Ersatz Bread for the Birds

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Make wildlife happy — and get your fridge cleaned out to boot!

Two years ago, after harvesting a bumper crop, I froze gallon-sized plastic bags of shredded zucchini. Zucchini bread is a popular snack in our home, and I envisioned baking it at least once a week. Instead, however, the bags found their way to the bottom of the chest freezer.

We had another bumper crop of zucchini the following year, and I again tucked away more for bread-baking. When I defrosted the freezer recently, I found those 2-year-old bags, and I was completely overwhelmed at the thought of baking so many loaves of bread. Not wanting to waste all of that zucchini, I decided to share it with the birds.

After thawing the zucchini, I added leftover mashed potatoes, a small package of salted peanuts, a handful of birdseed, half a box of stale, high-protein cereal, one-eighth cup of vegetable oil, four tablespoons of baking soda and enough flour to make a thick, stiff batter. I poured the batter into a couple of large baking pans and baked them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the bread appeared to be done. After they had cooled, we broke up the sheets of bread and fed the pieces to the birds.

Now, we make “bread” for the birds once a month as a way of cleaning out the refrigerator?—?and keeping the wildlife happy, too! The recipe varies from month to month, but the birds always seem to like it.

Carolyn Evans-Dean
Syracuse, New York

After sharing this post on social media, there was a vehement outcry that this advice is very bad for birds. From the salt to the bread to the cereal, many of our readers insisted that this kind of homemade bird seed would kill any birds who ate it.

We asked the Cornell Lab of Ornithology about it, and they sent this response:

“I think saying that this bread is a bird killer is a bit over the top.

However, you should definitely avoid the salted peanuts; high amounts of salt are bad news birds, as birds have trouble processing the stuff. Also, processed flour is not nearly as good as whole grains for birds — though probably it won’t kill them outright. Oil is also something they don’t really need, and which provides no nutritional value to them.

So, on the whole, this is probably not the greatest recipe for a bird treat.  At the very least, don’t use salted peanuts! And instead of the flour and oil, try oats and applesauce.”

Additionally, for more healthful bird snacks, you may want to reduce the baking soda to 2 tablespoons. — MOTHER