Homemade Birdseed Ornaments-The good, the bad, & the ugly

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Inside: After testing 3 different homemade birdseed ornament recipes, I discovered the easiest way to make the best birdseed ornaments.

You may be wondering why on earth I’m posting about homemade birdseed ornaments on a gardening blog.

Well…Birds are great to have in the garden. Yes, they occasionally peck a hole in your perfectly ripe tomato or steal a few blueberries from your bushes, but they have their place in the garden too.

Birds help control bug populations in our gardens. Having wild birds around can keep insect damage to a minimum.

And this is the time of year when they have trouble finding food. There usually isn’t much growing in your garden for them to eat right now nor are there many bugs flying about.

So on the quest to feed our feathered friends, I started looking into homemade birdseed ornaments.

I tried 3 different “recipes” with varying results. I’ve shared the good, the bad, and the ugly of each recipe below. I’ve also shared what we are choosing to do instead.

a pinecone birdseed ornament hanging in a tree
Birds love to eat birdseed from these pinecone ornaments.

Affiliate Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this article may be affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you purchase something through a link. It will not change your cost. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see my disclosures page.)

Birdseed Ornaments Made Using Gelatin

a bell shaped birdseed ornament
Gelatin Birdseed Ornament

The Good

The first recipe we tried used unflavored gelatin, light corn syrup, hot water, and birdseed. You mix the ingredients, let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes, and then press it into metal cookie cutters placed on a piece of parchment paper.

Add a piece of straw to make a hole for the string later. After refrigerating the ornaments overnight, you pop them out of the cookie cutters, remove the straw, and tie a string or a piece of twine through the hole.

The ornaments we made were beautiful and came out well. I hung a couple in the tree right outside our kitchen window. It didn’t take long for the birds to find them.

The Bad

My first mistake was not hanging them where the birds had a branch below the ornament to sit and eat. We watched a poor cardinal struggle to get a couple of bites of the ornament.

So I relocated the ornaments where they hung near a tree branch for the birds to sit on.

The next morning, we had a rainstorm that brought a bunch of wind. The ornaments fell to the ground.

I’m not sure whether it was the wind or the rain that brought them down, but they didn’t last long. Luckily our birds are fairly resourceful and they found the birdseed anyway.

The Ugly…Mold.

Many people reported that the gelatin mixture grew mold after several days. While we didn’t have this problem because I kept ours in the freezer, many different blogs I checked had people reporting mold in the comments.

That’s definitely not something we want to feed our feathered friends.

I had put the extra ornaments in the freezer, so I will continue to pull them out one or two at a time over the span of a couple of days. But I will be sure to check each day for mold and promptly remove them if I spot any. If you use this method, proceed with caution.

So on to the next recipe.

Coconut Oil BirdSeed Ornaments

a coconut oil birdseed ornament in a tshirt shaped cookie cutter with peanut butter and coconut oil seeping our of it.
Coconut Oil Birdseed Ornament

One recipe I found used coconut oil, peanut butter, and birdseed. I knew that coconut oil melts at 76 degrees, but I was hoping it would be ok in the middle of January.

The Good

This recipe directed me to melt the coconut oil and peanut butter and then stir in the birdseed. A very simple recipe and I had everything in my pantry. Then I used a small spoon to press the birdseed mixture into our favorite cookie cutters on a baking sheet covered in wax paper.

The Bad

As you can see from the pictures above, it started seeping under the cookie cutters onto the baking sheet. I tried refrigerating the mixture for a bit, but I knew if I let it get too hard, it would solidify and I wouldn’t be able to get it in the cookie cutters.

Once the birdseed mix was in the cutters, I used a piece of plastic straw to poke a hole in the top of each ornament. Then, I refrigerated the ornaments until they hardened.

resource library opt in box

The Ugly

One ornament broke as I was trying to pop it out. The others, while difficult to get out, came out in one piece. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the straws all the way to the bottom of the several.

I made a mess of the straws too, trying to get them through the mixture. And they only lasted a couple of hours before they fell to the ground on a cloudy day with a high of 38 degrees.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this recipe either.

Birdseed Ornaments Using Shortening

The Good

I saw a recipe online that used shortening and the first thing I did was research whether shortening is OK for birds to have. The Audubon Society uses it in their recipe for suet cakes so they apparently think it won’t harm our birds.

I would have liked to make their suet cake recipe. I was pulling ingredients out to try it too.

Then I noticed that it said they weren’t recommended in temperatures above 50 degrees. Here in NC during the winter months, we can have 30-degree highs one day and 70 the next.

There was no way that would work in my climate. Plus, I don’t have a suet feeder as they suggest.

