How to Recycle Pumpkins for Birds and Wildlife

Updated: Mar. 21, 2024

Don't toss pumpkins after Halloween. Follow these tips for recycling pumpkins for wildlife, including birds, butterflies, deer and squirrels.

Readers Share Ideas for Recycling Pumpkins for Wildlife

squirrel eating pumpkinCourtesy Katherine Plessner/Country magazine
A squirrel snacks on a pumpkin.

Halloween is approaching, so there’s a good chance you will have a pumpkin or two around your house. They make great fall decorations, but once the carving and trick-or-treating is over, don’t just toss them in the trash. There are lots of great ideas for recycling pumpkins to benefit wildlife in the weeks ahead.

Discover 4 garden uses for your old Jack-o-lantern.

Share Pumpkin Seeds with Birds

Many people roast and eat pumpkin seeds themselves, but you can also share them with birds. Larger backyard birds like blue jays love pumpkin seeds, too. Follow these directions to roast them (no salt or seasoning, please!) and offer on a tray feeder or just sprinkle on the ground for birds to enjoy.

Turn Your Pumpkin into a Bird Feeder

16 Mary Hindle Bbon23Courtesy Mary Hindle

As suggested by a Birds & Blooms reader, cut off the top half of the pumpkin and fill the bottom half with birdseed. Place outside for the birds to enjoy.

Let the pumpkin halves dry and poke drainage holes to prevent moldy birdseed.

Learn how to make your own pumpkin bird feeder.

Feed the Squirrels

17 Mary Hindle Bbon23Courtesy Mary Hindle

“I cut them open so the squirrels can eat the seeds and will stay away from my bird feeders for a while,” says reader Mike Froio of Rome, New York.

Here’s how to make a super cute, no-carve owl pumpkin.

Share Pumpkins with Butterflies

In warmer climates, offer pumpkin flesh and pulp in your butterfly garden. Simply cut into small pieces and place in a shallow dish for fruit-loving butterflies like red-spotted purples to enjoy. In areas where butterflies are already gone for the winter,

Cut Up Pumpkins for Wildlife

White Tailed Deer recycling pumpkins for wildlifeJim Cumming / Alamy Stock Photo

You can also offer the pumpkin pieces for other wildlife like deer and rabbits. Place the cut-up pumpkin in an area where you can view the critters that come to feast on your pumpkin.

“I put them in an open field by our home where wildlife roam, and watch the animals enjoy this special fall treat,” says Lynn Smith of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania.

Bridget Paris of Pilot Knob, New York, says, “I usually get most of my neighbors’ pumpkins, then I cut them up or break them in half for the deer to eat. I love to recycle.”

Learn how to grow your own pumpkins and gourds.

Feed Carved Pumpkins to Chickens

avian flu, bird flupaulacobleigh/Getty Images

Backyard chickens will be thrilled by this special treat. Be sure to do this while your pumpkin is relatively fresh and has not started to form mold. Chickens love pumpkins seeds, too.

DIY Dog Treats

“I cut pumpkins into strips and dehydrate them for dog treats,” says Sue Adams of Black Diamond, Washington.

Find out how to turn a gourd into a birdhouse.

Donate Extras to a Local Charity

“After cutting my pumpkins in half so animals don’t get their heads stuck in them, I bring them to our local Audubon Society, where they’re fed to animals,” says Marjorie Cohen of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Next, check out these fun fall gourd and pumpkin facts