The Best Ways to Attract More Birds on a Budget

Save money on your favorite hobby with these tips for attracting birds on a budget. Birds don't need expensive feeders or birdhouses; just get creative!

attracting birdsRoland Jordahl
Attract birds with food from home, like oranges and raisins.

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

Discover 9 foods you should never feed to birds.

Make Your Own Food

hummingbird nectar recipeCourtesy Kathy Schlosser

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

woodpecker at suet feederCourtesy Michelle Cwalina (B&B reader)

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 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 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. 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.

Check out the 3 types of seeds and feeders birds love best.

Grow Your Own Food

zinnia on coneflowerCourtesy Joan Addis
Feeding birds is less expensive when you grow your own food. Birds like this American goldfinch love the seeds from coneflowers.

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 Feeders

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!

Learn how to make a DIY bird feeder and bird house with vintage china.

DIY Bird Bath in an Instant

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.

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Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the content director of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.