This week I started volunteering as a leader for Rainbows, which is part of the Girl Guiding Association. Rainbows is like a club for 5-7 year old girls. I have been helping there for a few months as a mum helper, and my friend Rosie was the leader… but now Rosie is 7 months pregnant and needing some maternity leave. So I’m taking over as the main leader, though there are a few wonderful regular volunteers who will be supporting me thank goodness!
Tuesday was my first session of being in charge, the meeting lasts an hour so I had to plan out activities to fill that time. We are working towards a badge called the Rustle, Bustle, Squeak badge, all about nature and animals, so for our main activity we wanted to make bird feeders. Often when my kids have made bird feeders at nursery or school they have been pine cones filled with lard and coated with seed. I’m sure they do the job but they are a bit of a stinky, gloopy thing to be handed at the end of a day, so I searched for something more pretty…
I found inspiration for these cookie cutter / biscuit cutter bird feeders from searching Pinterest and checking out a few blogs HERE, HERE, and HERE. So the idea is not original but I thought I’d share with you how we did it, and what measurements we used for the packets of gelatine I could get at Tesco. These photos are all from a practice run I did at home with Little Miss – to make sure it worked!
Here’s how to make these…
Step 1: Buy some wild bird seed (I bought a big bag from the local pet shop), and some gelatine / gelatin (I used Dr. Oetker’s gelatine 12g sachets which I found in the baking aisle of Tesco, there were 3 sachets in a pack):
Step 2: Keep the children back for this bit. Pour 115ml (approx) of hot boiled water into a large bowl, open a sachet of gelatine, and sprinkle it on top of the hot water, whisking as you do so. Keep whisking until the gelatine granules have all dissolved – to check this you can dip a metal spoon into the mixture then take it out and see if there are any granules on the spoon. If there are some granules left keep whisking, if not move onto step 3.
(For the Rainbows group we had 16 girls, so we used 4 sachets in 4 separate bowls, so we could split the girls into manageable groups.)
Step 3: Now the kids can start helping! Get them to measure 2 cups (240ml per cup) of birdseed into the gelatine mixture:
Step 4: Stir the mixture for 1-2 minutes so the gelatine soaks into the birdseed:
(For the Rainbows we had 4 girls per bowl, and each girl gave the mix 10 big stirs, this seemed to be a good length of time and easier for them to count themselves).
Check the gelatine has soaked into the seeds (it can depend on how absorbent your birdseed is) – it’s okay if there’s a little liquid at the bottom of the bowl, but if there’s a puddle you might want to add a bit more birdseed.
Step 5: Place some greaseproof paper on a tray (you can place the greaseproof paper straight on your counter / table but be aware you won’t be able to move it for 3-4 hours – a tray means you can move it out of your way):
(The Rainbows each had an individual piece of greaseproof paper which they wrote their names on, so when I took the bird feeders home to dry I would know which one belonged to which girl!)
Step 6: Use a spoon to start scooping the birdseed out of the big bowl and into the cookie cutters:
For the shallower cookie cutters we filled them right to the top, for the deeper cutters we filled them just over half-way. I’d say the seed mixture needs to be at least ½” deep inside the cutter.
Step 7: Take a little piece of greaseproof paper to stop the seeds sticking to your fingers too much, and press down on the mixture inside the cutters, making sure the corners are filled up. This pressing down stage is really important, if the seeds aren’t pushed together enough the feeders will crumble when you take them out of the cutters, so make sure they are nice and squished:
We managed to make 9 bird feeders with this mix (to give you an idea of size, the cat cookie cutter is 3″ tall, 2½” wide, 1″ deep):
(The Rainbows each made 2 bird feeders. I had to find 32 suitable cookie cutters! Luckily between me and Rosie we managed it – they did differ in size and shape a lot, but there was surprisingly few arguments about who got which cutter. It’s a good lesson on sharing anyway!)
Step 8: Push pieces of plastic straw into the feeders where you want the holes to be. Make sure there’s enough seeds around the straw to hold the hole together when it’s all dry – you don’t want the straw to be right at the edge of the cookie cutter (which is what most of the girls tried to do even though they’d been told first!). Also make sure the straw is pushed all the way through, it may get stuck on a big seed and need a gentle wiggle to get it to the greaseproof paper:
Step 9: Leave the shapes to dry for 3-4 hours (I had to bring the trays home from Rainbows to do this!):
Step 10: After 3-4 hours, turn the cookie cutters over and leave to dry again for another 3-4 hours (I left them overnight at this point). After this you should be able to gently push them out of the cookie cutters and pull out the straws. If they feel a little delicate you could leave them for longer to hopefully harden up some more. Once they are hard you can thread through some string or ribbon and hang them in the garden:
The birds will soon be stopping by for a snack!
My daughter was so chuffed with how these turned out. We hung a few in our garden and she proudly took a few into school to hang there.
The Rainbows haven’t seen there’s yet but I know they will be excited. I did have to do a bit of patching on 5 of the ones the rainbows had made – I wasn’t able to keep an eye on all 32 feeders during the meeting so some hadn’t been pushed down enough and went crumbly. I made another batch of mixture and fixed them at home so the Rainbows wouldn’t be disappointed, plus is gave cheeky boy a chance to make some too. We also spent the meeting talking about why birds have less food in the winter, and how some birds migrate – we played a version of Port & Starboard, but we changed it to ‘Hot & Cold’ for hot countries or cold countries, and had actions like flying, pecking, and nesting. It was a very fun evening!
Have you ever made bird feeders like this? Do you get many birds stopping by your garden / area?
Bye for now, Jennifer x