Cabin Fever's for the Birds!

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Good ol’ winter break! The kids have flown through the gifts and are just touching on some cabin fever. Are you looking for something constructive for them to do and aren’t ready to give up the Christmas spirit yet?

seed-ornament-1Look no further.

Birdseed Ornaments

“Birdseed ornaments are a fun, easy project and make great outdoor decorations, perfect for decorating a Christmas tree for the birds or just hanging out in any season. Birds will happily munch on these ornaments! If you have birdseed and a few basic ingredients, these homemade edible feeders can easily be yours!

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Collect the following ingredients to make your birdseed ornaments:

 

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin, such as Knox
  • 4 cups birdseed

It is best to measure out each ingredient before beginning. The flour can be any type, as can the corn syrup. For the birdseed, choose seeds that most appeal to your backyard birds – the ornaments pictured were made with a blend of two cups general mixed seed, one cup of black oil sunflower seeds and one cup of white proso millet. The ornaments could easily be made with just sunflower seeds or millet, or you can customize your blend with peanut chips, sunflower hearts, cracked corn or dried fruit as desired, so long as the total amount of birdseed is approximately four cups.

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Gather the following tools to make birdseed ornaments:

  • Medium or large mixing bowl
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8-12 cookie cutters
  • Wax paper
  • Nonstick saucepan
  • Skewer or similar implement (for making holes)
  • String, yarn or twine, cut into 6-8 inch lengths
  • Wire cooling rack
  • Wooden spoon or rubber scraper

Ideally, the cookie cutters should be an inch thick, as they will be fully filled to create the seed ornaments and a thicker ornament will be more stable and more easily hung. Choose cookie cutters without very fine details that would easily break; chunkier shapes work best. Cookie cutters can be either plastic or metal.

The skewer to create the hole in the ornaments can be any similar type of instrument, so long as it is thick enough to create an effective hole. A lollipop stick, ballpoint pen, chopstick or unsharpened pencil can work well.

The string to hang the ornaments should be precut for ease, and any type of string, twine, yarn, ribbon or raffia is suitable. Avoid fishing line, however, as it can be dangerous to birds that may find it after the ornaments are consumed. After the ornaments are eaten, the leftover string can become nesting material for birds.

Spray each cookie cutter with nonstick cooking spray. This ensures the ornaments are released from the cookie cutter molds easily, so be sure to coat the insides thoroughly, including every bend and crevice of the cutter. Arrange the sprayed cookie cutters on the wax paper. If desired, spray the wax paper as well to be sure the warm ornaments do not stick at all.

Add the water and corn syrup to the nonstick saucepan and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the gelatin, stirring or whisking it continually to dissolve. Clumps may appear, but will gradually vanish as you continue to stir. This will create a syrupy liquid that will bind the ornaments together. Only heat this mixture until the gelatin has dissolved; boiling the liquid down too far will reduce the quantity available to bind your ornaments, and they may fall apart more easily.

seed-ornament-6Transfer the syrup to your mixing bowl and add the flour. Stir the mixture until it is well blended; it will have a consistency similar to a medium brownie batter or thick cake batter, and there should be no large clumps. If it is too thick to stir easily, add additional hot water one tablespoon at a time until it is appropriately thinned. Similarly, if the mixture is too thin, add flour one tablespoon at a time to reach the right consistency.

seed-ornament-7Add the birdseed and thoroughly mix it with the flour batter to coat all the seed. This will be a thick, stiff mixture, but it is important to blend it well otherwise the ornaments will fall apart. Spraying a rubber scraper or spatula with nonstick spray for the mixing can help ensure a good mix without too much seed sticking to the utensil.

seed-ornament-8Spray your hands thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray and fill each cookie cutter to the brim with birdseed. Be sure to press seed into every corner of the mold, and press the seed as firmly as possible to compact the ornaments – loose seed will fall apart more easily. The birdseed mixture can dry out quickly so it is wise to have help with this step (great for kids!), or else cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap between each ornament. Fill only one ornament at a time; they will start to dry quickly, and extra seed added at the end will not adhere as well to the finished ornament. You may need to spray your hands with nonstick spray after every 2-3 ornaments so the seed does not stick to you.

Any extra birdseed mixture you have left after filling all your cookie cutters can be rolled into small balls or patted into small, firm cakes without molds. These small shapes can be quickly added to a platform feeder or used to fill a suet cage or similar wire or mesh feeder, such as the Birdie Bell, and no seed needs to go to waste.

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Use whatever implement you have chosen as a skewer (a lollipop stick here) to create the holes for hanging each ornament. Press the seed firmly around the skewer, and be sure the hole is completely through each ornament. Place holes approximately one inch away from the ornament’s edge to ensure a sturdy form, and wiggle the skewer around to be sure the hole is large enough for your string or twine and to compact the seed around the interior of the hole. If desired (and if you have enough skewers), you can leave the skewer in place as the ornaments dry, or else it can be removed while they dry.

Gently move the ornaments – still in the cookie cutter molds – onto the wire cooling rack to dry. Do not remove them from the molds or else they may loosen and collapse. If necessary, they can be left on the counter to dry, but placing them on the wire rack will allow air to circulate under the ornaments so they dry more quickly. Dry the ornaments for a minimum of 6-8 hours, but preferably overnight or for a full day if possible. Placing a small fan nearby or turning on a ceiling fan to increase air circulation will help them dry more quickly.

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Stick the ribbon, string or twine through the holes in each ornament and tie in a tight knot leaving an open loop for hanging. If the holes are too tight, use the same skewer you formed the holes with and poke it through again; the seed inside the holes may collapse slightly as the ornaments dry, therefore restricting the hole size. Another option is to use a wide-eyed tapestry needle to pull the ribbon or string through the hole.

Your birdseed ornaments are ready to hang for the birds to enjoy! Other great options include…

  • Adding ornaments without string to a platform feeder as festive seed cakes.
  • Wrapping ornaments in clear or decorated treat bags to give as gifts.
  • Making many identical ornaments for wedding favors or party favors.

Birdseed ornaments are easy to make and add a holiday touch to your backyard buffet. From heart ornaments for Valentine’s Day to flower shapes in the summer to trees, stars and bells for Christmas, it is fun to have these edible bird feeders in your yard year-round.”

* About.com Birdseed Ornaments

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