Feeding your backyard birds can provide great, low-cost entertainment for family members of all ages. And building your own feeder can be a pretty simple process. The simplest type of feeder to build, and probably the one that will attract the widest variety of birds, is a platform feeder. Some birds, notably jays, doves and cardinals, prefer to feed from a platform.
You need a pole base that will be about four to five feet high once installed, and a basic platform with shallow edges to hold the seed. Using screen for the bottom instead of wood allows rain water to pass through more easily, which helps keep seed from becoming mildewy. A child's sand shovel is a handy tool to remove any old shells as they build up.
Things You'll Need
- Treated 4 inch by 4 inch post or galvanized pole cut to fit Ready-mix concrete, like Quikrete Exterior grade plywood 1 inch by 2 inch treated wood trim 2 inch by 4 inch treated wood Wood glue Screws or nails Galvanized screen (optional) Staples and staple gun Drill Power screwdriver Hammer Circular or table saw Hand saw Wire cutters (to cut screen, optional) Measuring tape Quick-curing cement Post-hole digger or shovel
Decide your pole material. Use a treated four by four or a heavy-duty metal pole, made to support a feeder. You can also use heavy, wide galvanized conduit from a local store, but you'll need to have it cut and threaded on one end to accept a standard flange on one end. Be sure the diameter of whatever pipe you choose will fit available flanges. To keep the feeder steady, embed a metal pole in cement. A wooden four by four, with earth tamped around it, will support itself without cement, which means you can remove the feeder easily at a future date.
Using the post hole digger or shovel, dig a hole about 30 inches deep (check your frost line and be sure to dig your hole as deep as, or a little deeper than, that depth). Add the desired height of the feeder to the planned depth of the hole and have the four by four cut to that length.
If using a metal pole, you need to use cement to stabilize the pole. Mix the cement according to the manufacturer's directions on the bag and use the shovel to add the cement to the hole around the pole to within about four inches of the top of the hole. Fill the remaining four inches with dirt and tamp the dirt in firmly with your heel or the end of the two by four. Be sure to wash the shovel to remove excess cement.
If using a four by four, there's no need to add cement (although it can be used, if desired). Simply backfill the hole with dirt, tamping it as you fill it using the end of your shovel handle. When you're near the surface, use your heel or the end of the two by four to tamp the soil firmly around the base. You can also use a hose to enhance compaction by wetting the soil lightly and going over the area again with your heel or the end of the two by four.
Choose exterior grade plywood for the basic wood-bottomed feeder. To cut the plywood, a tablesaw is best, although a circular saw can be used. Whichever saw you use, cut a piece of plywood 30 inches by 15 inches for the base. The edges are best constructed from one inch by two inch stock from your lumberyard. Treated wood is a better choice, since it won't rot after prolonged contact with water. Using your tablesaw or a hand saw, cut the trim pieces to the length and width of your plywood, allowing for the three quarter inch with of the trim. Attach them to the edges of the plywood base using nails or wood screws and wood glue designed for exterior applications. For best results, drill pilot holes first before using nails or screws. Now you have a wooden tray with wooden sides.
Using the tablesaw or circular saw, cut two more pieces of plywood, this time six inches by six inches each, to use as a support for the wooden base or metal flange. Glue one section on top of the second section to make a double thickness. Once the glue is dry, attach the plywood support piece to the center of the bottom of the wooden tray, using exterior-grade wood glue and screws. Place the screws at the four corners of the support.
Add the screen if you want a partially screened bottom. To add screen the simple way, use a jigsaw to cut holes on either side of the base of the tray. It's best to do this after the pole support piece is attached, to make sure you don't cut that area. Using wire cutters, cut your screen to the size of the holes, plus a half inch all around. Turn your tray over and use a staple gun to securely attach the screen over the holes. For additional strength, trim the stapled edges with more one inch by two inch scraps.
To attach the feeder to the pole, it helps to have a second set of hands to help support the feeder and line it up properly. If you're using a metal pole and flange, attach the flange to the support with the provided screws. Line up the pole with the flange and carefully screw the feeder onto the flange. If you're using a wooden post, apply wood glue liberally to the top of the four by four. Line up the support piece with the top of the pole and screw in place using long, galvanized wood screws. If the soil has settled around the hole, be sure to add more dirt and tamp it firmly with your heel or the end of a two by four.
Fill the feeder with a good quality seed mixture, or just use black oil sunflower seeds; most birds love them. If squirrels are in your neighborhood, they'll be sure to come, too. Instead of viewing them as a nuisance, enjoy their antics.
Tips & Warnings
- Instead of plywood, you can also use a piece of treated one inch by 16 inch or one inch by 18 inches, cut to a 30 inch length.
- Be careful when using any power tool. Also, be aware that the edges of the cut screen can be sharp. Use care when handling.
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