One unexpected outcome of the coronavirus pandemic: There’s an opportunity to explore familiar things in new ways.

Things like birdwatching.

Have you found yourself paying more attention to their chirps? Stopping to watch them swoop? Peering from a window while they worm hunt? Books such as “Backyard Birds” by Jonathan Latimer and Karen Stray Nolting provide a helpful start in identifying your newfound feathered friends in a yard or local park.

It’s only natural to want to thank them for the endless entertainment. Here’s how to create a carton bird feeder filled with a chirp-worthy snack.

Adult’s help: Some

Hands-on time: 1 hour

Total time: 3 hours, 15 minutes


●half-gallon milk or juice carton, rinsed

●permanent marker



●sheet of wax paper

●2 ounces of chalk paint


● wet paper towel or cloth

●2 ounces of acrylic paint

●1-foot-long twig about a half-centimeter wide

●8 feet of fishing line

●½ cup measuring cup

●safflower-seed bird food (hardware stores, Amazon)

●tape measure

●step stool or ladder


1. Draw a rectangle with marker on two opposite sides of the carton, using the ruler to measure a half-inch from the sides, and one inch from the top and bottom.

2. Ask an adult to help you poke a hole with scissors inside each rectangle. Then cut out each rectangle, following the lines you made. When finished, snip a small slit at the top center of each rectangle.

3. Have an adult help poke a hole in the middle of the area beneath the rectangular opening. Repeat on the other side.

4. If the carton has a plastic cap, remove it and set aside. Place the carton on the wax paper. Shake the chalk paint bottle before opening it, then paint the outside of the carton, except the bottom, with the paintbrush. Use a wet paper towel to wipe off any paint that drips inside the carton. Let it dry for two hours.

5. Wash off the paintbrush and continue decorating the feeder, this time using acrylic paint. Let dry 15 minutes, then put the carton cap back on.

6. Gently push the twig through the previously poked holes to create a bird perch on both sides.

7. Pull the fishing line through the carton openings. Lift a three-foot-long loop above the carton, asking an adult to measure with a tape measure if needed, and secure it with a double knot. Don’t cut off the extra fishing line after the loop, you’ll use this later.

8. Use the measuring cup to scoop a cup of bird food into the bottom of the bird feeder.

9. Carry your bird feeder outside. Before you hang it, secure the fishing line inside the small slits at the top of each carton opening. Ask an adult to use the step stool or ladder to tie your creation on a sturdy tree branch with the fishing line ends. Use the tape measure to make sure your feeder is at least six feet above the ground and eight feet from a tree trunk or structure to discourage jumping squirrels. (Squirrels don’t like the taste of safflower seeds, so even if you don’t hang your feeder this way, they’ll probably scatter the seeds once and then leave your feeder alone.)

10. Watch and wait for feathered visitors to arrive. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t show up right away. It may take a couple of days for the birds that like safflower seeds (such as cardinals and house finches) to spot your tasty offering. Once they do, you’ll find they pop by quite often.