Make a Bird Feeder out of a Milk Jug
How to make a bird feeder out of a milk jug – and get a bird to use it!
This project was done because my son had a science assignment which required him to make a bird feeder out of a simple household item and then to take pictures of a bird eating from it. Making the feeder wasn’t so difficult. The most difficult thing was actually getting birds to come to it. When they did, it was a beautiful and almost miraculous event. We stared at them for hours in awe and wonder. I started thinking that everyone should do this. Hence, I decided to write this post. If you have never made a bird feeder, give it a shot. It is cheap and easy. If you have no interest in birds (which I didn’t), do it anyway and you may just love the experience (which I did).
Here is how to make a birdfeeder out of a milk jug. You can also make one out of a ½ gallon orange juice carton or other container. I like containers like these because you can cut your opening without destroying the whole container and you have an easy way to hang it.
1) Take your milk jug and wash it out.
2) Use sharp scissors to cut openings to the right and to the left of the handle. Initially we did not do this. We just made one opening, and I think that is one of the reasons the birds didn’t like it. It was too closed. They need to be able to see all the way through it. So, cut openings on each side.
3) Take a piece of string, twine, yarn – whatever you have – and cut two pieces about 24” long. Tie one around the opening of the jug where the cap would go and leave the long end hanging loose. Do the same with the other piece making sure that the tie is made at the opposite side of the opening. I used two so that the feeder would hang straight. You may get it to hang straight with one piece. Then screw the cap on so that it holds the yarn in place.
4) Find two sticks about 8” long. Use the scissors to poke a small hole into the jug under each opening. This will be the bird’s perch. Cut a hole and stick one end of the stick into it. Then use masking tape or any other kind of strong tape you have (colored duct tape would be good too because birds like bright colors). To add to that, you can even have your kids decorate the jug with bright colored markers. (You can do this too, you know.) Birds like to fly up to a feeder and stand on a perch to eat so the perch is essential.
4) Put some food in it. We used black sunflower seeds. You can use any kind of bird feed or just pieces of torn bread. If you feel like being adventurous you could dig up some worms and put them in there… yum!
5) Now here is the tricky part – Hang the feeder. First, I will tell you our story. We looked up several websites about where to hang the feeder so that birds would go in it. The websites all said to put the feeder where there are birds and that they mostly feed at dawn and dusk.
We have what is called “common land” behind our house. It is an untouched piece of land that is full of trees and brush. We saw a ton of birds around the brush so we put the feeder there… and waited. We watched that feeder day and night for two days and not one bird even went in it. We sprinkled breadcrumbs and seed around the feeder and they didn’t go in. I even had some hummingbird nectar and put some in the feeder in a little dish, and they still didn’t go in. I then dumped the hummingbird feeder on the ground in front of the feeder and even doused the feeder with the stuff, and guess what? They still didn’t go in!!!!
We started to get desperate We thought of shooting a bird with my son’s paintball gun – not to kill it (don’t worry) but just to stun it long enough to throw it in the feeder to get a picture. That seemed cruel. Then we thought of buying one from PetSmart and throwing it in the feeder, but then decided it would just fly away. My son had the bright idea to glue his legs together and then glue him to the feeder and well, that seemed crueler.
So I looked online again thinking that we must be doing something wrong. Finally I found a website which said that you need to put your feeder out in the open. It needs to hang freely so that the birds can see it. It also needs to be close enough to a tree or some structure in case the bird needs to flee from prey. So… the next morning, we made three new feeders and hung them freely in three different spots in the yard. The deadline was approaching, and we just had to be sure that we would get a bird to go in that feeder.
We were up at dawn and placed the feeders in their spots and waited. Within minutes, and I am talking minutes, birds were all over these feeders. They were sitting on the perches we had made, flying to and from the feeders. Every once in a while they would spot a squirrel and leave, only to return and eat more. And they didn’t just eat at dawn. They flew to those feeders all day until the food was gone.
As luck would have it, three different types of birds flew into the feeders (my son needed pictures of at least two different birds). We probably took a thousand pictures. My son, who had grown throughout this project to declare that he was not a naturalist, hated nature and this stupid project, exclaimed, “I want to put food in these feeders every day!” We continue to put food in the feeders and watch the birds, and we both get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that they are eating out of the feeders that he made for them.
Below are the birds we saw:
Try this project at home with your kids or for yourself. Nature truly is amazing.