Winter is so close, we can taste it in the air these days. The tiny feathered (and furry) animals are getting ravenously hungry, desperate to snatch up anything they can find before food starts becoming scarce, so Silkworm and I thought it was time to compile a list of ways to fill their tummies.
1. Make birdseed ornaments.
Deck the trees with edible gifts for the birds! They deserve a Christmas, too, you know. To get the birdseed to stick together, start with the following ingredients: 4 cups of birdseed with about 3/4 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of water, 3 TBSP of corn syrup, and 2 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin. Whisk the gelatin into hot water as if you were making Jello, then add corn syrup, then the flour and birdseed. Press the birdseed mix into cookie cutter shapes on parchment or wax paper and refrigerate until solid, carefully removing the cookie cutters afterwards.
2. Make a bird feeder out of a vegetable/fruit skin/peel.
A hollowed-out pumpkin, acorn squash, orange, watermelon--cut them in half and they make great bowls for holding seed. Poke sticks in for perches and thread strings through the skin to use for hanging the feeder.
3. Let them eat out of your hands.
It's not impossible to tame your backyard bird population. You just have to be patient and know what they like and don't like. We've found chickadees to be especially brave, and while I haven't been able to get the ones in our backyard to eat out of my hand, they will come to the bird feeder when I'm standing within inches of it. Check out charts on what seeds and things specific birds like, and make sure you have the right food to attract the right bird. Give the birds a chance and gain their trust gradually. Who would trust a giant overnight?
4. Hang bits of food close to the ground.
For squirrels, loosely tie things like nuts or berries on strings and then tie the strings onto tree branches, letting the food hang just above the ground, maybe a foot or so. You want them to have to jump a little to get the food. Since it's loosely tied, they should be able to get it on the first try, but it's fun to watch them bounce for berries!
5. Make bird-feeding garland.
Thread pieces of popcorn, O-shaped cereal, fruit, or nuts onto string and hang it up outside. Try to hang it in the trees somewhere where there are a lot of branches to perch on for the birds to nibble from.
6. Make your own suet feeder.
You could make this with just sticks and glue (and eye hook screws and string to hang it), but you could also use a rectangle of chicken mesh folded in half and staple it to the two sticks or pieces of wood on the edges.
Note: Do not feed birds bread! It is unhealthy for them and they would not eat it in the wild. I don't think birds know how to make a fire to bake bread. (This goes for ducks and geese, too, FYI!)