Milk Carton Bird Feeders

Shift Your Family’s Attention from the TV to the Window with This Classic Craft

By Kristy Esparza, July 25, 2020

The milk carton bird feeder is a classic kids’ craft, and for good reason. They’re simple enough for all ages, the main “art supply” needed may already be in your refrigerator, and the end product makes your window as exciting as the TV for the next couple of days. Seriously, the first time that we made bird feeders with our kids, it was pretty hilarious to watch John get super excited when he spied a bird feasting on our creations. 

And on top of all the fun you’re having with the project, a bird feeder in the yard helps the whole family take notice of the wildlife that you likely pass by everyday without thinking twice. Birds are pretty fascinating creatures once you start to get to know them, and a bird feeder is a helpful way to begin that process.

JJ's Completed Milk Carton Bird Feeder in our slowly growing garden

Materials 

  • Milk Carton
  • Paint and Brushes
  • Craft Sticks and/or Twigs
  • Twine
  • Hot Glue / Glue Gun
  • Scissors
  • Birdseed

This project can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. We used the basics. A milk carton, some paint, and a twig for the birds to rest on while they eat. The boys asked to add in craft sticks for the roof design. 

Milk Carton Bird Feeder Basic Supplies - Carton, Paint, String, Craft Sticks, Paint Brush

Choosing the Right Paint for Your Project

We used our Crayola Project Paints for the base layer. After the paint dried, we let the boys make designs as a second coat using finger paint and markers. That being said, if your feeders are going to be exposed to the elements in the outdoors, I recommend using acrylic or other outdoor-friendly paints and an outdoor spray sealer.

Bug painting the base of his milk carton bird feeder

Simple Steps to Building Your Milk Carton Bird Feeder

Step 1

Paint the milk carton using a solid layer of paint. 

Step 2

Cut holes in the sides of your milk carton. The boys asked us to cut both a window and a door. I used scissors, but was wishing for an X-Acto knife!

Step 3

Cut a hole for the twig or craft stick that the bird will rest on while eating. Glue the twig into the bird feeder so it’s a stable landing spot for birds. 

Step 4

Cut a hole through the top of your bird feeder, and thread the string or thread through. This is what you’ll hang your bird feeder from when complete. 

Step 5

Glue your craft sticks to the “roof” of your bird feeder.

Step 6

Let the kids finish decorating their bird feeders. We decided to bring out the finger paints and markers, but you’ll want to choose the right materials for your space (and how comfortable you are with non-washable paints!). 

The most exciting part comes after building your milk carton bird feeder: waiting for your neighborhood birds to make an appearance! They may visit right away, or it could take some time. The first time we made bird feeders, they started visiting the next day. This time it took about a week. And then we realized that the birds didn’t stay because the feeders swung too much for them to be able to land!  So we moved them to a more stable spot. And now we’re waiting again.

Attracting birds takes patience and can be a practice in trial and error. But those are also good lessons for the kids. And when it works and the birds are attracted to your feeder, it’s a fun and rewarding moment for the whole family.

More easy homemade Bird Feeder Ideas We Love

Milk Carton Bird Feeder Alternatives: Bagel Bird Feeder

Nut Butter and Bagel Bird Feeders

This one is as simple as they come, but beware the unintended consequences!  Start by leaving your bagel out for a day or two until it is hard. Next, spread your favorite nut butter all over the bagel, and then roll it in bird seed. Finally, thread your string through the center of the bird feeder, and then hang it up where birds can find it. 

This was the first kind of bird feeder we tried. We hung it from the eaves of our roof so that we could see it through our front window. While we got to see birds nibbling on the bagel for a few days, it really drove our local squirrels crazy!  We would see them literally hanging from the roof trying to get it. Finally, they chewed through the twine and took off with the bagel. It was an entertaining way to learn how birds and squirrels compete for food!

Milk Carton Alternatives: LEGO Bird Feeder

LEGO BIRD FEEDER

Though this is clearly a more challenging example, it could be a perfect project for entertaining a LEGO-loving kid!  This example won Gary Mueller the Judges’ Choice award in Project FeederWatch’s BirdSpotter photo contest. Part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Project FeederWatch is an amazing resource. It offers important information such as which foods attract which types of birds, and how to deter unwelcome birds (and other animals).

Alternatives to Milk Carton Bird Feeders: Pumpkin Bird Feeder

Pumpkin Bird Feeder

Ever wonder what you can do with your post-Halloween pumpkins? Love this creative idea from the Dreamy Whites: French Farmhouse Inspired Living blog

Pinecone Suet Bird feeder

Suet bird feeders are a helpful option for protein-loving birds, especially in the winter when insects might be more difficult to find. While this project may not result in the prettiest feeders, I love the easy and flexible instructions from Chloe’s Blog from Big Mill that can be adapted to what you already have in the kitchen. Plus you can start the project with a nature walk, gathering pine cones and trying to spot some of the birds in your neighborhood.

We hope you enjoy making your milk carton bird feeder and meeting your wild neighbors!  Let us know how it goes, or share your own favorite feeder ideas in the comments below.

Happy bird watching!

other simple craft ideas that will help you continue your outdoor adventures at home

Natural Materials Web - Spider Craft Preschool

Spider Crafts for Kids

Science and Art of Bird Wings - Bug Painting

Paper Airplane Birds

Superhero Playtime with Ice

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