Making this easy bird seed cake with children is a great activity to get them engaged with the local wildlife Not only will they have fun making these little bird feeders, you’ll also encourage birds into your garden, where the kids will be able to watch them more easily.
Bird seed cakes are simple enough for even very young children to have a go at – and the worms are entirely optional!
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How to make bird seed cakes
This is the classic way to making a bird feeder that many of us would have been taught by our mums or by the presenters on Blue Peter.
When I learnt how to do this as a child, we used empty yoghurt pots as moulds, and even the odd coconut shell when such rarities came our way. I think we washed and reused the same ones for a good ten years!
We also used lard rather than suet, and that is something you can substitute here and it will be just as good.
The RSBP have a good page on what birds eat, which includes information on why you should avoid giving them used cooking fat in place of lard or suet, so I recommend checking this out if you are at all unsure.
A few key things to note are that you should use seeds labelled as suitable for birds, rather than similar-looking products packaged for humans. Peanuts, for example should be unsalted and unshelled – never use seasoned nuts or seeds.
Also, hygiene is just as important for birds as for people. Don’t put out mouldy food and make sure to clean or replace containers regularly or you could inadvertently cause birds to get sick.
- bird seed (several types)
- paper cake cases
You will also need scissors to cut the string, and spoons to stir with. If you are doing this activity outdoors, you will need a heat source to melt the suet. In the pictured Forest School sessions, I used a camping stove like this one. But I’ve also done this using a kelly kettle and over a fire pit – any steady heat source is fine.
Bird Seed Cake Instructions
1. Melt a small amount of suet in a dish or pan. Since we were doing this outdoors at Forest School and didn’t have the fire pit lit, we used a portable camping stove for this. If you haven’t used suet before, it comes in packets (at least in the UK!) of grated pellets, and you can use either traditional beef suet or vegetarian suet for this.
The suet doesn’t stay liquid for very long, so I find it best to keep it on the heat right up until we use it. However it doesn’t need to be boiling so should be okay for the children. For very young ones, I will spoon the hot suet onto their seeds for them, but then let the children mix it all together themselves.
Mixing the dry ingredients
2. While the suet is melting, have the children mix together a few tablespoons of seeds in a dish. I like to give them a few different ones to choose from as that makes it lots of fun for them.
Below, this child started by using black sunflower seeds, but there were several other things on the table for her to add afterwards.
Packs of mixed seeds are nice and colourful for both the birds and the children, but the absolute favourite ingredient that we use for these bird seed cakes has to be the mealworms.
I can’t quite bring myself to breed my own mealworms for the birds, but dried ones are readily available from the shops. Most children absolutely love using these dried bird treats, and I guess this is because mealworms have a thrilling touch of the “ick” factor, but don’t actually feel as wormy as they look!
3. Once you’ve got a few tablespoons of seeds (and worms) mixed together, it’s time to add the suet. Add roughly one third suet to two thirds seeds, and mix it all up so all the ingredients are coated in sticky suet.
Unless you are making these bird seed cakes on a hot day, the suet will start to harden fairly quickly, so have a paper cake case ready to pour it into for setting.
Fill your case with about half of the mixture you’ve made.
Pat the mixture down so it’s nice and firm. This will help it to hold together as the birds nibble on it. You don’t want the bird seed cake crumbling too soon!
Loops for hanging
Unless you are planning to put your bird seed cakes out on a bird table, you’ll need to add a bit of string to hang the cakes up by.
So with the cake case half full of mixture, cut a length of string and press both ends lightly into the cake.
Then use the rest of the mixture to cover up the ends of the string and fill the cake case up.
Make sure to pat the cake down with your spoon once all the mixture is in, so that everything is nice and firm.
Feed the birds a bird seed cake
Before you put your bird seed cake out for the birds, you’ll need to let it set. I usually tell children to put it in their fridge overnight so that it gets nice and hard.
Then, when you are ready to put it up, remove the paper case and use the loop to hang it in position.
More from Rhubarb and Wren
Looking for other ways to make bird feeders? Check out these great alternative methods from Rhubarb and Wren!
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Bird Seed Cake Quick-Read Instructions
For when you just want to get right to the point…
1. Suet or lard
2. A mix of bird seeds
3. Mealworms (optional)
4. Paper cake cases
1. Melt the suet or lard over a low-medium heat.
2. While the suet is melting, mix a few tablespoons of seeds and mealworms together.
3. Spoon the melted suet over the bird seed (approximate ratio – one third suet/two thirds seeds mix)
4. Mix everything together.
5. Put half the mixture into a paper cake case and press firmly.
6. Make a loop of string and put both ends on top of the seed mix in the cake case.
7. Cover the ends of the loop with the remaining seed and suet mixture, and press down again.
8. Leave overnight in the fridge to set.
9. Remove the paper cake case and hang the finished bird seed cake up outside.
Hints and Tips:
Fat mixes are best given to birds in the autumn and winter months, when food is scarce. Fat is also more likely to go rancid in warm weather, and can melt onto birds feathers. So make this a cold weather activity!