The shortening recipe I found was the same as the coconut oil birdseed ornament recipe, except it didn’t require you to melt the shortening and peanut butter.

It mixed easily and it was easy to spoon the birdseed mixture into the cookie cutters on a cookie sheet and into a silicone muffin pan without incident. Per instructions, these went into the freezer to set up.

The Bad

I really wondered how they would hold up as the mixture was extremely soft going into the cutters. After freezing these overnight, I popped them out the next morning.

They all came out of the cookie cutters quite easily. Before they had a chance to warm up, I immediately took them outside to hang them.

The Ugly

It was 35 degrees at the time so I was hopeful the shortening would stay firm. But no. This one was an epic fail.

I barely got one ornament hung in the tree before the string cut through the shortening and it came crashing to the ground. The only way I could see this recipe working is if it doesn’t get above freezing all winter. (And I’m still not sure it would work then!)

Another epic fail!

The Reliable Standby – Pinecone Birdseed Ornaments

a pinecone covered in birdseed hanging in a tree.
This birdseed pinecone feeder was a hit with my local birds.

Finally, we went with the old standby, pinecone ornaments. You simply smear peanut butter (or another nut butter or sun butter) on a pinecone and roll it in birdseed.

The hardest part of making these is tying a string around a prickly pinecone. (Tie the string around it BEFORE you roll it in the peanut butter!)

These can also be messy, and not quite as pretty, but they do work well. You also can use all the ingredients at room temperature and don’t have to wait to freeze them. They can be made in a matter of minutes.

Within 10 minutes of hanging mine in the tree outside our kitchen window, I had a beautiful cardinal happily munching on it!

These are also the only homemade birdseed ornaments that I feel would hold up in warm weather.

But What If I Don’t Have Pinecones?

If you want to make these but don’t have pinecones, you can buy them here. However, you can also use toilet paper tubes or cardboard to make birdseed ornaments.

If using toilet paper tubes, punch holes on either side of the tube and tie a string to both sides, allowing several inches of string between the holes so you can hang the ornament.

Smear the tube with peanut butter or sun butter and roll it in birdseed.

If using cardboard, choose sturdy cardboard. Thin cereal boxes will not hold up to the birdseed and peanut butter. First, cut the cardboard into decorative shapes like stars or bells if you choose, though a simple square will work just fine.

Punch a hole through the top of the cardboard where you want to hang it. Then thread string or yarn or wire through the hole.

Smear both sides of the cardboard ornament with peanut butter and dip each side in birdseed, gently pressing it into the peanut butter. Hang the finished ornament outside on tree branches for the birds to enjoy and have fun watching the wide variety of birds that will likely visit your backyard.

free Christmas gift planner

To Package as Gifts

Homemade bird seed ornaments make great handmade gifts for the holiday season and are a great project to make with kids. Making homemade gifts is a great way to teach children about the spirit of giving during the Christmas season.

To package these ornaments, I recommend packing each one into a plastic bag and then in a box with some tissue paper as padding.

If you are giving several you can then pack them into a larger box or gift bag. These ornaments are a great gift idea for bird lovers or grandparents who may have everything they need and are hard to buy for.

Proceed With Caution When Making Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

While making homemade birdseed ornaments can be fun, be sure you monitor the ornaments after you hang them out. I can’t really recommend any of the first 3 recipes as I feel they all have their flaws.

Personally, from now on, we will stick with the pinecone version. It’s easy, works really well, holds up in warm weather, and our backyard birds actually seemed to prefer the pinecone bird feeders.

After two days, the pinecone ornament was nearly empty of seed, while the gelatin one had been largely ignored. The ones that crashed to the ground were eaten by squirrels and a few wrens that came along.

So, have you ever made birdseed ornaments before? What recipe did you try? Did you have any trouble with mold growing on them or them falling to the ground?

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Meet Julie

I’m a farm girl born and bred in North Carolina. I’ve been growing a vegetable garden for over 20 years (and helping my Mom grow hers even longer). I’ve been raising chickens in my bathtub and backyard for 12+ years. I believe that homegrown food can be made simple. Let’s get started.

a pinecone birdseed ornament hanging in a tree with text that says "the best homemade birdseed ornaments. i tried 4 recipes. this is the only one that worked."

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  1. I would research peanut butter as bird food. Peanuts are grown underground, so they are not natural food for birds. I wonder if feeding them PB, would be similar to people feeding popcorn to birds: it will kill them. They can’t digest it and it bloats them and kills them. Or rice: which is why many weddings choose to throw birdseed instead of rice as it will do the same. None of these are natural to birds: popcorn, rice, and peanut butter. So, interesting idea, but I would first determine which “sticky” ingredient is natural for birds and will also make the seeds adhere to the pine cone.
    Good to know the other recipes don’t work!

