birds.jpg Spring is here and that means the birds are too. Migratory birds of several varieties return from their winter break, looking for sun, water and, of course, food. While many birds rely on small insects or other materials to eat, a lot rely on the caring nurturing humans who put out plenty of seed, houses and feeders. And let’s not forget the giant pool that is the birdbath. Birdwatchers love to create mini-habitats in their yards, hoping to catch a glimpse of a gorgeous crimson cardinal or the bright orange oriole. But let’s be real – all of the fun bird products that show up at the stores right around now cost money. Basic seed may be inexpensive, but fancy birdhouses and baths can cost hundreds of dollars. Why throw all of that money away when there are tons of different DIY and upcycled feeders, houses and baths that you can make yourself? Crafting some of the projects on your lists will not only help you and your family save money, but you will also be following the Three Rs and promoting sustainability.

Bird Suet Cakes

Regular birdwatchers know that having a small rectangular cage with suet (a combination of fat and seeds) is the key to attracting insect-eating bugs to their porch. Instead of continuing to buy pre-packaged blocks at the store, you can make a large batch yourself – freezing blocks to use when needed. These seed cakes contain nothing but shortening, sunflower seeds and peanuts (add dried berries for a festive look and a little treat for the birds). Mix the ingredients and place into molds – plastic Tupperware works well for large batches. You can also use cookie cutters and make fun hanging suet ornaments.

DIY Bird Seed

In most scenarios, people buy bags of bird seed/food from a specialty store, with most mixes meant to attract certain types of birds. It may seem quicker and easier to just buy a $5 bag of seed, but if you have a busy yard, you may be returning to the store sooner than you thought. Instead, create a huge batch of bird feed that will attract most types of birds – all with basic ingredients. While you can find out via a bit of research which seeds attract which birds, a good basic mix includes peanuts, sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

Hanging Orange Feeder

This project is super easy as it takes the birdseed recipe from before and adds a tasty orange – which could attract orioles, tanagers and other unique species. Hollow out half of an orange and fill it with birdseed. To hang, poke small holes around the perimeter of the orange and thread with twine, gathering and knotting the top. If you do not wish to deal with the extra trouble, stick the orange on top of a branch or fence post.

Bowl and Plate Hanging Feeder

This DIY upcycle project is a bit more hands-on (yes, there may be a couple of tools involved), but the results are adorable. The idea is to find a cute plate and bowls set (mismatched is fine too) and design a floating patio of sorts. The bowl hangs at the bottom with the seed and the plate acts as a nice shade from the hot summer sun. Read this picture-filled tutorial to see how it all comes together. After seeing the blogger’s cute example, you will be itching to make your own.

Muffin Tin Feeder

This is one of the easiest upcycling projects ever, and it will give the birds a fancy buffet and plenty of room to roam. We all have plenty of old muffin tins laying around – go grab one and a drill if you want to hang the feeder. If so, drill holes in the four corners of the pan and chain or twine to hang. Fill each muffin spot with birdseed (feel free to mix it up to attract a more diverse crowd) and then place where you want in the yard. This same idea could also be applied to creating mini-bird pools!

Basket Bird House

For families that want to attract little bird families, these simple and rustic-looking birdhouses are made from wicker baskets. Easily found at any thrift store or perhaps your own cupboard, baskets are not in short supply. Place one basket upside down on the other, cut an entry hole and hang on a strong branch. While most people believe a little perch by the entry-way is needed, bird experts have actually found that perches can attract predators and allow them to gain access to the house. So make a cute hole but forget the stick!

Flower Pot Bird Bath

This simple and inexpensive DIY project is fun for all ages and is sure to attract thirsty birds that need a bit of a cool-down. Gather different sized terra cotta flowerpots and base plates and paint as wanted. Then stack the pots upside down on top of another creating a tower, and placing a plate on top for the water. If you want to give the birds a real spa-like experience, stack a smaller plate on top for a wading pool. Check out this blogger’s video tutorial.