A nuthatch grabs some birdseed from a homemade bird feeder made out of a juice container. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

Bird watching and DIY craft projects are two fun ways to stay occupied while spending time at home. But why not take it a step further and combine the two activities? With a little creativity, you can create a wide variety of bird feeders from common household items. And once you’re done, just sit back and see who visits for a snack.

A homemade bird feeder can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Just remember that some DIY bird feeders are meant to be temporary fixtures because the materials (such as cardboard) won’t hold up under inclement weather or might easily harbor mold and bacteria that can harm birds.

It’s important to monitor all of your bird feeders and clean them regularly to avoid causing harm to the wildlife you’re feeding.

Once you’ve crafted a bird feeder, hang it near places where birds can easily find shelter, such bushes or trees. This will allow the feasting birds to quickly hide from natural predators, such as hawks and owls.

DIY bird feeder ideas abound online — some more realistic than others. Here are a few that are easy to create and don’t require many materials.

Milk carton-juice bottle bird feeder

For this craft, any large plastic bottle or carton will do. Clean the inside of the bottle thoroughly, then, about a third of the way up the bottle, cut a large rectangular opening using scissors or an exacto knife (I used both tools to cut a rectangle out of a plastic juice bottle). The rectangle should be large enough so the bird you’re aiming to feed can easily perch on the lip and eat seeds that are inside the bottle or carton.

I suggest checking the cut edges of the bottle or carton to see if they are sharp, keeping in mind that a bird will be perching on the lower lip. If it is sharp, line the lip with a scrap of fabric and adhere it to the bottle with glue. Then decorate the outside of the bottle or carton as you see fit before filling it up to the opening with birdseed.

For my juice bottle bird feeder, I noticed that the label left behind some sticky residue when I peeled it off, so I took advantage of that and covered the sticky surface with silver sequin stars that I had on hand. I could easily press them right on, no extra glue needed. I covered the sharp plastic lip of the opening with a scrap of flannel fabric, adhering it with hot glue.

Orange bird feeder

Orange halves can easily be made into bird feeders or edible holiday ornaments for wildlife. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

Pair a DIY craft with a healthy snack by creating an orange peel bird feeder. Just cut an orange in half and scoop out the insides. I find that the easiest way to do this is with a metal spoon. Make sure you get all of the juicy flesh of the orange out, leaving the peel intact for both halves. This may take some time and patience. Then use a needle and thread, piercing the orange near the rim on opposite sides to create a thread loop that can be used to hang the orange from a tree branch or hook. Then just fill it with birdseed.

This little bird feeder also makes for a good edible holiday ornament for an outdoor tree. To make it last longer, fill it with suet instead of seeds.

Wine cork bird castle

This is the ideal craft if you’ve been collecting wine corks for no apparent reason. (Or am I the only one who does this?) Wine corks are a great material for creating small structures, such as bird feeders and birdhouses. They’re lightweight and somewhat resistant to the natural elements. They’re fairly uniform in shape and they’re sturdy — the perfect building blocks.

Your wine cork bird feeder blueprint is entirely up to you, but one style I particularly like looks like a house with columns of wine corks instead of solid walls. The base is a thin square of wood, and the roof is reinforced with thin rectangles of wood as well. Strong glue, construction staples or both can be used to keep the corks and wood in place. Hot glue could also be used as an adhesive but won’t hold out as long.

A simpler wine cork bird feeder design is a raft or platform of wine corks, with a lip around the edges to hold in the birdseed. This rounded lip also serves as a place for birds to perch as they sift through the seeds.

Glass bottle bird feeder

A variety of homemade bird feeders can be found online, and some are simple to make. This one, constructed by Aislinn Sarnacki and Derek Runnells, is made of a piece of old fencing, an old Coca-Cola bottle and glass bowl, glue, wire and a few screws and nails. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

A more complex project, a bird feeder made from a glass bottle takes some basic construction skills and tools. Several years ago, my husband and I made one of these using a vintage coke bottle, a small glass bowl, three nails, a hammer, a drill, some malleable wire, scrap wood from an old cedar fence, superglue and a metal hook. The idea is that you create a simple, wooden and wire structure that allows you to hang the bottle upside down, with the mouth of the bottle just below the lip of a shallow bowl beneath.

To use the feeder, you fill the bottle with birdseed, then plug the mouth of the bottle with your finger as you hang it upside down in the wood and wire hanger. Once it’s in place, you release the mouth of the bottle and the birdseed fills the shallow bowl to the brim. Obeying the laws of physics, it will continue to fill the bowl as the birds eat the birdseed.

While this DIY bird feeder takes special materials and skills to make, it’s more durable than most DIY bird feeders, and therefore longer lasting. Here are step-by-step instructions on how my husband and I made it.

Egg carton bird feeder

This DIY bird feeder has a short shelf life because moisture will cause it to fall apart, but it’s a great way to reuse an egg carton and it doesn’t take much time or skill to create. Just open up the egg carton and cut off one side. You can leave it at that, allowing the bird feeder to just be a tray of egg compartments filled with seed, or you can use a needle and thick thread to create large thread loops on both ends of the tray for hanging from tree branches or hooks.

This simple project is also an opportunity to paint. For this temporary bird feeder, I suggest using non-toxic acrylic paint, just in case a bird chews on the egg carton (many birds are known to chew on paper and cardboard). In an effort to keep the paint away from the birdseed, paint the underside and sides of the egg carton tray, not inside the compartments where the seeds will go.

If you don’t have the materials to make these DIY bird feeders, then get creative. Look around your house for containers, boxes or bottles that could hold seed, and gather materials such as popsicle sticks that can be used for building or adding to a structure. You could even use natural objects such as twigs and bark to add to your construction.

Keep in mind that some materials, such as lead-based paint, could be harmful to birds. When in doubt, conduct some research about the material you want to use. And when building, keep in mind the size of your resident birds and whether or not they’ll be able to easily access the seeds in your structure. If just one bird visits and flies off with a seed, you’ll know you’ve found success.

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Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.