How to Make Birdseed Ornaments
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 just hanging in any season. Birds will happily munch on the ornaments, and they make ideal gifts for teachers, neighbors, or coworkers. If you have birdseed and a few basic ingredients, these homemade edible feeders can easily be yours!
Read each step carefully before beginning. Each step has a photo and includes suggestions for variations to customize ornaments for your preferences and the preferences of your backyard birds.
Birdseed Ornament Ingredients
Collect the following ingredients to make your birdseed ornaments:
- 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
It is best to measure out each ingredient before beginning. 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 two cups general mixed seed, one cup of black oil sunflower seeds and one 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 four cups or the ornaments may not form properly or could fall apart.
Gather the following tools to make birdseed ornaments:
- Medium or large mixing bowl
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 8 large or 12 medium cookie cutters
- Wax paper or parchment paper
- Nonstick saucepan
- Skewer (for making holes)
- String, yarn, or twine, cut into 5-8 inch lengths
- Wire cooling rack
- Wooden spoon or rubber scraper
Ideally, the cookie cutters should be an 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. Choose cookie cutters without very fine details that would easily break; chunkier shapes work best. Cookie 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.
The string to hang the ornaments should be precut for ease, and any type of string, twine, yarn, ribbon, or raffia is suitable. Avoid fishing line, however, as it can be dangerous to birds that may find it after the ornaments are consumed. After the ornaments are eaten, the leftover string can become nesting material for birds.
Spray the Cookie Cutters
Spray each cookie cutter with nonstick cooking spray. This ensures the ornaments are released 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 the wax paper or parchment paper. If desired, spray the paper as well to be sure the warm ornaments do not stick at all.
Boil 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. Only heat this mixture 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 one tablespoon at a time until it is appropriately thinned. Similarly, if the mixture is too thin, add flour one 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. Spraying a rubber scraper or spatula with nonstick spray for the mixing can help ensure a good mix without too much seed sticking to the utensil.
Fill Cookie Cutter Molds
Spray your hands thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray and fill each cookie cutter to the brim with birdseed. Press seed into every corner of the mold as firmly as possible to compact the ornaments, 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 between 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 2-3 ornaments so the seed does not stick to you.
Roll Extra Seed Balls
Any extra birdseed mixture you have left after filling all your cookie cutters can be rolled into small birdseed balls or patted into small, firm cakes without molds. These small shapes can be quickly added to a platform feeder or ground feeding area, or used to fill a suet cage or similar wire or mesh feeder, and 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. Press the seed firmly around the skewer, and be sure the hole is completely through each ornament. Place holes approximately one 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. If desired (and if you have enough skewers), you can leave the skewer in place as the ornaments dry, or else it can be removed while they dry.
Gently move the ornaments, still in the cookie cutter molds, onto the wire cooling rack to dry. Do not remove them from the molds or else they may loosen and collapse. If necessary, they can be left on the counter to dry, but placing them on the wire rack will allow air to circulate under the ornaments so they dry more quickly and evenly. Dry the ornaments for a minimum of 6-8 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
After removing the dry ornaments from their molds, string 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.
Your birdseed ornaments are ready to hang for the birds to enjoy! Other great options include:
Birdseed ornaments are easy to make and add a festive holiday touch to your backyard buffet. 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.