Getting ready for the Big Garden Birdwatch? Why not treat your garden birds to a tasty cake that will put feathers on their chest and see them through the most wicked of Winter weathers?
It’s easy peasy too. All you need is a few ingredients and the most rudimentary of craft skills- if you have kids too then these bird cakes are tailor made to keep little ones occupied during tedious half terms when rain stops outdoor play and threatens your sanity when the dreaded “I’m bored” rings out. Writer and bin slimmer Nicola Miller shares her tips on making the most of our spare ingredients to help our feathered friends.
- Five to six digestive or other oaty biscuits/cookies
- One mug of bird seeds and/or peanuts (The market animal stall sells Nigella, sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts that have been certified free from the moulds and toxins that can harm birds- they’re inexpensive too.)
- Half a pack of bog standard lard.
- Diced bacon rind, uncooked (optional)
- You can also add: pieces of seeded bread, cubes of apple, berries, a handful of dried fruit such as sultanas and chopped prunes, mealworms etc.
- Pine cones, string (both optional depending upon what you are going to create)
- Plastic take away tubs, butter tubs (optional).
If you want to hang these cakes from a tree then you will need to shape the cakes around knots of string and/or pine cones but if you are planning to use on bird tables then they can be free form.
Crush the biscuits in a mixing bowl using the end of a rolling pin or a spoon. Or place in plastic bag and roll over them with the rolling pin. Set the crushed biscuits aside and repeat this with the seeds and peanuts although Nigella seeds can be left whole. If you are adding in other ingredients and leftovers, try to keep texture and size small.
Slice the lard into a bowl and mash it up into a paste and then stir in the seeds, nuts and biscuit crumbs. If you are using bacon rind, add this too. Ensure the seeds etc are well distributed.
To make freestanding cakes:
Form handfuls of the lard mixture into cake shapes. Place on greaseproof paper and put into a fridge to harden. Once hard, they can be put out on a daily basis for the birds. The mix can also be rolled into fatballs and put into fatball holders or poured into those plastic tubs that your Chinese takeaway comes in. When it is hardened off in the fridge, peel away the plastic tub and you’ll have a flattened cake shape that larger birds can stand on and peck at.
To make hanging cakes:
Keep the pine cones in a warm place so they fully open out then take handfuls of the lard and seed mix and press into the spaces between the scales of the cone. Really work it into the crevices because the birds will enjoy getting at this with their beaks.
Tie some string around the pine cones and hang them from trees, bird tables etc at different heights. They can also be festooned from cat proof bushes and shrubs.
(Photo Credit: Wiki Commons)