How To Make A Bird Feeder With Household Items In 3 Simple Steps

Bird feeders are a great way to encourage bird wildlife into your garden. This easy step by step tutorial teaches you how to make a bird feeder with household items, such as old tea cups, metal camping mugs or preloved milk jugs.

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A DIY bird feeder made from an old camping mug.

I try to encourage wildlife into my allotment as much as I can.

However, bird feeders can be quite expensive. So learning how to make a bird feeder, from old mugs or tea cups, can save you money. Especially if you recycle objects you already own.

DIY bird feeders are a great activity to make with kids too. I made these hanging bird feeders with my daughter, on a cold, wintry day, when we decided the birds might be getting a bit peckish. We used a metal milk jug & an old camping mug.

Benefits of Making a DIY Bird Feeder

When I first took on my allotment patch, I created a wildflower area & planted insect friendly plants & perennial vegetables to attract more insects.

I wanted this in turn to attract more native birds. Not only are birds wonderful to watch and look at, they help:

  • control pests, by eating bugs such as slugs, caterpillars and aphids, which can damage garden plants
  • reduce the need for harsh chemical insecticides
  • pollinate flowers
  • reduce weeds.

Food shortages can occur at any time of the year, so making a bird feeder also helps to provide birds with a supply of food throughout the year. Particularly during cold spells such as winter.

And if you have children, making a bird feeder with items you have in the house also teaches kids about recycling, as well as how to care for nature.

Here’s how to make your own DIY bird feeder using household items in just 3 simple steps:

How To Make A Bird Feeder With Household Items

If you’ve got an old tea cup, coffee mug or milk jug lying around, plus a teaspoon that’s seen better days (a popsicle stick works just as well), all you’ll need to buy is some dripping & a bag of bird seed.

What You’ll Need

  • old tea cup, coffee mug or milk jug
  • old tea spoon (or wooden popsicle stick)
  • approximately 50g of dripping per cup/mug (depending on size of item you use)
  • mixed bird seed
  • saucepan
  • wooden spoon
  • garden twine

Instructions

Step 1

Carefully melt the dripping in a saucepan, then add the mixed bird feed. Stir well to combine, making sure the mixture doesn’t burn.

Once combined, switch off the heat & leave the mixture to cool until it begins to set slightly. Ours took about 20-30 minutes to cool down to a tacky like consistency, but it may take longer if the weather (or your kitchen) is particularly warm.

Step 2

Scoop your slightly set mixture into your tea cup, mug or milk jug, until it’s full. Pack it down, with the back of a spoon, right to the rim (or as far as it will go without falling out) so the birds can easily access it.

Next, push a tea spoon or popsicle stick into the seed & dripping mix to form a perch. Make sure you place the perch in a position that’s directly opposite the handle of your cup/mug/jug, (see image below), so birds can comfortably sit on it once you’ve hung the feeder up. If you place it too high up, or to one side, birds won’t be able to access or reach a lot of the mix.

Then leave the mixture to fully set in the mug/cup/jug. If you want it to set quickly, you can pop it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Step 3

Securely loop a length of strong garden twine to the handle of your feeder, then hang it from a tree branch or location where birds can safely land. A position that offers shade & is sheltered from harsh winds is ideal. Also make sure it’s out of reach of lurking cats if you have any around.

We secured this bird feeder made from an old milk jug to a shed.

So our bird feeders weren’t all in the same place, we hung the one above to the side of a shed.

Then sit back & wait for your first bird to land. Once your feeder is empty, make sure you wash it thoroughly before adding more bird food.

Do Homemade Bird Feeders Actually Work?

A robin visiting our homemade bird feeder in winter.

When I was thinking about how to make a DIY bird feeder, I asked the same thing.

I’d seen so many bird feeder tutorials using plastic milk cartons, I wondered how long these would last & whether sharply cut plastic edges might be harmful to birds. This was why we chose to use a sturdier item like a metal mug. They’re long lasting, there’s no sharp edges & they’re very easy to clean.

But in short, yes, homemade bird feeders absolutely do work.

Amazingly, we spotted a robin happily perched on our first bird feeder within half an hour of hanging it from a tree (see photo above). It was during a cold snap & the birds ate so many seeds within a couple of days, the spoon almost fell out!

Which Birds Will Use a Hanging Bird Feeder?

One of the advantages of making your own hanging bird feeder is that smaller birds actually get to eat something. I’ve seen seagulls and pigeons gobble up entire swaths of seeds on free standing wooden feeders, often at the expense of smaller birds.

Generally, larger birds prefer larger platform feeders. Hanging feeders, made from household items like mugs or tea cups, are simply too small for them to comfortably land on.

The first bird we spotted using our bird feeder was a robin. We’ve also seen a blackbird and a wren using it. Depending on where you live (we live in the south of the UK), other common birds you might see include:

  • starlings
  • blue tits
  • goldfinches
  • chaffinches
  • great tits.

How To Clean A Bird Feeder

It’s really important to clean your bird feeders to keep them clear from bacteria & fungal spores. If these build up they can spread unintended infections & disease to & among birds. Bird droppings can also spread infectious diseases if they get into your bird feeder.

To clean your bird feeder, wash it regularly with warm, soapy water or a 5% disinfectant solution. Use gloves when washing the feeder & do it in a bucket or basin outside. This helps avoid bringing bacteria into the house.

You can buy also dedicated bird feeder brushes to thoroughly scrub the feeder, although a bottle brush will probably work just as well. If you use a bottle brush, make sure you only use it to clean the bird feeder!

Once clean, make sure you thoroughly rinse your feeder to remove any lingering soap or disinfectant. Then let it air dry before adding any more bird food.

Lastly, remember to wash your hands.

Does Feeding Birds Make Them Dependent?

Habitat loss & climate change are having a huge impact on birds. However, a common concern is that feeding birds will make them dependent & reduce their natural instincts to forage & find food.

According to this article in The British Trust For Ornothology (and other sources I found), there’s no discernible evidence this is the case.

In fact, providing food for birds in our gardens and allotments simply offers a supplementary food source. Especially during cold winter periods, when food many be more difficult to find.

Conclusion

We love our homemade bird feeders.

They work really well & learning how to make a bird feeder from household items, such as old mugs, also re-purposes something you no longer need. It also saves you money, plus they’re really easy to make.

I’ve even seen an old teapot used as a bird feeder, so don’t be afraid to use your imagination when searching for household items to use.

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