Repost: Wide necked home made bird feeder

I edited the initial post, where upon the forum software decided it was spam/abuse and removed it.  Support haven't responded to my appeal, hence the repost.
My old bird feeder was playing up. I couldn't get the top off (it had rusted on) and I got fed up of pushing crushed peanuts through the small opening where the birds fed. It took a fair bit of time and spilled nuts everywhere. This became a tedious chore when having to do this every other day or so.

I wasn't much taken with any of the home made feeders I found on t'internet. A lot were made out of plastic drink bottles which...have narrow tops.  So I devised my own. Here is the finished article, and a build sequence (heavy on photos) follows.

Click on any photo for a larger image.

Note: NOT suitable for a child to make on their own - unless they are incredibly adept at craftwork.  The plastic in a container is surprisingly thick.

Start with a container with a nice wide neck.  I have chosen to use an old peanut butter plastic jar. I've seen nut containers with very wide necks, but I'm sure you can find other suitable ones.

Mark out guides on the bottom of the jar where the perches will be positioned.

Mark out feeding holes. You do not have to be super accurate. A ruler and indelible ink pen (e.g. Sharpie) was all I used. Note the old towel used for anti-slip.

Now to start cutting out the bird feeding hole. The plastic is surprisingly thick, and the tubular shape of the jar hard to support.  It is best to score the plastic repeatedly rather than trying to cut through in one go.  I did devise a method to slice through the plastic AFTER scoring. Just be careful as it is very easy to slip.

This is my method. Start by scoring the vertical lines of the feeding holes. I do them all in one go.

After scoring each line four to six times, concentrate on the top of the line and work the tip of the blade through it.

Holding the jar firmly upright and gripping the craft knife, exert pressure downward. The scored line is a line of weakness which the knife will naturally follow.

Now to cut the bottom line of the feeding hole.  I turned the jar on its side, repeatedly scored the line then pushed the knife blade through and cut. It goes surprisingly quickly. Once cut through, push the flap into the jar, bending it at the top. You can adjust how far in the flap goes. If it is in too far then seeds/nuts will fall out. If it isn't in far enough then the birds can't get at the seeds.  Trial and error gets you to the sweet point.

Now mark out holes for perch supports and drainage holes. I started marking out the drainage holes but soon gave up as I deemed it pointless. I simply drilled holes where I thought they should go.

The holes for the perch supports need to be placed fairly accurately as the wires have to wrap around the supports.  Due to the slippery nature of the plastic, I started off each hole with a small hand drill - just a dent sufficient to top the bit skidding. Then I used a small craft drill to drill all the holes.  This is actually the trickiest part of the whole operation.

Here are the holes all drilled through, along with the ones in the lid. I find a reasonable sized hole (say 2.5mm to 3mm) is sufficient. Too small a hole and they get clogged easily. Too large and seeds drop out, as well as weakening the plastic too much.

Now on to the perch. I must admit I reused a perch from an old bird feeder, so I do not have a complete build sequence. It is fairly straight forward. Use some form of dowel or solid cane. If your craft skills are up to it, cut a groove in the middle of each rod to form a join whereby the rods sit flush when glued together. Don't worry if you can't cut this groove, it's purely aesthetic.

To join bits together, I used tie wraps. you always get them if packaging, and we recycle them.  Other forms of wire (e.g. garden) will do.

Now to insert the wire (tie wraps) for the perch supports.  If you have fat fingers like me then some tweezers or needle nose pliers come in handy.  I feed the wire up through the bottom of the feeder, using the hole furtherest away from the feeding hole. Push a fair amount in then bend the inside bit over into a nice swan neck shape.  The tricky bit is to now feed the wire out of the second hole so it pokes out the bottom of the feeder. This is where the tweezers or needle nose pliers come in handy.

With the tie wraps or wire in place, offer up the perch and tie in.

Now on to the lid. I happened to have a rather long tie wrap. I would use coated garden wire if I didn't. String or twine would also work.

I fed the tie wrap through twice. But that was me.

Keep it all nice and neat by putting the 'knot' on the inside of the lid.

Ta dah! All done. I whacked it on the bird feeder and the birds 'discovered' it within minutes. To fill the feeder, I unscrew jar from the lid in situ i.e. the lid is still connected to the bird feeding station. Pouring seed/nuts into the jar is quick and easy and painless. I then screw the jar back onto the lid.

I notice that many of the birds in these photos are, perversely, not facing the right way to make best use of the offset perch. The Blue Tit behind the feeder is doing so 'properly' i.e. it simply has to lean forward a little to select a peanut.  The Great Tit has to lean back to do so. Perhaps it finds it easier this way?

  • Very inventive Angus, thanks for instructions!


     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • Well done Angus

    My Flickr photos

  • Very inventive Angus; my only worry would be using those wire twists ….. even though they are on the base of the plastic jar, they have a habit in time of the wire becoming exposed from the plastic covering which could result in possible injury from the fine wire penetrating the bird, especially to a tit type bird that often hangs around underneath feeders or birds approaching the jar from underneath flight path. Is it possible to substitute the wire twists for garden twine or similar ?


