For the Birds...
I love making treats for the birds, there are a few reasons:
1 - It occupies my farmhands for a bit, nothing like a good project to keep their hands busy on a cold day, and then there is the fun of bird watching.
2 - It occupies my cats, once hung in the trees, my cats spend countless hours in the front window dreaming of being sneaky enough to catch a bird (which they are soooo not sneaky enough, it's a little amusing).
3- It encourages birds in the yard, I want birds to feel like the yard is a safe place for them to be so that they continue to come and eat all of the nasty little insects that they want when Spring finally gets here.
4 - It's just fun seeing what kind of birds show up. We have had chickadees and finches lately, along with occasional mountain jay and starlings, of course. Robins frequent our crab apple tree to eat berries and terrorize the starlings.
There are a few ways to make these. The way pictured is with gelatin. This is a great way to make bird treats, provided that the weather stays below freezing. I have found that once it warms up, these can fall apart. Smaller treats don't seem to be as prone to breaking, so if you choose this method, keep your treats on the smaller side.
The other way to make these is with suet or with lard. They seem to hold hold together a bit better. Warm weather melts the lard a bit, but by the time it really warms up, the birds should be able to fend for themselves. I will include both recipes, you decide what you want to use.
Another little tidbit that I have found to be helpful, use seed that doesn't sprout. This helps your sanity in the spring when other types of seed sprout and help propagate weeds all over the yard under your feeders. Birds are terribly messy eaters, they did not attend etiquette school. Good bird stores should have a mix that doesn't sprout, you can also toast the seeds, but it's just easier to buy seeds that have the hulls removed or have been cut or ground.
GELATIN BIRD FEEDERS
adapted from Alphamom.com
2 packets unflavored gelatin
3 cups birdseed
*optional - peanut butter
twine or ribbon
Sprinkle two packages of gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Let it sit a couple of minutes until gelatin has absorbed all of the water. Heat 1 1/4 cups water in a pan, then add the gelatin mixture. Stir over heat until dissolved. Stir in 3 cups bird seed.
Allow mixture to cool until gelatin is thick and coats all the bird seed. Probably the hardest part is waiting!
Place a piece of foil beneath your cookie cutters and fold up around the sides. Spray the cutters and the foil with non-stick spray. Once the mixture is cooled and stirred to ensure that the gelatin has coated the seed, spoon into the cookie cutters, pressing to pack the seeds together. Continue until you have used up the mixture. I used sucker sticks to make a space to pass twine. You can use straws that are cut into pieces also. Just place them in the mold before it hardens.
Place in the freezer until set, about an hour. Remove from freezer and gently push feeders out of the cookie cutter molds. Place the feeders on a lined cookie sheet and pop back in the freezer until it is completely frozen (a couple of hours).
Once frozen, remove from freezer, thread a piece of twine or ribbon through the hole and hang. You can "frost" your feeders with peanut or almond butter if you like.
SUET or LARD BIRD FEEDERS
1 1/2 pounds lard or suet
2 cups birdseed
**or you can use 1/2 cup dried fruit and 1 1/2 cups birdseed**
Gently heat the lard/suet in a pan over medium heat. Once it is pourable, pour over the birdseed and stir until it is coated and starts to cool.
Follow the above directions for shaping and freezing.
Have fun feeding our feathered friends. With freezing weather and not much to eat, I am sure they are grateful when they find a feeding oasis in the middle of winter!