Invite your feathered friends into your garden this spring with these seven bird feeders you can make out of materials you might have otherwise thrown away or recycled — plastic bottles, milk cartons, or scraps of wood. There’s a project here for everyone, regardless of your age or skill level — from young children and DIY novices to crafting pros who are handy with drills and hacksaws.
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1. Soda Bottle Bird Feeder
A favorite of the elementary school classroom, the soda bottle bird feeder is a simple DIY project for bird lovers of all ages. After rescuing a 1- to 2-liter soda bottle from the recycling bin, look around your house or yard for two wooden spoons, dowels, or twigs you can use for the project; these will create a place for the birds to sit while they eat.
Then follow the instructions on Bird-feeder-plans.org to cut small holes in the bottle where you will insert the spoons or dowels; parents will need to help their kids with this step. Fill the bottle with bird seed, twist the cap back on, and then hang the bird feeder from a tree or porch with string or fishing line.
If you’re not feeling crafty but still want to upcycle an old soda bottle into a bird feeder, there are a variety of soda bottle bird feeder kits available. Simply attach the ready-made feeding tray and hanging wire to your own soda bottle to make a bird feeder in minutes.
2. Milk Carton Bird Feeder
Fashioning a bird feeder out of a milk or juice carton is just as straightforward as building one from a plastic soda bottle. Simply cut out equally sized “windows” in three sides of the carton, leaving 1 to 2 inches of space from the bottom of the carton. Then poke two holes at the top of the carton and feed in fishing wire or other sturdy string, so you can hang the feeder from a tree or porch. Read the complete directions at 99BirdHouses.com.
3. Tray Bird Feeder
Got leftover pieces of wood from a past house project? Then you can make this simple tray feeder from Birds & Blooms. You’ll also need an aluminum screen that you can buy at a hardware or home improvement store, as well as experience using a drill and hammer.
You can even upcycle old windows, picture frames, or other wooden household items into a tray bird feeder. This Instructables tutorial shows how one user built a bird feeder out of the wooden backing of an old bronze award.
Tray bird feeders attract the widest variety of birds, but be careful if your yard is full of other critters: They are not squirrel-proof.
4. Floppy Disk Bird Feeder
You haven’t used a floppy disk in years, but if you still have a few disks buried in your desk drawer, you can recycle them into this funky floppy disk bird feeder from Instructables.com.
After taping together the bottom edges of three floppy disks comes the most difficult part of the project — dismantling the disks. First, slide off the metal shutter that holds the plastic housing together. Then take apart the housing to remove the magnetic disk and paper ring inside. Use scissors or a utility knife to cut a window in the plastic housing that remains, and then assemble the housing into a cube, fastening the walls together with tape or a hot glue gun. Glue a string to the top of the box and add some bird seed. Your retro-tech bird feeder is ready to hang in the yard.
5. Automatically Refilling Glass Bottle Bird Feeder
Online crafting magazine Esprit Cabane offers a fresh take on the DIY recycled bird feeder, providing instructions for an automatically refilling feeder made from wood scraps, wire, and old glass and plastic bottles.
After building a wooden shelf for the feeder, you’ll use wire to fasten the glass bottle upside down, leaving a 3 to 4 centimeter space between the opening of the bottle and the base of the shelf to allow bird seed to pour out gradually. Cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle and place it under the glass bottle; this will serve as the bird seed dish.
6. Plastic Bottle Hummingbird Feeder
Hoping to attract adorable hummingbirds to your yard? Check out How to Enjoy Hummingbirds’ guide to fashioning a hummingbird feeder out of a 1-liter plastic bottle and a small plastic takeout container like those used for deli salads.
To get started, grab your drill and make one hole in the center of the plastic bottle’s cap. Then drill a hole in the center of the takeout container lid. The whole needs to be large enough to accommodate the plastic bottle’s opening. Also, make four small holes around the takeout container lid; this is where the hummingbirds will drink.
Next, fill the plastic bottle with hummingbird nectar, which you can easily make by mixing one part white granulated sugar with four parts water. Then pop the takeout container lid onto the plastic bottle, twist on the bottle cap, and attach the takeout container to its lid.
To catch the hummingbirds’ attention, highlight the four feeding holes with the birds’ favorite color — red. Cut out circles from red fabric scraps or even from a Coke bottle’s label, and paste them around the feeding holes.
7. Stylish Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder
Want to build a recycled bird feeder that doesn’t sacrifice on aesthetics?
Centsational blogger Kate came up with the design for this elegant bird feeder when she found that an empty plastic 1-liter bottle fit perfectly inside two Ball jar lids that she had lying around the house. While you start out with recycled materials, this project requires a few supplies from the hardware or craft store including wood disks, a wood ball finial, and spray paint (look for low- or no-VOC paints to make your bird feeder more eco-friendly). You’ll also need a power screwdriver and a hacksaw — and experience using them.
But the result is well worth the effort: The finished product looks store-bought, not like a DIY bird feeder you made over the weekend.
Editor’s note: This article was updated in March 2019.