From Yarn Scraps to Bird’s Nests, Part 1

While writing an article on using up yarn scraps (see More about yarn scraps), a suggestion was given to put them out for birds to use as a nesting material.

Oriole pulling out yarn for nesting material
Oriole using Wild Birds
Unlimited Nesting material

What a fun project, and a great idea for a kids craft!  What better way to recycle yarn?

But first know the dangers!

After some research, I've put together some information from the experts, along with fun pics showing how other people have done it, for inspiration.

Safe nesting materials

  • Pieces of yarn or string, cut 4" - 6" long (10.25 - 15.25 cm) *See Note below
  • Human hair or horse hair, cut 4" - 6" long (10.25 - 15.25 cm)
  • Pieces of cloth cut in strips about 1" x 6" (2.5 x 15.25 cm)
  • Pet fur (from animals not treated with flea or tick chemicals)
  • Moss, bark strips, pine needles, dead leaves, and fluff or down of plants
  • Snake skins 
  • Spider webs and caterpillar silk (stretchy binding material for nests)
  • Sheep's wool
  • Feathers
  • Coir (that coconut fiber used in hanging baskets)
  • Dead trees and branches for cavity nesters (if they pose no hazard)
  • Twigs (rigid for platform nests and flexible for cup-shaped nests)
  • Mud (robins, in particular, love a mud puddle!)
  • Dry grass and straw (not treated with chemicals)
* Note:  See "Is it safe to use acrylic yarn and other synthetic fibers as nesting material?" below.

Unsafe / dangerous nesting materials

    Cedar waxwings with string
  • Absolutely do not use dryer lint. There are many reasons!  (See From Yarn Scraps to Bird's Nests, Part 2 for information on this danger).
  • Any material that has come into contact with potentially harmful chemicals, such as household cleaners.

Is it safe to use acrylic yarn and other synthetic fibers as nesting material?

Maybe, but not really.  See From Yarn Scraps to Bird's Nests, Part 2.

Ideas on how to set out material for bird nests

Eastern Kingbird's stringy nest
Eastern Kingbird's stringy nest
  • Place materials that might blow around (fluffy materials, hair, and fur) in clean wire-mesh suet cages ($4 - $5), or in string or plastic mesh bags like onions come in. 
  • Attach containers holding nesting materials to tree trunks, fence posts, or deck railings. The birds will pull out the material through the mesh holes. 
  • Push the materials into tree bark crevices or drape it over branches or vegetation. 
  • Put material into open-topped, plastic berry baskets (such as strawberries are sold in). 
  • Some manufacturers sell spiral wire hangers especially for putting out nest material. (One type looks like an oversized honey-dipper).
  • See more clever ideas below!

More nesting material container ideas
(Click the pic for source & to read more)

Bird nesting materials: Suet feeder holding yarn & fiber scraps   Bird nesting materials: Bowl holding yarn scraps    Bird nesting materials: Plastic mesh bag holding yarn, coir    Bird nesting materials: Crocheted bag holding yarn scraps

Bird nesting materials: Plastic berry basket holding yarn scraps   Bird nesting materials: Coat hangers shaped into a ball hold yarn scraps   Bird nesting materials: Pet hair and yarn stuck on a branch  Bird nesting materials: Pet hair & yarn scraps in seed feeder

Bird nesting materials: yarn, pet hair & more in a wire whisk   Bird nesting materials in a chicken feeder   Bird nesting materials: Yarn & string threaded in cardboard

Your thoughts are always appreciated!