Cheap Ways to Attract More Birds on a Budget

Updated: Aug. 04, 2022

Save money on your favorite hobby with these cheap ways to attract more birds Get creative to make budget feeders and bird baths!

Low Cost Ways to Attract More Birds

attracting birdsRoland Jordahl
Attract orioles with food from home, like oranges and grape jelly.

Attracting birds to your yard doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Try these cheap and simple ideas that will keep costs down while still attracting beautiful birds by the dozens.

Make Your Own Bird Food

hummingbird nectar recipeCourtesy Kathy Schlosser
Female ruby-throated hummingbird

You can prepare food in your kitchen for birds like hummingbirds and orioles. For instance, make hummingbird sugar-water by mixing 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. You don’t need to add food coloring; just boil the water, cool and serve. Attract birds with a sweet tooth like orioles and tanagers with oranges and grape jelly.

What can birds eat from the kitchen?

Use Bargain Suet

what to feed birds in winter, woodpecker at suet feederCourtesy Michelle Cwalina (B&B reader)
Red-bellied woodpecker

Another inexpensive food source is suet (fat from around the beef kidney). If you can’t get it free from your local butcher, then you can usually purchase it at a low cost. This pure suet is better than the costly premade suet cakes from the store. Bonus tip: If you are a deer hunter or know one, ask for the deer suet that comes with butchering. Some folks find birds prefer venison suet over beef.

Check out 5 homemade suet recipes for feeding birds.

Buy Bird Seed in Bulk

Instead of buying small bags of seed mix, you can get more for your money by purchasing large bags of black-oil sunflower, cracked sunflower, safflower seed or nyjer seed. Most of the popular backyard birds actually prefer the pure seeds instead of mixes. These are often available at farm supply or warehouse stores, and can make feeding birds much more economical.

Learn how to choose sunflower seeds for birds.

Grow Your Own Bird Food

zinnia on coneflowerCourtesy Joan Addis
Feeding birds is less expensive when you grow your own bird seed.

One of the easiest ways to get food for birds is with plants. Birds will relish berries from mountain ash, crabapple, highbush cranberries and more throughout fall and winter. In addition, be sure to leave the seed heads on some of your perennials like sunflowers, coneflowers and black-eyed Susans. Birds will feed on the seed heads throughout the year.

Make DIY Birdhouses and Budget Feeders

white breasted nuthatch, pine cone bird feederCourtesy Debbie Kaiman Tillinghast
White-breasted nuthatch at a pine cone feeder

It doesn’t take an architect to build a birdhouse or bird feeder. As far as materials go, you can often find scraps of wood for free. With a little time and a few supplies, you’ll have a well-made house or feeder to attract birds in your area. Another tip—you can even just smear peanut butter and bird seed on a tree trunk or pine cone!

DIY Bird Bath With Recycled Materials

Robin splashes in a birdbathCourtesy David Heilman
A robin splashes in a DIY birdbath

Attract birds all summer with easy do-it-yourself bird baths. They don’t have to be expensive or elaborate with waterfalls and pools. A garbage can lid, discarded saucer, bowl or pan will do the job. Just keep it filled with fresh water at a depth of no more than a couple of inches so that the birds can stand while they drink and bathe.

Learn how to make a DIY hummingbird mister bird bath.

Create Cover for Birds at Low Cost

All yards should have cover for birds, but this doesn’t mean you have to invest a lot of money in an expensive landscaping project. You can often transplant greenery from friends or order it for free from many state Departments of Natural Resources. Or use discarded brush and old Christmas trees to create cover. Then grow your own vines, annuals and other plants by starting seeds indoors. It’ll take longer, but you’ll save a lot of money in the long run while attracting birds to nest and shelter in your yard.

Cheap Bird Feeding Tips from Readers

American GoldfinchDougLemke/Getty Images
American goldfinch dining on coneflower seeds

Backyard birders share their tried-and-true money-saving hacks.

After experimenting with many suet flavors of suet, I found that hot pepper suet is the favorite of the birds in my yard. I no longer waste money on suet that goes bad because birds won’t eat it quickly enough,” says Kathy Eppers.

I don’t cut coneflower, tithonia or zinnia seed heads until spring, says Eva Bellinger.

Birds love my native plants once they’ve gone to seed. I also save cantaloupe seeds for cardinals, says Judy Schut.

I dry my extra sunflower heads, then turn them into wreaths to hang outside during the cold months. Plus, I buy birdseed in bulk when it’s on sale, says Jennifer Broadstreet Hess.

Suet nuggets for my nugget feeder are pricey, so I cut suet cakes of different flavors into slices to save money, says Valerie Owen.

I add raisins, unsalted peanuts and chopped walnuts from the supermarket or discount store to black oil sunflower seeds, says Jessica Lique.