Earlier this winter, my kids (ages 3 and 5) each made a bird seed wreath while spending the day at their Grammy and Grampy’s house. They absolutely loved the activity and were so proud to hang their wreaths in the yard. We decided to make some more treats for our wild bird friends, and I’d love to share what we did with you! This is a great activity, especially if you’re running out of things to do in this last stretch of winter. I’ll also include some helpful hints so that you can hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls we ran into.
I want to be sure to give credit where credit is due. I mostly followed the recipe from the Hallmark Channel (https://www.hallmarkchannel.com/home-and-family/recipes/birdseed-cakes), but I did make a few modifications.
- ½ cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 and ½ packets unflavored gelatin (4 tsp)
- 4 cups bird seed
- Optional: Dried fruit and nuts
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Bundt pan, donut tray, or other baking mold
- Add 4 cups bird seed to a large bowl and set aside.
- Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- On the stovetop over medium heat, whisk gelatin and water until dissolved. Whisk in corn syrup and mix well. Pour gelatin mixture over the bird seed and stir to coat all the seed.
- Optional: Add dried fruit and nuts to the bottom of your pan. This is a great way to get your littlest helpers involved!!
- Spoon birdseed mixture into the pan and press down.
- Place in refrigerator or freezer for about half an hour until it sets. If you’re pressed for space and it’s cold enough out, you can just stick them outside to set.
- Dry the wreath in the oven at 200o The amount of time will vary by size, but you’ll need about two hours for a bundt pan and an hour for smaller pans.
- Once cool, remove wreath from the pan and allow it to air dry overnight. The wreath should be rock hard when fully dry.
- Add string/ribbon and hang it outside!
- I made a double batch, which equaled a very full bundt pan, two mini bundt molds, and a dozen mini donuts. A single batch would have been plenty for the mini donut tray and a less full bundt pan.
- When combining the gelatin mixture with the seed, be sure to stir VERY well so that everything is evenly mixed. One of our mini bundts never set, and I think it was because the gelatin-to-seed ratio was off from inconsistent mixing.
- If you opt to include dried fruits and nuts be sure to use things that are unsweetened and unsalted. We used dried (pitted) unsweetened cherries and raw almonds.
- If you don’t have a bunt pan, donut pan, or other pan that already includes a hold in the middle. Check out the link above for instructions on how to use a straw to solve this problem!
- As an alternative to the oven, you could let the wreaths air dry for a few days. I opted for the oven because my kids really wanted to hang the wreaths out as soon as possible. If you use the straw hold method mentioned above, you’ll need to opt for air drying so that the straw doesn’t melt in your oven.
- If there’s rain in the forecast, bring your wreaths inside. They will disintegrate when wet!
Peanut Butter Pinecones
This is the quickest, easiest, and messiest option that I’ll be sharing. It can also be scaled to make as many or as few as you’d like. These should only be hung outside if the temperature is around or below freezing, otherwise the peanut butter will melt.
- Natural peanut butter
- Bird seed
- Collect pinecones.
- Pour bird seed into a large bowl or tray.
- Cover pinecone with peanut butter.
- Role pinecone in bird seed so that peanut butter is completely covered.
- Place on wax paper and repeat with remaining pinecones.
- Place in refrigerator or freezer for about half an hour to allow peanut butter to harden. If you’re pressed for space and it’s cold enough out, you can just stick them outside to set.
- Tie loop on top of pinecone (I used baker’s twine) and hang outside!
- Be sure to select a natural peanut butter with as few additional ingredients as possible.
- You may want to be strategic about where you hang these. The morning after we put ours out, all of them were gone – not eaten clean, but physically removed. It appears that squirrels must have stolen them!
This is an activity that can double as practice for fine motor skill, making patterns, sorting, etc. It’s also a bit easier than some of the other activities, so younger kids can take more ownership of the process. My five-year-old loved threading things on by himself! I’ve included a list of possible ingredients, but you can be as creative as you want with these.
- Suet cakes, cut into squares
- Peanuts, in shell
- Fresh or dried fruit: Apple slices, blueberries, strawberries, pitted cherries, etc.
- Small seed wreaths (see first recipe above)
- Cut string (I used baker’s twine) to length and tie a loop on one end.
- Thread your ingredients of choice.
- Once string is full, tie a loop on the other end.
- For ingredients without holes in them, a large sewing needle would be helpful for threading them onto the string/twine. If you’re like me and sit down to do this activity before you realize you don’t own a big enough sewing needle, then an alternative option is to tape the twine to a toothpick or piece of a wooden skewer. It’s a little clunky, but it will work in a pinch!
- If you want to use suet chunks, make sure the suet is cold/firm!! My suet cakes had been in the house overnight, so when I tried to string them, they just fell apart because they were too soft.
- For the fruits and nuts, be sure to use things that are unsweetened and unsalted. We used dried (pitted) unsweetened cherries, unsalted peanuts, and fresh apple slices.
You’re probably going to end up with leftovers – broken peanuts, a bowl of seed mixed with peanut butter, extra ingredients that you didn’t use, etc. Don’t throw these out! Put them on the ground below where you hang your creations, and the squirrels and birds will be more than happy to take them.
I hope you have fun making some or all of these bird feeders. If you have more ideas for ingredients that the birds would enjoy, please share them in the comments! We’ll be making another batch of feeders before winter is over, and I’d love to incorporate your ideas.