Homemade Bird Food Recipes

Make Your Own Bird Food: Suet & Seed Mixes

January 25, 2021
Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Our homemade bird food recipes can be made at any time of the year, but especially in the cold winter months when natural resources are scarce. When is it OK or not OK to feed birds? When should you put out bird feeders? See our tips.

For many of us, it’s a great joy to watch and study our feathered friends. In the winter, experts maintain that the best way to birdwatch is in a comfortable chair by the window (and we would agree). By keeping a feeder stocked with bird food, you can attract birds that will stay with you until spring. 

Is it Good to Feed the Birds in Winter?

Rest assured that it’s fine to feed birds during the cold winter months. Supplemental food actually helps birds during especially tough winters—and this will not affect bird migration. A number of factors trigger the urge for birds to migrate, but the most significant one is day length. When the days get shorter, certain birds move on, regardless of whether there are still filled feeders available for them. 

During the rest of the year, it’s best to take feeders inside, as there will be plenty of other natural resources for the birds to take advantage of. Plus, bird feeders can be very attractive to foraging mammals, such as skunks, rats, and bears, which are usually not welcome visitors!

When Should I Put Out Bird Feeders?

It varies by region, but typically, it’s not recommended to put out bird feeders until at least December. This ensures that hungry hibernators such as bears are already bedded down for the winter, and that the birds will have something to snack on when foraging becomes difficult.

For homemade suet, which can go rancid if exposed to too-warm temperatures, it’s best to wait until temperatures are consistently in the 40s (Fahrenheit) or below. 

Simple DIY Pine Cone Feeder

If you have kids, it can be fun to make a pine cone feeder! You should need 4 items: pine cones, string, peanut butter, and bird seed!

  • Find some pinecones. (Ponderosa are nice because of their larger size.)
  • Wrap the string in a tight loop around the top of the pine cone, leaving enough to tie it to a tree or pole. 
  • Coat the outside of the pinecone with peanut butter and then roll it in bird seed! Use smaller seeds will ensure that seeds stick well, but mixed seed or black-oil sunflower seed will work too if you press the seed in well.
  • Hang your feeder on a tree branch or pole and watch the birds enjoy their winter feast!

Credit: Audobon

Homemade Bird Food Recipes

Most people put out a bird seed mix, which birds do appreciate. However, if you really want to impress your avian friends, here are a few DIY bird food recipes we recommend:

  • Suet 
    A simple suet recipe that is beloved by woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and many other backyard birds.
  • Jack Dudley’s Woodpecker Pudding
    A suet–peanut butter concoction that will drive all the wild birds, well, wild!
  • Fine-Feathered Entree
    Packed with nuts and seeds, this mix is a feathered-friend favorite.
  • Junco Cornbread
    This simple baked cornbread is quite literally for the birds—and boy, do they enjoy it!
  • Homemade Hummingbird Food
    Come spring, don’t forget the hummers! This simple recipe for hummingbird nectar consists of only sugar and water.

Bird-Feeding Advice

What’s most important is that you keep birds safe by keeping your bird feeders clean. Scrub out feeders with a 10 percent non-chlorinated bleach solution at least a few times a year, and certainly between seasons. Remove suet in hot weather because it will spoil quickly.

See our Wild Bird Food chart for more information on what kinds of foods different types of birds eat. Also make sure you choose a birdfeeder that fits the bird species you wish to attract!

Plus, here’s some advice for growing plants with seeds to feed the birds and plants that attract hummingbirds.

Do you feed the birds in your backyard? Who’s your favorite winged visitor? Tell us about them in the comments below!


Parts of this article were first published in The 1984 Old Farmer's Almanac.

Reader Comments

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Backyard Birds Central California

We have been feeding the birds in our little apartment backyard in Central Valley, CA for 10 years now. I can't quite figure out the suet better so they'll eat it. Our regulars our squeaky, bossy blue jays, dark eyed juncos, double crested sparrows, and the ubiquitous mourning dove. We have definitely seen a reduction in their populations and variety, so sad. Happy birding, all!

missing birds in Texas

For the past 4 years the population of birds has dramatically decreased in east Texas... I have asked many people about this and searched the internet for answers... The only reason I have been able to find indicates that the reduction in the bird population could be due to the chemicals that our government has been using in their weather manipation for climate control, cloud seeding (chem trail) program ... I guess there is always a side effect to progess ...

Missing birds

I live in the foothills of NC and have noticed since September of this year the birds no longer come to the feeders in my front yard. Even the squirrels are missing. Was thinking maybe the hurricanes had something to do with their disappearance. Can you shed any light on this?

Coconut Oil?

Has anyone used coconut oil for these cakes? I saw a blog about it. Living in a cold area, I figure small cakes made with coconut would be OK. Anyone?

bird feeder

I have 3 bird feeders plus a suet bloc. Currently I have seen
Black capped chickadees, junco, nut hatches, jays, cardinals,
woodpeckers ,variety of sparrows and unfortunately 8 squirrels,
however they are all a joy to watch

Honey is NOT good for bird’s

Honey is NOT good for bird’s due it's bacteria growth and can be fatal to Birds

Anna's Hummingbirds typically

Anna's Hummingbirds typically over winter in this area...I have one or two pair that stay in my yard all winter. I keep a saucer style feeder under the eaves, beneath a spotlight that keeps the food liquid and warm all thru the icy months.

Hi Sharon, i live about 25

Hi Sharon, i live about 25 miles south of Seattle, and also see a hummingbird (or two) that do not migrate. I have winter blooming jasmine its yellow, and they love it. I love that its a natural food for them, that i don't have to thaw :)

What little I know about

What little I know about hummingbirds is that most of them migrate in the winter months. And the way to tell if it is male or female is by looking at it's tail. When the tail is open females will have white in each outer corner. I feed my hummers in the winter also, but I don't thaw the feed or anything and they seem to do just fine.

I have alot of hummingbirds

I have alot of hummingbirds in my back yard. For the past 2 years, they all leave in the winter, except for 1. Don't know if it's a male or female, but I make sure the feeders are always full.When it freezes, I go out before it gets light and and bring the feeders in to warm them so it always has food.Is there a reason this little one doesn't go with the rest? I worry about it when we have winter storms here. We live about 25 miles north of Seattle.

I live south of Seattle and

I live south of Seattle and feed Anna's Hummingbirds all winter...they actually do over winter in this area. I keep a feeder under the eaves beneath a spot light that warms the area and the flat saucer style feeder so it never freezes.

Sugar water

Doesn't the sugar water freeze in winter? I brought mine in because of this reason?