Wednesday 6 February 2013

It’s For The Birds

I remember my grandmother making four things: delicious cottage pies, terrible, watery scrambled eggs, fudge and, every winter, fat balls for the birds.

Barbara wasn’t a cosy granny. She liked watching snooker and football on her tiny black and white television, Embassy Regal, ferocious, improvisational knitting, railing against Arthur Scargill, reciting Shakespeare and reading at least three Mills & Boon library books every week. (‘Get me the juicy ones, love.’)

Her favourite phrase, on observing in her grandchildren any signs of vanity was, ‘She needs a good floor to scrub’. So this small act of kindness towards the sparrows and tits which visited her little garden was made all the more tender in her strong, impatient hands.

It’s supposed to get cold again, possibly snow. This morning I refilled the birdfeeders and made some fat balls. Barbara packed hers into old Ski yoghurt pots. I made mine in old teacups. I can only imagine what she would think about that. I should probably go and scrub a floor.


Getting the ingredients together. To the seeds, add other things which you may already have in your cupboards, such as nuts, oats and dried fruit.


I used twigs to make the perches, but small lengths of dowel work just as well.


The finished feeders. They took about 10 minutes to put together. It’s an easy project to do with children and a finished one would make a nice present for a bird-loving friend.

How To Make Teacup Bird Feeders


I saw this idea when I was trawling the internet late one night and I’m afraid I can’t remember its source, so many apologies to the person whose idea it is for not crediting them.

If you don’t want to use teacups, you can make the bird feeders in empty coconut shells, plastic cups or small yoghurt cartons. Or simply turn them out onto the bird feeder when they’re set. I can’t do that because of our cats, so I hang them as far up as I can reach in the cherry tree, far enough so the cats can’t get near them. No doubt this is how I will die.

You will need:

A mixture of birdy treats: nuts, seeds, dry porridge oats, dried fruit
Twigs or bits of dowel

Weigh the dried food and put it in a bowl. You need about half that weight in lard. I used 400g dried food to 200g lard, which was enough for three teacups.

Melt the lard and pour most of it into the bowl – reserve about a tablespoon’s worth per cup you want to fill. Give it a good stir so that everything’s well coated and spoon the mixture into the cups. Make a perch by poking a twig or bit of dowel into the middle of each teacup while the mixture is still warm and gently press down with the back of a teaspoon to ensure it’s all nicely packed in. Pour a little more lard over the top of each cup, like sealing a nice rillettes. Place them in the fridge until they’re set.

Tie some string around the handles and hang from trees, fences, anywhere that’s out of the reach of cats.



Other diners also appreciate high tea en plein air.


  1. Oh dear, if you Americanize your grandmother she could have been my Granny! I love these little feeders. It's as if the teacups from the Mad Hatter's tea party were nicked by the birds to serve their dinner. Yes, I am daft. I caught from my Granny! ; )

  2. Haha! Daft is a word my granny used very often. She was quite the character and I miss her a lot. How lucky we are to have had such strong, interessting women in our lives.

  3. Those teacups look very nice, but the worrying side is coming out in me - are they a bit too nice? I make fat balls and I need to make some today but I am much meaner and just shape mine in a ball in some clingfilm. I would be too worried about the nice cups in the frost. Worry, worry, worry.

  4. TOC, I have so many old teacups, usually bought for pennies, most cracked or chipped, so it's quite nice to put them to work once their teatime duties are over. And of course in London, we're not so prone to frost as elsewhere.

  5. I love the idea that once the birds have emptied them, your neighbours will just see a bare tree 'decorated' with cups.

  6. Barbara would have loved this piece. Like all of us she had her streak of vanity - even surrogate vanity like pride in a gifted grand-daughter. Oh and she also applied the scrubbing floor solution about girls and women who moaned about their periods. No prisoners taken. Lovely piece D. Mum.

  7. Pianolearner, I think it's highly likely they'll burn me for a wytch.
    Mummy, I don't remember ever being allowed to moan about anything without getting A Look. X

  8. Excellent piece ! My great grand mother was all about feeding the birds but she was wickedly stern, miss her dearly. I have a whole set of tea cups...guess I'll get busy :)


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