Thursday, March 19, 2009

For the birds: ornaments & eggshells

We're big on wildlife around here and try to give a little back to the wild things that visit our property. We've even thought about getting a salt lick for the deer that hang out in our front yard. I have no clue why our front yard is like a Motel 6 for deer, but it is. Farmer B often gets home very late at night and he often counts up to 20 deer conked out in our front yard.

But this isn't about making deer treats - it's about doing a little something for the birds. This is a two-part project to do with your kids that couldn't be easier. Every year we make edible ornaments for the birds in our yard. These photos are from about a year ago, which is obvious to anyone keeping up with the hairstyles of my boys. Aidan looks quite well-kempt in these photos and barely resemblesthe shaggy kid of today.

Here's what you need:

Cookie cutters
Twine or rafia

To make these beautiful bird ornaments you should gather a handful of old bread, or new bread if you're so inclined.

Use cookie cutters to cut your bread into fun shapes. We used stars and deer for our shapes.

Use a toothpick or ice pick to poke a good-sized hole in the top. When they're complete this is where you'll thread the string or rafia though to hang them up. If you forget to poke a hole in some and then bake them and try to use your husband's 3-hole punch to make the hole, nothing good can come from that. Not that I would know. I'm just saying...

Crack your eggs and discard the yolk. Put some egg white in a bowl and stir it up a bit. Save the eggshells for the next project. Brush the cookies with egg white.

Then sprinkle your favorite bird seed onto the shapes.

Put the bird seed ornaments onto a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 300 degree oven for about 5 minutes. You want them in there just long enough for the egg whites and birdseed to adhere to the bread. This is the crappy old baking sheet we use for craft projects.

As soon as they've cooled, thread some string, twine or rafia through the hole and hang them up around your yard and watch for birds. Do not hang them up right before a rainstorm, as we did once. They go soggy and fall off the twine leaving very teary child-faces staring out the window at the soggy pile of bready-seedy slop at the bottom of the trees. And then don't let your dogs out when the rain lets up because they'll eat the mushy bready-seedy slop, causing even more tears from your kids. Once again…not that I would know about this.

The second part of this is something anyone can do -even normal people that don't spend every waking moment trying to entertain small children yearning for silly craft projects.

One of the lesser-known ways to attract birds to your yard is by putting out your used crushed eggshells. Female birds who are drained of calcium by egg-laying, eagerly consume them.

Save and rinse your eggshells from Part 1 of this project. If you're feeling squirrelly, save lots of eggshells so you can do a batch at a time like we do.

Bake the shells lightly on a cookie sheet at 250 degrees until dry, but not brown. This sterilizes them and makes them easy to crumble. You can crush them into bite-sized bits and spread them on a patch of bare ground or a platform feeder or even a little bowl on a picnic table. You'll probably find female birds chowing down on this treat after an intense egg-laying session.


engineeredgarden said...

Huh. That's cool, Kate. We have deer, too. They sure are purty.....


Darla said...

Love the bird treats....we sprinkle our egg shells around too!

Dani said...

What a great idea Kate! I'm doing this as soon as my little one gets home.

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