If you’d like to combine a kids’ craft project with making some last-minute gifts, birdseed cottages, ornaments or pine cones make a good project for an afternoon. These gifts for bird lovers are inexpensive to make and, tied with some greenery and festive red raffia or ribbon, are every bit as beautiful as ones found in garden centers and catalogs. Whether you make a seed-covered house or ornaments, it’s wise to include a tag suggesting that they be hung in a less-exposed area, such as under the eaves of a shed or porch, so that a hard rainstorm won’t wash away the seed. If you don’t have a convenient hanger for your own ornaments, lean a rake against your shed or porch, tines up, and hang the ornaments from the tines.

For birdseed ornaments, you’ll need seed, flour and water, and Christmas cookie cutters.

B I R D S E E D   O R N A M E N T S

3 cups mixed birdseed
12 cup flour
12 cup water
Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and grease the foil. Grease your selected cookie cutters and lay them on the cookie sheet. Mix flour, water and birdseed together in a large bowl. Spoon the birdseed mixture into the cookie cutters, which act as molds for the “dough,” and press the mix firmly with the back of a spoon. Use a straw or chopstick to make a hole in the ornament for stringing with ribbon or yarn once they are baked. Bake for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Tie onto tree with colorful ribbon or yarn or package them up for gift-giving.

For pine cone feeders, you’ll need to gather cones. If they are tightly closed, place them in a 300-degree oven on a foil-lined cookie sheet for about 10 minutes to open them. (Be sure to line your pan, as the cones may leak sap, which will bake onto the cookie sheet and is very hard to remove.) Use a spoon or stick to spread a layer of peanut butter all over the inner scales of an opened pine cone, then set the cone in a bowl filled with birdseed mix. Roll the pine cone in the seed mixture until thickly coated. To hang, push a thumbtack into the bottom of a cone, wrap the tack with a length of twine, and then put a tack in a second cone and fasten the twine. This makes a pair that can be looped over a branch. Or, join three or four cones up this way in a long string, repeating the process until the desired number of cones are attached.

For the seed birdhouses, look for little wooden birdhouses where craft supplies are sold. I found assorted styles for a dollar each. To coat the houses you need to make an edible glue of flour, water, gelatin and corn syrup, and have on hand an assortment of seed, raisins or dried cranberries, raw nuts, cracked corn or other dried fruit for edible decoration. Because the glue stays workable for only about 30 minutes, it’s best to have your supplies ready to go before your glue is mixed: set out containers with black sunflower seeds for roof shingles, raisins and cranberries for roof and door trim, and the smaller seed for the walls.

S E E D   C O T T A G E   G L U E

34 cup flour
12 cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 Tbsp. corn syrup
Mix the gelatin packet with hot water until dissolved. Stir in the flour and corn syrup until mixed with the gelatin. Apply to surface of birdhouse with a brush and then add your seed. We set the houses on a rimmed cookie sheet before sprinkling the seed on the areas spread with glue to corral the inevitable spilled seed. Pressing the seed onto the surfaces helps it adhere; use an offset spatula to press the seed into the corners and edges. Once completed, let your birdhouses sit overnight to cure before hanging outside.

If you make a double batch of the bird cottage glue and stir in four cups of mixed seed, you can use a Bundt pan to make a birds’ Christmas wreath. Mix flour, water, gelatin and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl. Stir in birdseed, coating the seed with the flour mixture. Spray a Bundt pan with nonstick spray. Scoop half the seed mixture into the pan, pressing it down with the back of a spoon. Then take a ring of lightweight wire and press it into the seed in the pan; this will help the wreath hold together. Top the wire with the remaining seed. Place your mold in the refrigerator or outside in a cold place for 24 hours before unmolding. Hang with a fat red ribbon.

The birds will certainly be grateful for your homemade gifts this season. As the Grinch says, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more!”