Make a suet feeder from cardboard egg carton. Suet is the fatty tissue that surrounds the kidneys of cattle and sheep. It is a great energy source for insect-eating birds, especially in winter and early spring when insects are scarce.
What You Need
- cardboard egg carton
- green acrylic paint (washable when working with children)
- mixing bowl and spoons
- needle nose pliers
- paint brush or painting sponges
- painting apron or smock, if working with children – an old t-shirt can work
- 2 thick rubber bands (like the ones from when you buy brocolli)
- suet (about 3 cups) or homemade filling made from ingredients below
- wire clothes hanger or heavy gauge wire
What You Do
- Cut holes in the bottom of each bump in the egg carton.
Keep the egg carton intact i.e. don’t separate the top from the bottom. Cut holes about as big as a nickel. This is a safe activity for a child if you use children’s scissors and show them how to carefully puncture the bump first, then cut out the hole. Assure them that the holes do not need to be perfectly round or similar from bump to bump.
- Paint the egg carton green.
This step is optional, but it is fun and it makes your egg carton look more attractive when you hang it in the tree. My daughter asked, “Why are we painting it green when nothing is green in winter?” and I said, “I think birds associate green with yummy things. And also it makes it look less like a piece of trash stuck in a tree.” She said, “A piece of trash? This is how we help the birds!”
- Mix the filling for the egg carton.
If you don’t want to purchase pre-made suet, you can mix your own from these ingredients:
- 1 part peanut butter (crunchy is better)
- 1 part shortening
- 1 part flour
- 3 parts cornmeal
- 1 part cracked corn
- 1 part sunflower seeds and/or mixed seed
The measurement of this can be quite flexible i.e. we didn’t really measure anything. We just made sure it was a nice mix of sticky to dry ingredients. Our filling was like greasy cookie dough in the end.
- Fill the egg carton with suet or your homemade filling.
Put down some newspaper to protect your table, because some filling might ooze out of the holes during this step.
Fill each cup to the brim, and even to overflowing. Then close the egg carton just like when it contains eggs.
Get two heavy duty elastics, like the kind they use to put brocolli stalks together. Have your child hold the egg carton vertically while you stretch the elastic over the top and down between some of the bumps. Do this at the other end as well. This holds it together.
- Put a wire, such as a hanger, around the middle of the feeder.
Use needle-nose pliers to unfurl a wire hanger. Then wrap the wire around the middle of the feeder and start twirling it so it forms a tight circle. Wrap the wires around the back of the carton. We found it took two adults to pull the wire nice and tight.
- Hang the suet feeder.
Position your feeder vertically along a tree trunk or branch. Try to position it so the birds have something to stand on while eating. Use the wire to wrap around the trunk or branch. Use your pliers to tighten the wire and twirl it securely on the tree.
Note: This feeder should ideally only be put out in cold weather because suet can go bad when it is warm. If it looks like you might get rain, remove your feeder from the tree and put it in your freezer until it gets cold again. Egg cartons are not waterproof!
The original version of this craft was created by Robin Walker and published in Your Big Backyard magazine. This version was written by Carla Brown.