If you knit or crochet, you are likely to have tons of pieces of scrap yarn lying about. Either from cuttings or leftover bits that you can’t use.
There have been suggestions online that you should use these scraps of yarn to provide birds with nesting materials. Usually, this would be done by placing the yarn in a hanging box in your garden for the birds to fly to and collect. The theory is that the birds will use this yarn to build their nests with.
People choose to place nest materials, such as yarn, in their yard for two reasons. One, it helps the birds find material easily to build their nests, and two it attracts birds to their yard, as a yard with lots of building material is the place to be for birds.
Although the intentions are good, it has been said that it is not safe for birds to use yarn to build their nests and that we shouldn’t be placing the yarn in the garden for them to find.
If you are wanting to still place nesting materials for birds in your garden, learn what you can place outside, and then some other creative uses for your yarn scraps.
Why is Yarn Not Safe for Birds?
Yarn and any other type of string fibers such as twine or human hair can easily become twisted and tangled around birds necks, legs and wings.
This could cause a cut-off in circulation which could lead to serious injury and in severe cases, death. Many birds, particularly songbirds, are rescued each year with missing limbs, due to the fact that they had string or yarn tied around their limbs.
Some yarns, particularly acrylic yarn, contain chemicals that can be harmful to birds if ingested. Acrylic yarn is basically a plastic, and introducing plastic into nature is never a great idea. Acrylic yarn is also highly flammable and melts into plastic, which increases the dangers of using it to build a birds nest.
If the yarn is ingested, it could wreak havoc on a birds intestines, with the yarn not breaking down and all the chemicals that some yarns contain seeping into their system. Long strands might even cause strangulation or choking for smaller birds.
What To Provide Instead of Yarn
If you love the idea of providing easy access nesting materials for birds in your neighborhood and want to benefit from having more and more birds in your yard, you could choose to offer up some natural resources for the birds to pick from.
Birds use many different bits and bobs to build their nests, so basically, anything natural and harmless is great to offer. Here are some ideas:
Cloth – Cloth strips are great for birds to use to nest. Only use natural cloth fibers such as wool, cotton, jute, and burlap. Be sure to cut the fabric around 4 inches long and around 1 inch wide, making them small enough for birds to handle and small enough to not pose a strangulation hazard.
Animal hair – If you have pets which you groom, you could save their fur and place it in the yard for the birds. It makes a great, soft lining for a birds nest. Don’t offer up hair or fur that has been treated with insect repellent or flea dips as this may be toxic to the birds.
Batting – Cotton or wool batting which is cut into around 4-inch strips is a good idea to place out for birds to collect.
Feathers – If you have some old down pillows at home, use the feathers inside to offer up to the birds. Feathers are a favored option for birds when creating a nest.
Yard debris – If you are cleaning up your yard, you could keep some debris for the birds. Different debris such as pine straw, wheat straw, and small twigs are all great materials for birds to use to build nests. You can even buy straw from your local nursery or hardware and use that to offer up to the birds.
Moss – Moss that has not been chemically treated can be used for nesting. Sphagnum and Spanish moss are great choices.
Grass cuttings – Birds love to use grass cuttings for nesting, so collect your grass cuttings into bunches or small balls and leave them on your lawn for the birds to collect.
Cocoa fiber – If you have some old hanging baskets, you could strip them into small pieces and leave them on the lawn for the birds to collect.
Plants and seeds – Different plants such as cattails, fluffy plants especially, make great nesting foundations and cushioning.
What Not To Place Outside for Birds
Other than yarn, there are some other materials that should not be placed in the garden for birds to collect for nesting. They can pose different dangerous hazards for birds, from poisoning to choking and strangulation.
- Plastic Strips
- Dryer Lint
- Aluminum Foil
Birds might find these items in the trash and use them to build their nests, but that doesn’t mean you should be offering them up freely.
How To Provide Nesting Material
There are a few ways to offer up nesting materials for birds in your garden. Some are super easy to do, with minimal work!
• On the ground – This works well if you have just pruned your garden or cut your grass. Simply rake the debris up into a pile in your yard and leave it there for the birds to collect.
• Mesh cages – If you have a spare mesh cage lying around, you could attach it to a tree and stuff it full of nesting-safe materials. The birds will be able to latch onto the mesh and pick and choose what they want to take from the collection of materials.
• Tree crevices – Some people are lucky enough to have some big trees in their garden. If you are one of them, look for some crevices in your trees and stuff nesting materials in there. The birds will feel safe to fly by and collect the materials from the trees.
• Draped – You can also simply drape the nesting material over vegetation in your garden. This is a fairly natural way for birds to collect their materials, so they will be happy to do so.
• Basket – You can fill a basket or two with nesting materials and leave it in the garden for the birds.
• Wire hangers – You can hang nesting material over wire hangers hung from trees. There are also wire hangers that you can buy specifically for hanging nesting materials.
What to Do With Scrap Yarn
Now that you have ticked bird nesting materials off the list of scrap yarn uses, you might be stuck wondering what to do with it all.
If you, like most knitters and crocheters, find yourself with a growing pile of scrap yarn, here are some ideas on how to use them creatively and purposefully:
Seaming – If you want to add a little bit of color to a project, you could use different colored scrap yarn to stitch your project together. Try and choose scrap yarn that is the same weight as the yarn you used for the project.
Edgings – You could use scrap yarn to finish off your blanket with a colored edging. You could even use different colors to make it a little more interesting. Edging can also be used along the edges or jerseys, beanies and washcloths.
Amigurumi – Amigurumi is the cutest little craft of crocheting little animals and figures. They are usually quite small in size, so you could use up a whole collection of scrap yarn to create the cutest little creatures. Black and white wool scraps also come in handy when stitching eyes and mouths. You could even use scrap yarn to stuff your amigurumi projects.
Pom poms – Who doesn’t love a fluffy pom pom on top of a beanie. Use different color scrap yarn to create some fun and funky pom poms for your beanies.
Embroidery – You could add some color and character into your knitting projects by embroidering some patterns and pictures into finished pieces using scrap yarn. This makes the piece unique and interesting.
Little flowers – You only need a tiny amount of yarn to create cute little flowers. These can be used as bookmarks or as additions onto baby sweaters or blankets.
Make a card – Stock up on some greeting cards by using scrap yarn to stitch little designs into blank cards. These will come in handy when a birthday pops up out of nowhere and you find yourself without a card!
Yarn for Birds
So it is safe to say that we should avoid offering yarn to birds as a nesting material. But there really isn’t a downside to this. There are some other really accessible and safe materials to leave out for the birds to collect as well as some wonderful uses for scraps of yarn.
Try and collect as much scrap yarn as you can from your projects, and you should be able to make some amazing projects using it all! You and the birds will be happy.