    1. Thank you for your concern. According to the Audubon society (and many other sources), peanut butter is perfectly safe for birds. It provides healthy fat and doesn’t turn rancid in warmer temperatures like suet.

  2. I’m making a bird feeder Christmas tree for our County tree lighting and finding this article was in perfect timing! I have a trashbag full of pinecones, a gallon of peanut butter, a 20 lb bag of birdseed and a fresh spark to make this the best tree ever! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hello! Thanks for such a wonderful and informative article. All of the recipes I tried to make them into other shapes failed miserably. The pinecone variety is the only one I’d suggest. They’d be OK if you made them up to a week ahead of time. Others would spoil quickly, and if left out for more than a few days in the heat, some would even mold.

  4. I have a friend that is getting married in May 2021. She was wanting to do the favors as a Heart birdseed. How long should we make these ahead and what should we store them in until the wedding. We were thinking of putting the heart in a see through bag and hang a tag from it saying Thanks for sharing our day!
    Any information is greatly appreciated!
    Patty Wagner

    1. I found that all the recipes for making them in shapes didn’t hold up well. The only variation I can even recommend is the pinecone version. You could probably make them a week or so ahead of time and they would be fine. The others wouldn’t last long at all and some of them would probably even mold if left out more than a couple of days, especially in the summer.

  5. I made bird seed ornaments as part of a wedding favour using two different versions; gelatin and coconut oil. I loved the gelatin. Easy to work with and set very well. I made sure they were dry before packaging placing them on a cookie rack for air circulation for a couple of days. No mold issues. The coconut oil not so much. They were greasy and fell apart easily and I had to keep them in the fridge. Awful to work with. I did find lining the inside of the cookie cutter with plastic wrap made removal of the ornaments easier and saved a lot of tge coconut oil. I used a wood dowel I bought in the craft section at a dollar store to insert and I was able to push the dowel through the hardened coconut oil while pulling out the ornament. Can’t do that with a straw. It was a learning curve but once I got the proper ratio it was a breeze.

  6. Thank you for the trial and error report. I’m planning to make these with 7-8 year old boys and wondered what DIY type would be best. These seem easy, effective, and a little messy- perfection!
    Jenny S.

    1. I hope the boys enjoy making them. (My boys sure do!) And then it’s so much fun to watch the birds come to visit and enjoy their treat. Have fun!

    1. Amazon has some natural pinecones that aren’t scented that would be a good size for making birdseed ornaments. There is a link near the bottom of the post to some that I think would work.

  7. I’ve used this recipe twice, with mixed results.
    Melt 1 cup lard and 1 cup crunchy peanut butter in microwave. Stir in 2 cups quick-cooking oats, 2 cups cornmeal, 1 cup flour and 1/3 cup sugar. I also add some birdseed to the mixture. I use square molds that will fit into the suet cages and store in freezer.
    The Good- the birds love it!
    The Bad- it’s quite crumbly. The ratio of wet to dry ingredients seems a little off to me. Next time, I’m going to try increasing the amount of “wet ingredients” and see if that helps.

    1. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I’ll have to test this one out when I have time. This sounds like a great alternative to the expensive suet cakes you can buy.

  8. We just take a round piece of fire wood and drill 1 inch holes approx. 1 inch deep and stuff the home made bird cakes in the holes. We hang it with a hook in the top in the trees. Birds love it and empty it quickly.

  9. Bummer on the bird seed ornaments that grow “fuzzies”. I have made them and have had the same problem. I make them into the size of an egg, putting a string inserted in top ( make a small knot in your hanger that gets inserted into the egg shape ornament. Store them in an egg carton in the freezer till ready to give or use. The carton can be decorated and a bow around the outside as a hostess gift, grandchild gift or bookclub gift! etc….still looking for a recipe that does not grow “fuzzies”!

    1. That sounds like such a cute idea. I would love to find another recipe that doesn’t grow mold too, but so far, I’ve not had any luck. So we are sticking with the pinecone ornaments, especially for the summer.

  10. You can try using a hot glue to attach the string on the pinecone. Might be less messy. Thanks for all your helpful thoughts.

  11. Very helpful article. I have been wanting to make the ornaments. I’ve made the suet cakes in the past and plan to do so again next winter. My mama always made hers and she lives in NC also.

      1. I added the link to the Audubon Society’s recipe in the post. (For some reason, I couldn’t add it here in the comments.)