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Homemade Bird Feeder

March 28, 2011

In our little home preschool we don’t so much have “subjects” that we teach as we do have one main subject called “learn-about-life.” In this little activity we learned about:

MATH: relative sizes, getting more for your money

WORKSHOP: simple construction skills & power tools

ART: painting & gluing

SCIENCE: bird diets, bird kinds

CONSERVATION: reuse, instead of buy new

The idea for making a bird feeder first got planted in the boys head from watching Curious George on PBS. Between episodes they watched a clip about some kids who made their own bird feeders out of OJ cartons. After asking me a few times if they could have a bird feeder, I Googled some ideas and thought that this one would be a good place to start.

On our next Walmart trip, I surprised the boys by going into the lawn and garden section to buy some seed. We selected a 10# bag of wild bird seed for about $7. Next to the bird seed were the pre-made bird feeders. “Mom, we can just buy a bird feeder right here!” suggested Monkey. And thus began the discussion of reusing an old bottle that would cost us nothing to make vs. spending $15 on a brand new one. Plus, making your own is way more fun and you learn while doing it, too! On the way to do the rest of our shopping, I spotted a large bucket of the same seed for $10. It was 20# of seed and came with a bucket! Now it was time for a talk about which was the better deal. Into the cart the 20# bucket went!

The next major thing I needed to acquire was some sort of large, sturdy, plastic jug. The directions recommended a well-cleaned bleach bottle. Of course, I didn’t have one of those around and I just recycled my large vinegar bottle a few weeks before. All my other Costco-sized bottles were still quite full. Where is the trash when you need it! Never fear, Squirt’s mom came to the rescue with her apple juice container and I think it worked out even better than a vinegar jug would have, because it didn’t have a handle.

After those things were taken care of, it was time to begin. Here is our way-too-many-step process of making a bird feeder. I could condense this into about 8 easy steps, but it’s way more fun to hear about all the mishaps along the way. =)

Step 1:

Send children outside to gather sticks about the size of a pencil in diameter. If you’re smart you’ll give them a pencil to bring along for reference. If you’re me, you’ll just send them out and watch them bring back everything from twigs as thin as yarn to ones as thick as a good walking stick.

While the children are gathering twigs, you gather the rest of the materials and prepare the work space.

You will need:

large plastic bottle with lid

several pencil-sized twigs



utility knife

hot glue gun

acrylic paint

paint brushes

twig snippers

strong string/twine/wire

mess containment device (newspaper/table cloth)

(yes, I forgot to get out some of my materials in the beginning)

Step 2:

Peel any label off the bottle so the paint will have an even surface to adhere to.

More importantly, so your tree doesn’t look like it’s got trash hanging from it!

Step 3:

Sand the surface of the bottle for better paint adhesion. I’m not sure if this is really necessary, but I really didn’t want our bottle shedding strips of paint after only a week outdoors. The original instructions didn’t mention anything about this, I just thought it might be a good thing to do.

Step 4:

Drill hole in the center of the cap that is big enough to feed a cord or wire through for hanging.

Get the drill ready and take a picture only to discover that the battery is dead. Go charge battery while moving on to step 5.

Step 5:

Cut out a hole 2-3 inches up from the bottom of the bottle. This Great Value Apple Juice container had the perfect handle-indents already on it, so I just followed that for a guide.

Oh, and give your kid the camera while you do the “adult only” parts to keep his interest.

Step 6:

Sand your newly cut holes because you can’t make a clean edge with a knife.

(yes, that would be Monkey still operating the camera)

Don’t want the little birdies getting cut!

Step 7:

Wash out the container to remove any sanding dust and remnants from the original contents of the container.

Wash especially thoroughly if you are using a bleach or detergent container.

Step 8:

Dry container because you don’t have the patience for it to air dry and want to get this project done before dinner.

Get frustrated when you can’t dry all the drips inside.

Come up with a new way to dry the inside.

Step 9:

Paint it!

I was hoping to avoid seeing a bunch of brush strokes, so their brushes are actually cut sponges clipped onto a clothes pin. We’ve used these kind of brushes before, but they still left plenty of stroke marks.

Step 10:

Leave container alone to dry while you clean up from the first phase.

Each boy worked on the card from their chore pocket while I cleaned up the bird feeder mess.

Step 11:

Now that the drill battery has charged, and the paint is dry, you can go back and do step 4 the right way.

After you’ve got the cap drilled, now you need to put a hole in for the perch. It should be about an inch below the center of the seed hole.

Repeat for the other side.

Step 12:

Select a twig that will fit in your holes. Wriggle it through both holes, leaving about 3 inches of perching room on either side.

Use the clippers to trim the twig to the desired length.

Add a dab of hot glue to both holes to keep the perch secure.

Step 13:

Put both ends of the hanging wire into the lid.  I happen to have all sorts of random wire thanks to the current remodeling going on in our basement. I’m sure a strong twine would work just as well. Just tie a knot on the inside of the lid to keep it from slipping out. Since I had wire, I just used a wire nut to keep it all nice and tight, followed by a dab of hot glue to make it water tight.

With the wire, I could just bend it to make a hook so it would be easier to take on and off the tree for seed refills.

Step 14:

Snip twigs so they hang an inch or two over the edge of the “roof.”

Apply hot glue to the twig, and work your way around to make a nice little “hut-like” roof. (Yes, our pencil-thick twigs were more more like the diameter of a jumbo-sized crayon).

Almost done! Apply any finishing touches you’d like. We decided to leave ours plain brown to blend in with the tree, but you could paint it up really fancy! I had to add a little paint to the bright blue cap so that wouldn’t stick out, but that was all the finishing touches we did.

Step 15:

Fill the feeder with seed.

Only the bottom 2-3 inches will hold the seed, so you’ll have to check it every few days once the birds find your feeder.

Screw on the lid and you’re ready to hang!

The boys were so proud of their new creation.

You can see the bird feeder really well from Bruiser’s bedroom window.

That’s Bruiser’s window there in the background.

WAY cuter than the undecorated OJ containers the boys saw from the PBS clip! I don’t think it looks too trashy at all. Once the tree gets its leaves, it will blend in nicely.

After hanging the feeder, the boys raced inside to wait for the birds while watching from the window. We had a talk about how it would take a couple of days for the birds to find the seed and tell their friends. We prayed there at Bruiser’s window for the birds to find our feeder so we could learn more about the birds that God created.

Then we waited. And waited, and waited. Every day the boys would ask “When are the birds going to come eat our seed?” It has been very cold lately and I haven’t seen one bird around besides the Robins and Crows. Every night we would pray that the birds would find our feeder.

It has been four days of waiting.

But today we got rewarded for all our hard work and waiting! At lunch today, a bird came!

One little grey bird. I was even able to get a grainy picture from Bruiser’s window.

We watched that little birdie eat up those seeds while our hot dogs got cold sitting on the table. They boys were so happy, we even called the Chief at work to tell him the exciting news.

After lunch, we went back to check the feeder again. Don’t ya know, that little grey bird had a friend now! I didn’t get both birds in the picture, but they were both there in the tree. =)

On the list for the next library trip: PA wild bird guide!

I want to know what kind of bird that cute little grey guy is. (For a science teacher, I know very little about kinds of birds!)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Squirt's mom permalink
    March 28, 2011 8:33 pm

    yay! that’s great!

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