How to make wild bird food

How to make wild bird food

Budget friendly wild bird food project to make with kids

Once the hedgerows have been depleted of berries in late winter and spring wild birds can struggle to find enough to eat and may need a helping hand. Commercial mixes and fat balls can sometimes be expensive, especially when they can polish off a fat ball feeder in a couple of hours. Making your own bird food can be a great project to carry out with children, just make sure you take extra care when melting the fat.

Foodstuffs to use can include:

  • Fruit; apples grated or cut in half and hung up
  • Berries; wild or from the garden
  • Dried fruit; soak overnight, to avoid it swelling in the birds stomach, and chop finely
  • Peanuts; unsalted and unroasted, organic if possible
  • Peanut butter; unsalted and organic if possible
  • Suet or lard
  • Raw oatmeal
  • Grated cheese; mild and unsalted
  • Bacon rind; unsalted and chopped finely
  • Large pieces of fat from meat if unsalted; secure to the table otherwise large birds will just take the whole lot
  • Cold roast or baked potatoes opened up to reveal the centre

Foods to avoid:

  • Bread and bread products can occasionally be given but they have relatively no nutritional value
  • Milk
  • Salted nuts
  • Cooked oats
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Fat that has previously been used for cooking
  • Avoid wheat as the birds discard it when it comes in a mixture and unless you buy the wheat which has been prepared to prevent it from germinating it will grow everywhere in the garden and in paving crevices.

Remember to give clean water and site your feeder station or bird table on a surface which can be cleaned and disinfected as discarded feed can soon attract vermin.

Fat ball mix

  • 1/3 cup sunflower seed
  • 1/3 cup niger seed
  • 1/3 cup grated cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit; soaked and chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts; chopped finely
  • 1 cup beef suet or lard; melted gently

Melt the lard or suet gently and add berries, nuts, seeds, dried fruit pieces and grated cheese.

Once the mixture has cooled form into balls and feed in a fat ball holder.

Roll a large opened pine cone in the melted fat and then roll in the seed, fruit and cheese mixture. Secure to the bird feeder or a branch, with a piece of string tied around the top.

If you have previously bought fat cakes in half a coconut shell, wash and dry out the shell and refill with the fat mixture.

Wash and dry a yogurt pot, pierce a hole in the bottom then thread a length of twine through, securing with a large knot. Fill with the fat ball mixture, cool in the fridge, remove the pot and hang the fat cake from a tree or the feeder.

Take a walk in the countryside or along the beach and pick up any knobbly and holey pieces of wood, wash to remove the salt then fill the crevices with the fat mixture. Hang from the bird table or a tree.

Angela Slater

Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas.