How to create natural bird feeders for your yard – 3 ideas for welcoming wildlife

Try these easy methods to help visiting birds through the colder months

bird on bird feeder in winter
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Providing bird food in our backyards is a wonderful way to support the local wildlife. Plus, it puts us more in touch with the natural world.

You can put bird food out all year round to encourage more feathered friends to your plot. But feeding birds in winter, when natural resources are harder to find and the weather is more challenging, is particularly helpful.

During these months, birds will appreciate food that is high in fats and energy, so suet-based treats are ideal. And they're easy to make at home, with the following methods.

robin on spade handle

Birds bring color and life to the winter garden

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3 natural bird feeders to make at home

These easy DIY feeders are perfect for helping birds through the fall and winter months and making your yard more wildlife-friendly.

bird feeder hanging from tree

Making homemade bird feeders can be a fun family activity

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1. Homemade suet feeders

suet bird feeder

Star-shaped feeders add a festive touch

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Allison Vallin Kostovick, the creator of Finch + Folly and the author of The Garden Maker’s Book of Wonder (available from Amazon), shares her recipe for making your own suet treats for birds*.

  1. Mix 3 ½ cups sunflower seeds or wild bird seed mix, 1 cup quick oats, and ½ cup cornmeal in a large bowl. 
  2. Melt 1 ½ cups coconut oil and ¾ cup crunchy peanut butter in a microwavable bowl. Stir well, then pour the peanut butter mixture into the seed mixture. 
  3. Scoop the suet into ice cube trays or molds of your choice and freeze until solid.

Top tip: Add a loop of string before freezing to hang up your suet feeders from tree branches.

Allison Vallin Kostovick
Allison Vallin Kostovick

Allison Vallin Kostovick is a longtime gardener and the creator of Finch + Folly, a popular educational website with advice and articles for gardeners of all skill levels. Allison lives in New Gloucester, Maine, with her husband and children.

2. Pine cone feeders

making pine cone bird feeders

Pine cones make excellent natural bird feeders 

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You can create all kinds of festive decor with pine cones. But, they also provide a great base for natural bird feeders. 

Making these fun treats is an activity that kids will love to get involved with. Allison's step-by-step recipe* is below:

  1. The first step is to preserve the pine cones (this also allows you to save them for other crafts). Preheat the oven to 200°F/95°C and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the pine cones on the sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until the resin becomes clear. Note: Pine cones can be flammable, so don’t leave the oven unattended.
  2. Once baked and cooled, tie a string to the top of a pine cone for hanging. 
  3. Using a spatula, coat the cone in peanut butter or suet. 
  4. Place birdseed in a mixing bowl and roll the coated pine cone in the seed, mashing the seed gently into the pine cone’s crevices. 
  5. Hang outside in a spot where you’ll be able to gaze at it.

3. Orange feeders

orange DIY bird feeder

These feeders are easy to make

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This DIY method is a great way to put orange peels to good use. Or, for something a little more long-lasting, you could try coconut shells.

  1. Half the orange and carefully remove all of the flesh with a spoon.
  2. Make four small holes around the sides of the orange. Thread string through the holes, then fasten the ends with knots so that you can hang the feeder up.
  3. You can either fill the hollowed-out orange with birdseed, or a well-combined suet and birdseed mixture.


Should you feed birds in spring and summer?

Yes, it's a good idea to put out high-protein bird food in spring and summer. However, it's generally advised to avoid feeding birds suet-based treats (and similarly fatty foods) during the warmer months, as they can melt. 

Whatever the time of year, ensure you're familiar with the foods to avoid giving to birds to keep visiting feathered friends healthy.

Where should you put homemade bird feeders?

When deciding how to locate your feeder, try to look for a place that offers a variety of resources (and is as threat-free as possible), advises wildlife expert Ben Team. 'This includes things like dense foliage for cover, water sources for drinking and bathing, and other food sources. Don’t just place the feeder in the middle of a wide-open yard.'

Additionally, be sure to hang the feeder somewhere you can easily see it at various points in the day, Ben continues. Being able to view it from a kitchen window is good; from a home office window is often better, he adds.

Ben Team
Ben Team

Ben Team is editor-in-chief of A lifelong environmental educator and the former executive director of a nature reserve, Ben has led more than 10,000 miles of guided nature hikes, authored more than 40 animal care books, and has been profiled in a variety of media outlets, including local public television, County Line Magazine, and Disney Radio.

As well as providing bird feeders, don't forget there are other ways to attract birds to your yard, such as planting berrying bushes. In her book, Allison writes: 'Here are a few great shrubs that your wildlife friends will flock to each winter: American Washington hawthorn, black chokecherry, northern bayberry, staghorn sumac, viburnums, and winterberry holly.'*

Offering nesting boxes and bird baths can also help to attract these creatures.

*Excerpted from The Garden Maker’s Book of Wonder © 2023 by Allison Vallin Kostovick. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.