Give Birds a Feast with a Suet or Coconut Oil Feeder

What You Need:

  •  Can of leftover cooking fat or suet, solidified (not oil) OR jar of coconut oil
  •  Heavy saucepan
  •  Birdseed that’s appropriate for birds in your area
  •  Tin can (an empty 15-16 ounce tomato sauce cans work perfectly) 
  •  Piece of cardboard
  •  Piece of sturdy string, about 4 feet long

What You Do:

  1. Start by helping your child trace the bottom of the tin can onto the cardboard, and cut the circle out.
  2. Punch a hole in the middle of the cardboard piece, and pull the end of your string through it. Have your child knot the string tightly so that it can’t pull all the way through the hole.
  3. Put the solid fat or coconut oil into the heavy saucepan and melt it slowly over low heat until it is liquid.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the birdseed. (You should use about twice as much birdseed as fat.) Leave this mixture out to cool slightly, so that it’s thick and “globby.”
  5. While everything is cooling, get your tin can ready. Cover a countertop with old newspaper or another absorbent surface in case of drips.
  6. Push the cardboard into the bottom of the can with the string sticking out. 
  7. Have your child help you spoon the mixture into the can, filling it all the way to the top. Push it down to remove any air pockets. Be sure the string is still sticking out.
  8. Put the whole mix into the refrigerator until it hardens completely. 
  9. Once your new bird feeder has solidified, it’s ready to share with the birds. Use the string to gently tug it out of the can, and then suspend it from a tree branch, ideally visible from one of the windows of your home.
  10. Invite your child to make observations about what they see. When do the birds feed? What kinds of birds do they see the most? Do the birds get along?
  11. Enrich your child's learning even more by making a chart to hang on a wall near your favorite birdwatching window. Use a bird book to identify the species of birds that have been visiting your feeder.  Use a scanner or copier to print out a small identifying picture, and then write the name of each type of bird on the chart. Help your child read about the bird, and keep track of the birds they observe in a daily journal. This also helps their reading and writing skills!

Note: This bird feeder activity can be adapted to a variety of shapes and sizes! The fat and birdseed mixture, when cooled, can be molded into a variety of shapes. Remember, however, that the mixture will liquify in warm temperatures. For warm spring and summer temperatures, placing the mixture in a shallow tray is a good alterantive.

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