Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wild Bird Watching

Our first year as 4-H leaders.....where do we start?????

Well, where/what should we spend the year working on?  I know everyone thinks 4-H should be all about farming but that not really the case and with our group that definitely wasn't going to work as my kids are the only ones with any animals that don't consist of cats or dogs.....

.....Hmmmmm?????The one thing I know all the kids have in common is that they all live in the same basic area and we all have access to wild birds so we started our year there.  Now, if we were going to be watching birds we needed to attract some first so our first official meeting was making bird feeders, suet feeders and some suet/feed for these feeders.

Of course since it was our first meeting we didn't have a ton of money to throw at projects so we did the next best thing and up-cycle and re-purpose items to make our project.

Tiki Hut bird feeders from re-purposed syrup jugs

The Tiki Hut feeders were made using old Maple Syrup jugs that had been given to us.  We gathered a bunch of dry Birch sticks and hot glued them on.  It was a pretty simple project other then actually cutting he openings for the birds, those jugs are much tougher then one would think.

Making our own suet feeders

Suet feeders were made from scrap lumber (Hubby has a saw mill) and left over wire from our chicken cook/run.  These were a 2 part build as some of the members did the construction of the frames and then some attached the wire.  The kids all did an awesome job at both.

Each member donated some ingredients for the suet

With the feeders complete we needed something to actually feed the birds.  We worked as a group and each brought in some "ingredients"  and ended with a nice wild bird mixture.  There was everything in there, sun flower seeds, wild bird seed, peanuts and we even had berries in it, what bird wasn't going to love that.

Using hot pig lard to help the suet form

Next was how do we turn that into "Suet".  We actually raise pigs each year and every year we save the fat that doesn't get used in the butcher process so we just melted a bunch down and stirred it in.  I have been doing this for the last few years so I already knew it would work but the kids were quite amazed that it would harden and make a nice "suet".
And if you ever want to give it a try, those mini loaf pans from the dollar store make a great mold for making suet.  Once hardened the suet simply pops right out.  However if you choose to use Pig Lard like we did I recommend that you keep the extra in the freezer as it does have a tendency to melt faster then store bought suet.

The birds loved them!  We had birds here all winter which basically inspired our 4-H theme for most of the year.  At our house the feeders were just taken down (its April) and that is only because the bears have woken from the winter.  Thanks to these simple feeders though we found our groove for our first 4-H year.  We have made a bunch of different bird themed items, we spent time learning about Wild Turkeys for Thanksgiving and even made bird feed garland for exterior tree, Christmas decorations.

And if all that bird fun wasn't enough we even have our own bird watching books to keep track of all our feathered visitors.  Don't laugh too much the kids and I are not technically "artists" but we have a book full of picture and information on the birds we have seen so it was worth it.

I know the year is not over yet and we still have a few more bird related projects to do.   I'll be sure to keep you updated when we do them.

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