How to Make Birdseed Ornaments
DIY Festive Feeders for Your Backyard Birds
Birdseed ornaments are a fun, easy project and make great decorations, perfect for decorating a Christmas tree for the birds, adding to a snowman bird feeder, or delivering a festive holiday touch to your backyard buffet. Birds will happily munch on the ornaments, and they make ideal gifts for teachers, neighbors, or coworkers.
Because they're made with ordinary cookie cutters, you can easily customize your ornaments to suit the occasion. From heart ornaments for Valentine's Day to flower shapes in the summer to trees, stars, and bells for Christmas, it is fun to have these edible bird feeders in your yard year-round. Other great options include:
- Adding ornaments without string to a platform feeder as festive seed cakes
- Wrapping ornaments in clear or decorated treat bags to give as gifts
- Making many identical ornaments for bird-friendly wedding favors or party favors
Before Getting Started
Choose your birdseed and other ingredients from a range of options. The flour can be any brand or type (whole wheat, all-purpose, organic, etc.), as can the corn syrup. For the birdseed, choose seeds that most appeal to your backyard birds. The ornaments pictured were made with a blend of 2 cups of general mixed seed, 1 cup of black oil sunflower seeds, and 1 cup of white proso millet. The ornaments could easily be made with just sunflower seeds or millet, or you can customize your blend with peanut chips, sunflower hearts, cracked corn, or dried fruit as desired. Just be sure the total amount of seed is approximately 4 cups or the ornaments may not form properly or could fall apart.
Choose cookie cutters that are 1 inch thick, as they will be fully filled to create the seed ornaments and a thicker ornament will be more stable and more easily hung. Select cutters without very fine details that would easily break; chunkier shapes work best. The cutters can be either plastic or metal.
The skewer to create the hole in the ornaments can be any similar type of tool, so long as it is thick enough to create an effective hole. A lollipop stick, ballpoint pen, plastic straw, screwdriver, awl, chopstick, or unsharpened pencil can work well.
Precut the string for hanging the ornaments. Any type of string, twine, yarn, ribbon, or raffia is suitable. Avoid fishing line, however, as it can be harmful to birds. After the ornaments are eaten, the leftover string can become nesting material for birds.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Medium or large mixing bowl
- 8 large or 12 medium cookie cutters
- Nonstick saucepan
- Wire cooling rack
- Wooden spoon or rubber scraper
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup flour (any type)
- 3 tablespoons corn syrup (regular or light)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin, such as Knox
- 4 cups birdseed
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Wax paper or parchment paper
- String, yarn, or twine, cut into 5- to 8-inch lengths
Spray the Cookie Cutters
Spray each cookie cutter with nonstick cooking spray. This ensures the ornaments will release from the molds easily, so coat the insides thoroughly to prevent any sticking, including every bend and crevice of the cutter. Arrange the sprayed cookie cutters on wax paper or parchment paper. If desired, spray the paper as well to be sure the warm ornaments do not stick at all.
Boil the Liquid Ingredients
Add the water and corn syrup to the nonstick saucepan and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the gelatin, stirring or whisking continually to dissolve the powder thoroughly. Clumps may appear but will gradually vanish as you continue to stir. This will create a syrupy, sticky liquid that will bind the ornaments together. Heat this mixture only until the gelatin has dissolved; boiling the liquid down too far will reduce the quantity available to bind your ornaments, and they may fall apart more easily.
Transfer the syrup to your mixing bowl and add the flour. Stir the mixture until well blended; it will have a consistency similar to a medium brownie batter or thick cake batter, and there should be no large clumps. If it is too thick to stir easily, add additional hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time until it is properly thinned. If the mixture is too thin, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time to reach the right consistency.
Mix In Birdseed
Add the birdseed and thoroughly mix it with the flour batter to coat all the seed. This will be a thick, stiff mixture, but it is important to blend it well otherwise the ornaments will not hold their shapes.
Fill the Cookie Cutters
Spray your hands thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray and fill each cookie cutter to the brim with the birdseed mix. Press it into every corner of the mold as firmly as possible, as loose seed will fall apart more easily. The birdseed mixture can dry out quickly so it is wise to have help with this step (great for kids!), or else cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap while you fill each ornament.
Fill only one ornament at a time; they will start to dry quickly, and extra seed added at the end will not adhere as well to the finished ornament. You may need to spray your hands with nonstick spray after every two to three ornaments so the seed does not stick to you.
Roll Extra Seed Balls
Make use of any extra birdseed mixture you have left after filling all your cookie cutters by rolling it into small balls or firm cakes. These small shapes are great for adding to a platform feeder or ground feeding area, or they can be used to fill a suet cage or similar wire or mesh feeder so that no seed will be wasted.
Create Holes for Hanging
Use whatever implement you have chosen as a skewer (a lollipop stick shown here) to create the holes for hanging each ornament. Push the skewer all the way through the mold, then press the seed firmly around the skewer. Locate the holes approximately 1 inch away from the ornament's edge to ensure a sturdy form. Wiggle the skewer slightly to be sure the hole is large enough for your string or twine and to compact the seed around the interior of the hole.
Let the Ornaments Dry
Gently move the ornaments onto the wire cooling rack to dry. Let them dry for at least six to eight hours, but preferably overnight or for a full day if possible. Placing a small fan nearby or turning on a ceiling fan to increase air circulation will help them dry more quickly.
String the Ornaments
Remove the dry ornaments from the cookie cutters. Thread the ribbon, string, or twine through the holes in each ornament and tie a tight knot, leaving a loop for hanging. If the holes are too tight, use the same skewer you formed the holes with and poke it through again. The seed inside the holes may collapse slightly as the ornaments dry, therefore restricting the hole size. Another option is to use a wide-eyed tapestry needle to pull the ribbon or string through the hole.