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Make your own bird feeder

A close-up of a robin perching on top of a wooden post.
Chris from our Gardens team shows you how to make simple bird feeders to encourage birds to your garden.
How to make your own bird feeder


Hello everybody. My name’s Chris Wardle and I’m the Gardens Manager here for the North East of Scotland. And as you can see, I’m in my kitchen this morning. Like most of you out there, I’m stuck at home. No offices, nothing to go out and do and so on, so what I thought I’d share with you is something from a garden perspective that many of us can do at this time of year – a little activity especially if you’re at home with the kids - it’s just something very quick and simple to do, very cheap to do and that is good for your garden at this time of year and that’s just making bird feeders for birds that are in our gardens.

You probably think why’s that so important at this time of the year – the spring is starting to come back, the daylight’s coming in but it’s still really, really cold and we’re on the back end of winter. And the birds that are in our gardens – they’re really starting to struggle now. There’s none of the insects around, the ground outside is frozen solid and the weather’s very very poor so they rely on us to give them a little bit of supplement.

And it’s really important for our gardens because if we can encourage the bird life into our gardens as the weather improves and the garden starts to come back to life, what’s great is is the birds are there already and they’re already then sort of primed and ready to do the work for us that we want them to do as the spring comes, which means as the weather warms up and the bugs and the beasties and the snails and the slugs and the other things that are going to attack our gardens in the spring time, the birds are already there. They’re used to coming into your garden so they’ll then go and eat all of those sort of pest problems that you have.

So by feeding them at this time of year it's a great little activity to do and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. So what I’ve got is a few bits and pieces here and I’ll just show you and then I'm going to turn my hob on here so that it’s just starting to warm up because we need a bit of warmth. There we go.

First thing we use is lard – really cheap – cheapest lard that you can find. Birds need fat and they need that fat to give them energy at this time of year. And so we use this to basically bind things together and the birds really, really love fat. What I’ve got here is a few bits and pieces that I’m going to just basically put into this pan here. What I have is some bird feed that bought from a garden centre previously. It’s various mixed seeds and so on and it’s different sizes for all different types of birds. I’ve got some peanuts – bird peanuts, not the salted type – we don’t use anything that’s salted. Salt is very, very bad for birds so you definitely need bird peanuts that you would get from a garden centre. I always try and do this every couple of weeks – I’ll make up some fat balls with this in and so I buy a bag of this before the winter so that every couple of weeks I’ll be making up some bird feeders and putting them out for them.

Something that most people has a store in their cupboard which is just porridge oats – again no sugar, no salt, nothing – just plain porridge oats. Really good. Good source of food for the birds, really easy for them to digest.

And if you have it – I buy it specifically for the birds – it’s a bit of a treat – I shouldn’t really do it – but is actually bacon. Not cooked bacon, not salted bacon, not smoked bacon but something very, very fatty, so this is streaky bacon, unsalted, unsmoked - it’s just as plain and as cheap as I can get it and we don’t cook it. Interestingly enough, I’m going to add it into this mixture raw. Now if you think about it, birds they eat worms and slugs and snails so raw food is not a problem to them – it’s actually the fat that they really want. That’s going to make them really, really healthy.

The other things that you’ll need is some basic containers and we have all sorts of basic containers kicking around the house so here’s an old washed-out yogurt pot, this is like a tray from a ready meal, this is the tray that the bacon came in – I just washed it out, took the label off and I can use this as a tray to put in.

Now you can go all fancy and have string and make sort of like things that dangle and so on, and I’ve actually found it doesn’t really matter too much. I’ve got a tray in the garden that’s just an old plant tray and what I do is is I’ll make up these fat balls, I’ll put the stuff into here like this and then what I’ll do is when it’s set I’ll put it out in the garden and the birds will feed on it.

So what I’m going to do is is I’m going to melt down the lard, so I take out the lard – that’s my electric hob that’s the noise you can hear there – and I will just place that in there. Now I’m going to stop the video and I’ll just get it a little bit closer and I’ll show you everything as it’s melting and I’ll add it in and I’ll show you what I do after that.

So here it is – here’s the lard that I’ve added into just a pan here – I’m not ferocious heat – I’m just gently heating it and letting it melt down and it will gradually disappear into sort of like a clear liquid at the bottom so that’s what we’re doing there. Okay, so that’s now the fat – it’s all melted. You can see there’s like a little liquid just in here and it’s really, really simple now, all I’m going to do is I’m going to add everything in. First of all I’m going to go in with my peanuts, then go in with my seed like this, put my oats in, probably add a few more oats in a second and then I’m going to put my bacon in here – just see that – moosh it all around. There we go. Just stir it about ‘til everything is mixed and good. I’m going to make it until it’s sort of like a stiff-ish mixture; it’s a little bit more liquid at the moment, I need some more seeds. So I’ll add that in and I’ll show you what that looks like.

Okay, that’s the mixture now done. You can see here it’s like a really sloppy porridge – that’s the kind of consistency – we don’t want to have it too dry – we need to have a quite a lot of the fat showing – ‘cause the fat is what’s going to hold everything together. What I’m going to do now is basically I just decant it out – I’m using a ladle here – and I’m going to fill up this tray that I’ve got here. This is the first tray. There we go – like that – press it down – need to make everything sort of – what’s the word – we need everything so it’s all bound together ‘cause the fat holds it all together, so there we go, that’s the tray done. Perfect – that’s exactly as I wanted and hopefully you can see that. Just like that. The fat is to the top but everything is covered by the fat. So I’m going to fill the rest of my containers and then we’ll go on to the next bit.

And there we have it – it’s as simple as that. Here you can see, there’s the containers there that I’ve got with the nuts and the fat and everything, and so all I’m going to do with those now is I’m going to pop those into the fridge for the rest of the day or even overnight, let the fat reset and I can then go and put it out in the garden. With the trays it’s okay because the birds can actually get in and they can get the nuts and the seeds out of the fat really easily, so I’ll leave those in the trays. Things the yogurt pot just here, they’re quite deep, and the birds can’t get in so what I probably might end up doing is sacrificing that as soon as it’s gone hard, I can take a pair of scissors, and I can just cut the container off, put that in the recycling and then the fat ball with all the nuts in it, I just stand that in the tray outside as well.

Remember that birds at this time of year, they need a good source of water as well because everything else is frozen outside so periodically you can go and put a tray of water out or make sure there’s some water that the birds can eat and drink from.

And then just stand back and have a look and see what comes to your garden. You may not think there’ll be a lot that will come to your garden but you’ll be absolutely amazed. We started feeding the birds here properly last year and there wasn’t really anything around that we noted of anything – any sort of sort – and now we have sparrows, blackbirds, we’ve got woodpeckers and we’ve got starlings and finches and all sorts of blue tits and coal tits and all sorts of manner of birds – magpies – all sorts of things come to the garden and we’ll sit there for hours just watching the birds come in.

If you have any stale crusts off loaves, don’t throw them away in the recycling or in your green waste bin. You can let them go stale, crush them up and put those crumbs out as well. By feeding the birds you’re just helping wildlife and attracting it into your garden and it’s great to watch and it gives you something to do. Great little activity for kids just to make this as well. And just something really excellent, so have a go and we’ll be putting another video out again quite soon – just sort of activities that we can do that’s going to help your garden as we head towards spring in this lockdown type of period.

Okay we’ll see you all again soon. Bye now.