Crossing out several names on my Christmas list this year, I was left with a bird lover/watcher who I knew would appreciate homemade bird treat ornaments. Feeding hungry songbirds in winter is a great way for people to interact with nature and help birds get through the tough months of winter. Studies show that bird feeding produces significantly earlier egg laying dates, larger clutches of eggs, and higher chick weights across a wide range of bird species.
My cookie cutters were drying on the counter top from cookie baking, and I decided to whip up a concoction of bird seed and gelatin and mold them into my favorite Christmas shapes. A raffia hanger would complete the ornaments, so they could be hung from a nearby tree to enjoy watching the birds swooping in to eat. This project was so successful that I also branched out into making a wreath and other smaller shapes with cooking molds.
The process of making a super frugal hand-made gift with just bird seed, gelatin, flour, corn syrup, and raffia, was done in an hour on a cold windy day. Laying out the ornaments to cure and air dry for a few days completed the process. Requiring no skill and just a few ingredients, I made enough for myself also to enjoy. After hanging out my ornaments, I noticed the birds start to feed almost immediately.
I used a general seed mix variety. You can also add dried/fresh fruit and meal worms, cracked corn, nuts, and pumpkin seeds-a great high fat source for songbirds.
When completed, pack the ornaments up attractively using burlap, tissue paper, and bows to show them off.
Bird Seed Ornaments
Mix up bird seed with dried fruit, fresh cranberries, and mealworms for a nutritious snack for songbirds
- 3-4 C Mixed Bird Seed Millet, Sunflower Seeds, Meal Worms, Cracked Corn, Peanuts, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds
- 1 Pkg of 4 Envelopes Unflavored Gelatin mixed into 3/4 C to 1 C warm water
- 2 T Corn Syrup
- 1/4 C Flour mixed into 1/3 C water
Spray your cookie cutters and/or bundt pan with non-stick spray and place on a foil covered cookie sheet.
Empty gelatin into a large bowl with warm water (1 Cup) until it forms a thick paste. Let this sit for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve. Add some more water if it is too thick.
Mix flour and water together in a small bowl to form a paste.
Add corn syrup to the gelatin mixture, stirring. Then add the flour paste, mixing thoroughly. This is the binder that gels the seeds together. It should be a thick gooey mass with some lumps. Add small amounts of water as needed.
Mix in the bird seed, using just enough to cover all the bird seed.
Fill the cookie cutters/wreath with the mixture and press into shape firmly. Don’t skimp this part- the more packed in you can get the cookie cutters and molds, the better they hold their shape.
Make a small hole with the skewer for the string or raffia in the ornaments. Leave the skewers in until the ornaments dry.
Let cure/air dry for several days and they are ready to unmold. Do not double this recipe. I made two separate batches to make 4-5 ornaments and a wreath.
Let dry once you unmold for an additional day to harden. I did this in the cold air of outside.
I enjoyed making the ornaments so much that I made a batch to fill up a small Bundt pan for a wreath. If you have gotten rid of all your Bundt or Jello molds, stop by a Goodwill for a cheap one. Before packing in the bird seed, I dropped dried or fresh cranberries in the bottom to make an attractive and nutritious accent. Be sure to thoroughly spray the Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray to make it easy to unmold. Other small molds work, like custard and muffin tins.
Place the wreath in the fridge or outside to chill thoroughly and harden before unmolding it onto a plate. I didn’t put a hole through the wreath for a hanger as it is too heavy. Instead wrap and tie your hanger around the entire wreath before hanging. If the wreath feels too fragile to hang, I place it on my bird feeder tray flat.
If the day is rainy, bring your seed ornaments and wreaths in, as they will dissolve in the rain!! These will last about 10 days outside feeding your birds and yes, your squirrels too. For a homemade suet recipe, go to Backyard Strategies for Extreme Weather.