Ask Holly: Making Bird’s Nests


There is something about finding bird’s nests that can only be described as—simply magical. This spring, since we’ve been watching our own birds flying by with beaks full of twigs, I decided to craft out a way for my children and my niece Riley (my biggest fan) to make their own nests. This was probably the easiest most rewarding project we have ever created. Brown paper, starch and lawn debris—done!

neststepsBird’s Nests:

  • Brown paper bags or plain brown craft paper
  • Liquid starch-available at most grocery stores in the laundry section
  • A paper shredder or scissors
  • A cereal bowl
  • Grass, moss, pine needles and twigs from outside
  • Plastic or wooden bird eggs (optional)

Step One: Have your child tromp around outside and pick up dry grasses, pine needles, moss and small twigs. If you rake your grass, particularly in the spring, you should be able to gather a nice amount if what is called thatch. Thatch or as I call it, dead grass, works great for nests. TIP: My daughter was picking up too many large sticks so I told her to think like a bird and to pretend her fingers were a tiny little beak when picking up nesting materials. This made the hunting even more fun.

bird's nests
Our nest in a vase full of sticks

Step Two: Run your brown paper through a shredder or cut it into small strips with a scissors or an X-acto knife.

Step Three: In a bucket or a large bowl dump all of you nesting materials including your brown paper strips. Add about 1/2 cup of starch. Mix well with hands and if your nesting materials are too dry add more starch until they are damp but not soaking wet. Toss any sticks that are too large and do not bend and mold.

Step Four: Grab a handful of your mix and put it into a cereal bowl (one that is about the shape and size of a nest) and start pressing it around the bowl. Add moss to decorate. Let your children have fun creating the nest and when they are done make sure there is a large enough indentation in the middle by pressing down with your fist.

Step Five: Put in a warm place or near a heat source. It will be dry in a day or two depending on how large and how much starch was added. Take it out of the bowl before it is completely dry so it does not stick to your bowl and turn it upside down to finish drying.

Add eggs or extra moss and display. We gathered large sticks, put them in a vase and placed our nest in our “indoor tree”. The magic really took place as we learned how hard birds work on their own nests and we started researching all kinds of birds and their nests.

bird's nests
Nest on display at the Education Center at Van Vleck Gardens

Want to learn more about nests? Visit the new Education Center at Van Vleck Gardens and sign up for Birds and Nests taking place April 17. For more information about birds and their nests CLICK HERE.


Questions? Just Ask Holly in comments

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  1. I can’t wait to see the next installment, where Holsy gathers worms, chews them up and spits them into the birdies’ open mouths. Let’s go to the videotape!