Every winter my kids and I make cookie cutter birdseed ornaments to hang on a special tree for our feathered friends. It’s one of our favourite winter traditions. We also make extras to give as gifts to teachers, friends and family to celebrate the Winter Solstice and Christmas. I love making these ornaments because they’re simple to make and inexpensive. They also give back to wildlife during a time of the year when food can be scarce.
There are many tutorial and recipes for birdseed ornaments on the internet, but they often include ingredients that can be harmful to birds such as corn syrup and honey. This birdseed ornament recipe is healthy for birds and easy to make too! The recipe itself is simple, requiring only three basic ingredients: gelatin, water and bird seeds. Anything extras are optional but it makes the treat a bit more special for the birds.
Be sure to take a moment to read the troubleshooting and helpful tips listed below as well as any ingredients and materials that should be avoided.
Healthy Cookie Cutter Birdseed Ornaments
- 2 Tbps unflavoured gelatin (30 mL or 2 pouches)
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 2 1/2 cup birdseeds
- 1/4 cup raisins or currant (optional)
- 1/4 cup walnuts, peanuts or almonds, chopped (optional)
- 2 Tbsp jam, jelly or marmalade (optional – grape, berry, apple, cherry, raspberry, red currant, and orange)
- Twine, cotton or wool string
- Large cookie tray
- Sticks for making holes (2" long and as thick as a drinking straw)
- Parchment paper
Pour 1/2 cup of cold water into a large bowl and sprinkle 2 Tbsps. of gelatin over the liquid.
Add 1/2 cup of boiling water and stir the mixture constantly until the gelatin has fully dissolved, about 1-2 minutes.
Scoop 2.5 cups of birdseeds along with optional add ins into the gelatin mixture and stir together until all the seeds are well coated.
Continue to stir until there is no liquid puddling at the bottom of the bowl. This should only take a few minutes.
Prep the cookie cutters by placing them on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Once the mixture is ready, firmly pack the cookie cutters with the birdseed mixture.
Make a hole in the ornament using a stick (about the size of a drinking straw) about 1/2" down from the edge of the ornament.
Place the ornaments in warm place to dry for 24 to 48 hours. Carefully flip, or put the ornament on its side so that the bottom can dry too.
Once the ornament feels dry, carefully press it out of the cookie cutter and remove the stick.
Pass a string through the hole of the ornament and hand on a tree outside.
Troubleshooting and Helpful Tips!
- If the mixture is solidifying in the bowl: Pop your bowl into the microwave to warm it up and then give it a stir.
- If the mixture is not sticking together: If your mixture is not sticking together use a bird friendly jam or jelly (birds love grape jelly!) for some added glue. Stir in 2 Tbsps. of jelly, jam or marmalade into the mixture. Avoid adding corn syrup, honey or preserves/jams that are artificially sweetened.
- If your ornaments are breaking: Use cookie cutters with simple shapes (star, gingerbread man, tree, circle, heart) that are at least an 1 inch thick. Be sure to pack the seeds into the cookie cutter firmly!
- If the ornament hole is breaking: Make a hole at least 1/2 inch down using a short piece of stick. If you make a hole that’s too close to the edge, the hole will likely break.
- If mold is growing on the ornament: Please don’t feed moldy ornaments to the birds! To prevent mold from growing dry your ornaments thoroughly before hanging them outside. Another tips is to hang the ornaments outside when the temperature is close to freezing.
- If the ornaments are falling apart after being hung outside: Heat and rain will soften gelatin and make the ornaments fall. These ornaments are best made in the winter months when temperatures stay closer to freezing.
- If birds are not eating the ornaments: Choose a birdseed mix that is best suited for your resident birds. Also, birds like to perch while they eat, so be sure to hang an ornament where birds can perch on a lower branch and still reach the ornament.
Ingredients and Materials To Avoid:
- High fructose corn syrup: This highly processed sweetener is often found in birdseed ornament recipes. While it can help the ornament stick together, corn syrup is actually quite unhealthy for little critters, especially birds. If you need some added glue to stir your mixture together, choose a jam or jelly instead.
- Honey: Even the highest quality honey can habor bacteria that can be potentially toxic for birds.
- Plastic straws for making holes: Plastic straws make their way into rivers and oceans and harm wildlife. Use sticks for making holes instead.
- Synthetic string: Use organic string material (100% cotton, twine or wool) to ensure that any bits and pieces that fall to the ground will fully decompose.