How to Make Bird Feeders With Peanut Butter and Pine Cones
Make them a snack! It’s a quick and easy way to enjoy nature’s creatures all year long.
In this article, I’ll show you how to make a simple bird feeder with your kids that will keep your feathered friends fed and happy—in 10 minutes or less.
Why Make a Bird Feeder?
This quick project is a fun way to spend time together as a family and teach your kids to appreciate wildlife right in your own backyard.
As the weather changes, some bird species migrate away, others visit your area while migrating through and still others stay close to home to stick out the winter months. With this project, you can help feed local and traveling birds any time of year.
My kids love being able to look out the window, even days after we hung our bird feeders, and watch the birds eating. It gives them a sense of satisfaction and fosters stewardship to see that they can help the creatures find something to eat when the snow on the ground would otherwise make that difficult.
And it’s always fun to get your hands dirty!
There are other benefits to feeding the birds as well. When you attract birds to your yard, they will help with insect control, weed control (they’ll eat seeds found in weeds, preventing them from spreading in your landscaping) and will help cross-pollinate flowers and plants.
When your kids observe birds at the bird feeders they’ve made, be sure to talk about what they see and encourage them to identify the different species that visit. This will hone their skills in observation and research and will help them develop an appreciation of nature.
Let’s get started.
#1: Prepare the Pinecones
First gather some pinecones. They should be medium to large in size. It’s a great opportunity for your family to go outside and enjoy nature for a while.
If you live somewhere with pine trees, you can take the kids on a neighborhood treasure hunt to find pinecones for your project.
Or you could plan a nature walk or hike somewhere nearby. If you go to a park or nature trail, check the regulations before you go to make sure you’re allowed to collect pinecones. It’s illegal to take anything (except trash) away from a nature preserve.
If there aren’t any available nearby, you can buy pinecones at most craft stores.
Check your pinecones. If they’re tightly closed up, let them sit inside the house for several days so they can “bloom,” or bake them in a 300° oven for about 10 minutes to get them to open up.
Caution: Some pinecones have sharp points on the tips of their petals, so be sure you and your kids handle them with care to avoid getting poked.
Once you have open pinecones, you can attach a pipe cleaner or a length of string or wire to the tip. We used pipe cleaners because they’re easy to attach to the tree, especially if your children are younger.
#2: Spread the Peanut Butter
Once you have your pinecone attached to a pipe cleaner or a piece of string, you can let the spreading begin!
Use a butter knife to spread peanut butter all over the pinecone. Be sure to get it into all the cracks and crevices to fully coat your pinecone in peanut butter.
Peanut butter can be messy! Be sure your kids roll up their sleeves and that the area where you are doing this project is okay for a possible peanut butter mess.
Allergy alert: Many people have allergies to nuts. If it isn’t safe for your family to use peanut butter, you can use vegetable shortening.
#3: Roll It in Birdseed
When your pinecone is covered in peanut butter (or vegetable shortening), pour birdseed onto a plate and get ready to roll.
Roll the pinecone back and forth in the birdseed to completely cover it. Once it’s covered, press the birdseed into the peanut butter and roll some more.
Tip: To save time, make all of your pinecone bird feeders at once and then take them outside at the same time.
#4: Hang Bird Feeders Outside
Once your pinecone is completely covered in birdseed, take it outside and find the perfect place to hang it.
Hang your bird feeder outside a window where you can enjoy watching the birds come to dine.
Make sure to hang your bird feeder high enough that cats and dogs won’t be a problem for the birds that come to visit (younger children might need to be lifted up for this to happen).
If the branches are thick, you might need to add more string or pipe cleaners to attach your pinecone to the tree.
If you live in an apartment or don’t have a tree to use for this project, you can use a bird feeder hanger or hang it from the eaves of the building. You could also find a tree in a local park to use.
Put out a dish of fresh water for the birds, too. Make sure it’s somewhere that cats and dogs won’t disturb it.
#5: Enjoy and Educate
It won’t take long for birds to discover the treat you made for them. Watch your pinecone bird feeders for a while and see what happens. Use binoculars to get a better view.
While you sit back and enjoy watching different birds that come to visit, talk to your kids about what you see.
Guess what kinds of critters might visit your feeder. (We had several birds and even a squirrel attempt to dine on our pinecones.)
Try to identify the birds by what they look like or the calls they make. If it’s snowy in your area, see if you can identify birds by the shape of the tracks they leave. There are plenty of bird identification websites and guide books to help learn about bird watching. You can even enter your zip code and print a list of birds commonly seen in your area.
Keep a journal of the kinds of birds you see eating from your peanut butter pinecone. You could make a special bird-watching notebook (see activity #9 in this article). Who knows? This may be the first step toward a new hobby your family will enjoy for years to come.
Talk about why birds migrate and which species don’t.
#6: Bonus Activity—Make a Bird Tree
To add a little extra for your visiting birds, make a bird tree. You can decorate a bird tree for Christmas or just for fun.
Decorate a tree in your yard entirely with edible ornaments.
- Popcorn strings
- Whole apples or apple slices
- Peanut butter toast with raisins pressed into the peanut butter. (We cut ours into shapes with cookie cutters before hanging)
- Strings of cereal
- Strings of cranberries
And of course, include several peanut butter pinecone feeders!
Some Final Thoughts…
I hope you and your children have a wonderful time making bird feeders and observing the birds that visit your backyard. It’s a great way to spend time together and appreciate nature.
What do you think? I’d love to know how your peanut butter pinecone bird feeders turn out. What kind of birds enjoyed a peanut butter snack from your tree? Please leave comments or pictures in the box below.
Sarah Shipley is a homeschooling mom of four girls, part time employee and runs an urban farm. When she’s not milking goats or preparing school lessons, Sarah enjoys creative writing. Other posts by Sarah Shipley »