Oatmeal is an ideal snack for birds: it’s small and easy to gobble up yet packed with fiber, protein, and many other vitamins. It’s also cheaper than most bird seed mixes on the market!
Oatmeal is an excellent idea if you’re looking to feed birds flying by your garden, particularly when bugs are scarce in the winter.
There are three basic approaches for how to make bird food with oatmeal: you can serve the oats as is, mix it in with other seeds, or make oatmeal “balls” packed with fat.
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Ways to Make Bird Food With Oatmeal
What is good oatmeal for bird food? Almost any uncooked oatmeal will work. This means that leaving out cooked oatmeal is not a good idea, and you shouldn’t let birds eat instant oatmeal, either.
But how do you give birds oatmeal? Here are three ways to make homemade bird food with oats.
1. Give birds oats as is
Birds have no problem eating oats as is. If you don’t have the time to prepare anything fancy, you can scatter them around your garden for them to enjoy off the ground.
Another option is to mix the oatmeal in their bird feeder and other nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. However, note that the feeder oats and other treats may attract other hungry animals too!
While most birds eat anything, some of them have particular preferences. Blackbirds, robins, and starlings reportedly enjoy it when someone leaves out rolled oats for birds!
2. Add oats to “upgrade” your seed mix
If you already bought seed mix from the market or have an existing supply, you can add your oats to it as a boost. It adds extra textures and flavors to the mix, plus additional vitamins and nutrients!
As a reminder, plain, uncooked oats are best. Birds eat oatmeal cookies, and birds eat apple cinnamon oatmeal, too. But avians are not equipped to digest sugar, and you may cause more harm than good if you serve them regularly.
3. Make bird food energy balls with these fun recipes!
If you have a little more time or are looking for an activity with the kids, here are a few bird food recipe to try, all of which require any oatmeal that isn’t cooked or instant.
Recipe 1: Oatmeal “Fat Balls,” a.k.a. “Bird Suet.”
- Oatmeal or oats
- A fat source (lard, suet, etc.)
- Other seeds and nuts, if you have them.
Fat is essential for wild birds. It helps them stay warm, especially in the winter, and it plays a critical role in keeping bird feathers healthy.
Mix oatmeal with grease, suet, or any other melted fat and leave to cool. You can use as much or as little as you want, but keep the proportions at two parts oats and one part fat. You can also get creative and add nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
(You could also make bird suet with Crisco, by the way.)
Once the mixture has cooled, make them into little balls for birds to peck. For extra fun, you can hang them on branches on strings for birds to “bob” for!
However, note that this is not a very good summer activity since the fat will melt quickly in the heat.
Recipe 2: Oatmeal Honey Balls
If you are looking for a recipe without lard, try this one!
- Two tablespoons oats
- Two tablespoons birdseed
- One tablespoon flour (preferably whole grain instead of white, but anything works!)
- A few sticks of millet
- A splash of water
- One tablespoon honey
Combine all the dry ingredients before adding in the water, making sure to mix thoroughly. Add the honey last.
The mixture should hold together and be workable with your hands. If it’s too dry, add a little more water. If it’s too sticky, add more flour.
Roll into little balls (or any other shape you prefer!) and bake in the oven at 350 F (180 C) for 30 minutes.
Cool the balls entirely before leaving them out for the birds. Make sure to resist eating bird food oatmeal yourself, too!
Recipe 3: Woodpecker Oatmeal Pudding
This pudding is excellent for woodpeckers because you can fit it inside hollow trees for them to discover for themselves. However, it can be a pudding for any bird!
- Eight pounds suet
- Two pounds of peanut butter
- Two pounds of rolled oats
- 240mL (8 ounces) of corn syrup
Begin by melting your suet in a pan, then mixing in your peanut butter, corn syrup, and oats. Once thoroughly combined, pour into a clean, old soup can and leave to cool and harden.
It doesn’t have to be a soup can, of course. The idea is to get it to solidify into a log shape you can chop up to slip into holes on trees for woodpeckers to find or insert into your bird suet feeder.
If you hide your pudding in a hollow tree trunk, try spreading some of the pudding or smearing the outside of the hole with peanut butter to give woodpeckers a little hint!
Benefits of Feeding Oatmeal to Birds
People have been approaching birds with bread for centuries. But feeding them oatmeal instead has many benefits for them and you.
For birds, oatmeal is easy to eat and packed with essential nutrients to survive, especially during the winter. The snack is even better when combined with fat such as peanut butter or suet!
There are some benefits involved for you, too: It’s a fun activity for the kids and a cheap way to help wildlife around your area. Plus, it’s an effective method to clear out old oatmeal and other food items (suitable for birds) lying around the house!
What Birds Are Attracted to Oatmeal?
Birds that enjoy nuts and seeds will also enjoy oatmeal.
These include but are not limited to finches, sparrows, doves, pigeons, cardinals, robins, parrots, and bluejays. Ground feeders such as quail, partridges, pheasants, and even turkeys eat oats.
Can I add anything else to the oatmeal?
Of course! Mixing other seeds, nuts, and dried fruit can make the meal more enjoyable for the birds, plus provide more nutrients.
However, note that birds cannot digest sugar, salt, milk, and almost anything processed. Only leave out uncooked, unprocessed food for your avian visitors.
What type of oatmeal should you feed the birds?
You can feed birds any oatmeal that isn’t cooked or instant.
However, some excellent varieties for birds, in particular, include pinhead, steel-cut (sometimes called Irish or Scottish oats), jumbo, and rolled oats.
How often should I feed birds oatmeal?
Since oats are so nutritious, overfeeding them to birds may cause them to become overweight. Also, leaving them out too often may cause wild birds to flock to your home and overstay their welcome regularly.
Consider leaving at most a few pinches out daily or leaving it out only now and then as a treat.
If you want to answer Mary Poppins’ call to “feed the birds,” look no further than your kitchen: Oats are a nutritious food for humans and birds and are usually cheaper than commercially-available seed mixes.
Anyone can learn how to make bird food with oatmeal. Depending on your time and budget, you can just share your uncooked oats as is or go all out baking them into little balls with honey.
Whatever you decide to do, allow us to thank you on behalf of the birds in your garden!
Related: What to feed birds from the kitchen?
George and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.