the first step toward a new hobby your family will enjoy for years to come.
Talk about why birds migrate and which species don’t.
#6: Bonus Activity—Make a Bird Tree
To add a little extra for your visiting birds, make a bird tree. You can decorate a bird tree for Christmas or just for fun.
Make a bird tree with several pinecone feeders and other edible ornaments.
Decorate a tree in your yard entirely with edible ornaments.
- Popcorn strings
- Whole apples or apple slices
- Peanut butter toast with raisins pressed into the peanut butter. (We cut ours into shapes with cookie cutters before hanging)
- Strings of cereal
- Strings of cranberries
And of course, include several peanut butter pinecone feeders!
Some Final Thoughts…
I hope you and your children have a wonderful time making bird feeders and observing the birds that visit your backyard. It’s a great way to spend time together and appreciate nature.