Offering nesting materials to birds is an easy way to attract bird families to your yard in spring, and a simple suet cage nester is an easy and inexpensive project that can let you offer those materials in an attractive and fun way. With this colorful offering, you will even have a chance to track which birds select the nesting material, letting you see just how useful it is in nest construction.
What You Need
To make a suet cage nester, you only need two things…
- Suet Cage: An inexpensive wire cage suet feeder can be purchased for $1-3 at any store where simple bird feeders are sold. They are available online, and many larger stores and garden centers that have basic bird feeding supplies for sale will also have these basic feeders.
You can also reuse your suet feeder if you will not be offering suet to feed birds in the spring and summer, but be sure the feeder is well cleaned and free of sticky residue before filling it with nesting material. Leftover grease or oil can be dangerous to nesting birds and chicks, not only attracting pests or predators but also coating their feathers and damaging their insulation or waterproofing qualities.
If you prefer a more unique way to offer nesting material, use a different type of cage – an old peanut feeder or a caged tube feeder works just as well. To avoid excessive aggression and territoriality, however, do not offer both food and nesting material from the same container.
- Yarn: Any type of yarn scraps can be used for nesting material. Any color or weight of yarn is just fine, and similar yarn-like materials such as thread, natural twine, string, hair and raffia are also acceptable. A larger variety of materials and colors will be attractive to more birds, and individual birds often have preferences for certain colors or types of yarn. Avoid offering fishing line, however, which can cause injuries to birds.
You can find yarn scraps around the house if you regularly knit, embroider or crochet, or you can check local thrift stores for discarded balls of yarn leftover from others' projects. Yarn from an unraveling sweater, blanket, scarf or pair of socks can even be cut up to be offered to birds as nesting material.
Scraps should be trimmed to lengths of 3-8 inches (7.6-20.3 cm) to be most useful to the birds. Shorter scraps cannot be used for nest construction, and longer scraps pose a threat of tangling causing injuries, strangulation or even death.
Making the Nester
Making your suet cage nester is as easy as just filling the cage with yarn scraps, and you're ready to go! To make sure the nesting material is easily accessible to the birds…
- Pack the yarn scraps loosely so birds can easily tug out the scraps they are most interested in. If you have excess yarn, you can create a second nester (a great gift for a birder) or save it for next spring.
- Gently pull a few scraps partway out to create dangling bits on the cage; as they blow in the wind, they will catch birds' attention.
- Be sure the cage is securely closed, but do not use a piece of yarn to tie it shut – you never know what bird might find that particular piece of yarn desirable for its nest!
When placing your suet cage nester out for birds to sample, place it in an area that will be attractive to nesting birds. Ideally, hang the nester in a visible area in the sun, where the yarn colors will attract birds and help draw attention to the material. Avoid putting the nesting material near a bird bath or bird feeding station, however, because the activity in those areas may discourage birds from investigating the nesting material. At the same time, position the nester where you can keep an eye on it from a convenient window, and you'll be rewarded with entertaining views of birds tugging and pulling to get that perfect piece of yarn loose to use in their nests.
Your nester and any other nesting material to attract birds should be in position by mid-March (in the Northern Hemisphere) to be available for birds that nest early in spring. Leave the nesting material and colorful yarn available until late summer, since different bird species nest at different times and they will all need abundant nesting material to choose from when building their nests.
The fun of using colorful string in a suet cage nester is being able to see how useful your nesting material really is. Once your yarn is available to the birds, watch trees, bushes and bird houses throughout the neighborhood carefully and you may spot a colorful accent woven into nearby nests – proof that the birds appreciate the use of the yarn!
Photo – Colorful Suet Cage Nester © Juniper Moon Farm