Pine-cone bird feeders have been a popular craft activity in classrooms, with scout troops and at nature centers for years. One of the key ingredients in a pine-cone bird feeder has always been peanut butter. Due to the increase in peanut allergies, this environmentally-friendly craft activity has taken a dive in an effort to keep children and adults safe from an allergic reaction to peanut products. Fortunately, an excellent substitute has been found and you can enjoy this simple craft with your children and attract local birds to your homemade feeder.
Collect pine cones. Get one for each person participating in the craft. It's best to collect pine cones from outdoors rather than purchasing them at a craft store. Nature items sold at craft stores are often treated with chemicals or coloring to enhance appearance.
Purchase suet from your butcher. Suet is animal fat. Most butchers will not have it out on display as it's not used as frequently as it was years ago. Suet from the butcher is softer and easier to work with, but if he doesn't have it you can purchase suet in the bird-seed aisle and soften it in the microwave.
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Lay your pine cone on wax paper and tie an 8-inch piece of twine around the base of the pine cone. This will serve as the hanging mechanism for your bird feeder.
Spread a thick layer of suet all over the pine cone using a small spatula. Suet is greasy and messy, but that's often part of the fun for children. Wash hands with soap and water upon completion so bird seed doesn't stick to little fingers.
Pour bird seed onto wax paper and roll the pine cone to coat well. Lift the edges of the wax paper to move bird seed into the center and continue to roll the pine cone until it's well-coated. Add more bird seed if necessary.
Hang your pine-cone bird feeder from a tree branch or shepherd's hook outside a window where you and your children can enjoy watching the birds eat from your homemade feeder.
Substitute shortening if you absolutely can't find suet but it's not as palatable to the birds as the suet is.
Supervise very young children closely during this activity.