Bird Seed Bells

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Bird Seed Bells

I was looking for an activity that I could do with children that might inspire them to look more closely at birds. I like a challenge, and so digging through my recycling and assembling a feeder to hold loose seed seemed like too obvious a choice, after all, I did it in grade 3 using milk cartons. I needed something more difficult. I wandered through the aisles of a local hardware store for inspiration and decided to try and recreate those popular rock hard birdseed bells that come ready to hang. They seemed perfectly mysterious, I didn’t know much about them; all of those seeds magically bound tightly together, a pleasing shape, I found my challenge.

These bells make great gifts because; they can bring enjoyment to anyone who enjoys seeing birds in their yard, they are inexpensive to make, and the gift receiver doesn’t have to keep your gift forever. Sometimes fleeting gifts are nice, especially if you’ve gotten a gift before and cringed at the thought of having to keep it on display somewhere in your home. We spend our whole lives accumulating “stuff”. Don’t underestimate the gesture of a gift that has a short lifespan.

Since discovering these recipes years ago, I was on a hunt for wedding favour ideas for a friend and saw a cute display; a tree branch with many little heart shaped bird seed feeders dangling from it with hemp string. I thought this was a terrific idea. I’ve seen collections of wedding favours in people’s homes, forgotten candle holders, bowls with fake flowers in them collecting dust, faded magnets, pieces of cake or chocolate forever preserved in a family members’ freezer, never to be enjoyed. What a terrific wedding favour-a mini bird seed bell! It’s cute, bring it home, let the kids pick a place for it, and watch it disappear. Save some space in your freezer for food you eat and save a spot on your shelf for books worth reading instead of knick-knacks that collect dust.

Recipe 1

Prep time: 15-20 min

Baking time: 60-90 min

What you will need

  • Small terracotta pots
  • Loose birdseed
  • Eggs
  • Oven bags, parchment paper, or tin foil (to line the pots)
  • wire/ribbon/string/hemp cord (something to use as a hanger)
  • I used a piece of a coat hanger, snipped with metal snips.

 How to

Separate the whites from the yolks.  Discard yolks.  Beat eggs until fluffy (not too stiff or the bell won’t hold together).  The ratio is roughly two egg whites per cup of bird seed.

  1. Pour bird seed into egg whites and stir until it resembles a thick paste.
  2. Line your pots and then scoop the mixture in until the pots are full and level.
  3. Loop one end of your wire (this will be what the bells hangs from).  Insert the wire into your bell (up through the little hole in the terracotta pot) and bend the straight end against the bell’s bottom so that the wire does not slide out while baking.
  4. Bake for 60-90 min at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Check once in a while to make sure they are hardening-Careful they’re hot.  (Press top with spoon to check for hardness).
  5. Once they are finished baking, take them out of the oven, remove bird seed bell from pot and allow the bell to cool.
  6. Once your bell is finished, you may want to decorate the wire loop by tying a piece of ribbon to it.

After trying this recipe and found that the mixture was spongy; maybe I didn’t bake it long enough for it to harden throughout? The wire insert didn’t want to stay in place, because the mixture was spongy/crumbly.

That being said, I may have not done it properly. I decided to move on and find another recipe because the idea of working with hot terra-cotta pots and children at the same time made me think of little burned hands and teary eyes.

After contacting one of the leading manufacturers of the popular bells in stores, without divulging their secret recipe, they suggested trying an animal safe binding agent like gelatin.

Recipe 2

Prep time 15-20min

Setting time: 2hrs +

What you will need

  • Loose birdseed
  • Knox Original Unflavoured gelatin
  • a mould to form the shape of your bell (I re-used the little terra-cotta flower pots)
  • wire/ribbon/string/hemp cord (something to use as a hanger)

How to

  1. mix two envelopes of Knox gelatin (approx. 4 Tbsp) to 1 cup of water
  2. simmer this mixture on low until gelatin has dissolved.
  3. Stir in 2 cups of birdseed to the mixture, stir until completely mixed
  4. Pour/scoop into molds (consider applying a non-stick baking spray or butter to molds before putting seed mixture in, for easier removal).
  5. lightly pack the mixture into your mold and allow to cool in refrigerator for at least 2 hrs.

The woman I borrowed this recipe from used a ring-shaped cake pan for her mould. This resulted in a wreath shaped feeder, which looked easier to hang using a piece of ribbon or twine.

It is worth noting that some people prefer to use animal fats or suet to bind their seeds, this is especially good for winter feeders that will stay cold and hold their shape. I decided to avoid using animal fats, worried that it might melt under the hot sun in warmer months, potentially getting soft/rancid.

These recipes might require some tweaking depending on how your mixture behaves but I hope that they are enough to get you started. I am sure you can come up with clever moulds from things in your kitchen. I liked the terra-cotta pots (dollar store) but I also made a few in muffin tins as well.

Good luck!

More info 

Here are a few links for anyone curious about how to attract birds to your yard or what kinds of feed to use to draw in certain species:

http://www.naturecanada.ca/bird_cons_involved.asp

http://www.hww.ca/en/issues-and-topics/bird-feeding.html

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/BirdFoods.htm

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=1138

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2 responses »

    • That is a good question, I am not sure. I have only made these once and they were given to the birds right away. It might be worth asking someone who specializes in making these products. Much of this will depend on the recipe you use as well.

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