Birdseed Ornaments

At first glance, a recipe featuring birdseed might suggest that I’m dishing up unappetizing diet fare as punishment for overloaded Thanksgiving plates and a few too many turkey sandwiches. Rest assured. I would never do that!

Conversely, after long hours spent preparing a holiday feast, the cook has earned the right to coast on leftovers for a while. And while it may be a little early for gingerbread men and sand tarts, those cookie cutters can be put to good use with a fun project that pulls double duty as a thoughtful gift or present topper.

When my sons were little, we began what became an annual ritual of making homemade gifts for relatives and teachers. The boys always felt a sense of pride giving a little something in which they invested their time and effort, and we always had fun in the process.

Over the years, we chose projects with the hopes that the items could be readily used, consumed, or tucked away with the holiday decorations to be revisited in future years as a special keepsake. Visions of the gift recipients’ closets and drawers always lurked in the back of my mind. Space is always at a premium—no need to contribute clutter!

The first time we made these ornaments, I was certain the relentless invaders of our backyard birdfeeders would make quick work of them. To my surprise, the squirrels largely ignored them. They hold up quite well and, topped with a colorful ribbon, look pretty amidst the leafless trees.

On that note, I recently read that mixing some cayenne pepper with the birdseed destined for traditional feeders will keep the squirrels at bay without bothering the birds. Though we haven’t yet put this tip to use, I thought it worth mentioning for those who end up watching more squirrels than birds.

Birdseed Ornaments
Yield: 3-4 ornaments made from standard-size cookie cutters
If you’d like to make additional ornaments, I recommend doing them in separate batches. That way, the mixture won’t start to dry out as the ornaments are being made. You want the birdseed to be wet when going into the cookie cutters for maximum stick factor once dried, and prepping individual batches takes just a minute or two.
Supplies
  • 3/4 to 1 cup birdseed
  • 1 packet of gelatin (unflavored—I use Knox)
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • Cookie cutters, lightly greased*
  • Twine and/or ribbon
  • Parchment or waxed paper
Instructions
  1. Combine the gelatin and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from heat and allow the mixture to cool for one minute. Stir in 3/4 cup birdseed, adding extra as needed until all the liquid is absorbed. (You won’t want to add much more than 1 cup, otherwise there won’t be enough “glue” to bind the birdseed once dried.)
  2. Place the cookie cutters on a parchment or waxed paper on a baking sheet. (You can make the ornaments right on the counter, but a baking sheet allows for them to be easily moved aside later.) Fill each ornament halfway with the birdseed mixture. Lay a piece of twine down the length of the cookie cutter. Fill the cookie cutter to the top with remaining birdseed mixture, making sure to pack it down firmly. Allow the ornaments to dry for several hours or overnight. Once completely dried, gently press the ornaments out of the cookie cutters. If desired, add a decorative ribbon and hang on a tree branch for the birds to enjoy!
Hints

*The cookie cutters do not have to be greased, but lightly greasing them will make for extra easy removal once dry, especially when using ornaments with small angles like stars. Younger children may be better off using ornaments without tight corners, as these are slightly harder to pack with the birdseed. We use a very small spoon for this.

The key to ornaments that are sturdy and stick together is to press firmly on the birdseed mixture as you pack it into the molds.

 

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

It’s hard to come up with the perfect gift for parents, teachers, neighbors, aunt and uncles, and family friends.  Birdseed ornaments are fun to make and economical, too — and your feathered friends will thank you! 🐦

 

 

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Comments

  1. Marci

    I love these ornaments! I have been looking for a kid’s craft idea to use at our family Christmas breakfast. These would be perfect except for the drying time. We are only there for 2 to 3 hours. Is there any way to speed up the drying process? Hair dryer, small heater, fan? Thanks so much. I am a huge fan of your recipes!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Marci, If you’re careful with them they should be ok to move after several hours–maybe put them in a shoe box or on something flat to move, depending on how you’re traveling. A fan might be a great way to expedite, too. Thanks so much for your comment–I’m delighted you like my recipes!

      Reply
  2. Autumn

    Do you think these would be perishable in warmer climates? I live in CA and I was wondering if the gelatin would spoil since during the day it’s rarely colder than 65 degrees and often in the 70’s-80’s. Wouldn’t want to make the birds sick.

    On another note; squirrels get hungry too! To keep them from raiding the bird feeder, I get 5 lb. sacks of unsalted peanuts from Costco (under $6) and everyone gets fed. I also have blue jays, crows, and wild parrots who come for the peanuts and are outside waiting along with the squirrels (and squawking their heads off, in the case of the parrots) for me every morning.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Autumn, I think the ornaments would hold up well in warmer temperatures since they use plain gelatin as opposed to the sugary, flavored variety. Also, I love that you buy peanuts for the squirrels and get a wider variety of birds as a result. Thanks for taking the time to mention!

      Reply
  3. Marci

    Ann… I practiced making these for my family Christmas breakfast to use as a craft project and they are adorable! However, I am concerned about how to make up the gelatin mix with no way to boil the water first at the breakfast. Since we will be at a restaurant I was considering requesting an electric coffee pot to dispense hot water to mix with the powder. Do you think the water will be hot enough to dissolve the gelatin powder? If not, could I make the gelatin ahead earlier in the morning (enough for all the batches… maybe 4-5) and keep it warm and mix the seed with it at the breakfast right as we make the ornaments? Sorry to be such a pain, but I don’t want this craft to be a fail in front of all my husband’s family members. Thanks so much!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Marci, I’m glad your practice round was a hit and you want to make these for a family project. The water from an electric coffee pot should be hot enough to dissolve the gelatin. I don’t recommend mixing it ahead of time as the gelatin will firm up as it cools and likely not incorporate as well into the seed. As an option if you’re concerned about the logistics of doing this away from home, you could make these cinnamon ornaments ahead of time and simply decorate: https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/3-ingredient-cinnamon-ornaments/. Either way, I think everyone will be delighted with the end result and it will be a fun kids activity! While I’m thinking of it, these beaded candy cane ornaments are really fun for little ones: https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/holiday-crafts/. Lastly, you can use the royal icing (which can be prepared well in advance) and make an abbreviated version of the houses using sugar cones for Christmas trees: https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/graham-cracker-houses/. They can also be strung through the top and hung. Have fun!

      Reply