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Got to admit I agree with Hazy. However, even more concerning for me is that those edges that have been cut are clearly going to be sharp. A bird poking its head in will run the risk each time of brushing against those sharp edges.
  • Having poked my fingers in and out of the feeding holes of the blue feeder on many occasions over the year(mainly to clear out any old seeds and nut particles) , I can assure you they are not sharp. Note that the RSPB has a home made bird feeder project to make with children that uses plastic soft drinks bottles

    The internet is littered with similar projects.

    I can also assure you that any wires that 'may be' exposed (which they are not as I tuck them in) are far, far, far less sharp than thorns on the numerous roses, brambles, hollies, pyracantha and other similarly armoured shrubs in and around our garden. I see birds flying into them and inside them at quite a speed.

    At worst the ends of the wires (which are not exposed) simply jab me. The thorns of the shrubs, as everyone can attest to, quite happily pierce skin with little or no provocation. Put another way: the ends of the wire do not go through my gardening gloves even when I press quite hard on it; thorns do, sometimes I need only brush them lightly to end up with a thorn sticking in me.

    The birds do not fly close underneath the feeder; certainly not close enough to touch any wires. Granted they may fly under it, but they do not get close to it. They simply fly around and up and land on the perches.

    Birds are very adept at avoiding anything that may injure them. Time is 'slowed' down for them - basically meaning their reactions are incredibly fast and the distance any 'light signals' have to travel from eye to brain is miniscule compared to humans.

    I have had the feeder with the blue cap up and running for about a year now. It is hammered by the birds on a daily basis. Large flocks visit the feeder. I have to refill it every other day. They wouldn't come back if it injures them. In fact, they prefer my home made jobbie to the regular bird feeder you can see in the background of these photos.
  • No probs. I think we'll agree to disagree both with sharp edges that IMO I can see in the photos and know from experience at doing similar with plastic bottles for other purposes, and with the use of wire on feeders.

    Your point re thorns is valid in that they're sharp/lethal. However, birds do injure themselves on plants. e.g. goldfinches on teasel etc. Birds also injure themselves on feeders, incl manufactured ones, and also including sharp metal wire. More importantly, plants are unavoidable. Bird feeders and human made objects are avoidable. Foxes regularly injure themselves on sharp objects, like open food cans.

    It is extremely unlikely someone will ever see a bird injuring itself on a feeder as it will fly off (and be replaced at the feeder by a similar looking bird). However, although hard to see, people do see injured birds at feeders. I have. My parents have. That is how often it happens even with professionally made feeders. A cut under feathers, which would happen when feathery bodies brush against sharp plastic, won't be obvious necessarily either.

    As said, we'll agree to disagree but wanted to respond to what was written.
  • Can I just add that the forum needs some level of contribution from RSPB staff IMO. Staff don't need to be i.d'ing, or giving advice (in terms of birdwatching, where to go and see specifics etc). However, as part of the moderation task, I think staff should be looking for threads like this which really could do with 'advice' being provided in the form of expert advice, rather than a member of the public disagreeing with another member of the public. Stuff like discouraging feeding of whole nuts while young birds are being fed by parents, which this thread is clearly showing/intimating, should be something staff can and ought, IMO, to do. I don't think it's enough for RSPB to provide advice in terms of whole nuts for example as a doc or webpage, as that's only of use if people want to search for that advice. The advice also needs to be 'volunteered' at opportunities like this. The whole nut advice has been around at least a decade and people are still putting out whole nuts at the wrong time of year.

  • Sorry but I guess I'm going to have to also agree to disagree Angus however hard you have worked on your feeders; I'm of the opinion that anything involving fine wires that can unravel (no matter how neatly and tidily they have been fixed in the first place) can then become exposed or the newly cut plastic edges that haven't been machine "smoothed" as in the manufacture of plastic tube type feeders and therefore can pose a risk to any animal (or human come to that). Believe me, I truly believe your creations are very well intentioned and take a lot of thought and time to construct but that does not mean they conform to necessary safety standards I'm afraid. I won't comment further as I'm sure you won't be convinced by any of Robs or my observations where we are not just here to criticise but merely voice our wary concerns about the possible dangers.
    @ Rob, I agree that RSPB should contribute to posts by offering advice when it is necessary.


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Good God!!! The birds have gone bananas!  I am going skint keeping them fed. A 20Kg bag of peanuts and 15Kg bag of nuts/seeds has whittled away. I had to buy another 20Kg bag of peanuts (£30) and 15 Kg bag of seeds without husks (£19.90) from a local garden centre/pet food outlet just north of Wokingham. Tremendous value for money.

    Here's the reason why.  This a typical scene as at 8:05 on the morning of Friday 9th Aug

    This is the scene at 14:30 on Saturday 10th August. Geronimo, says the diving Blue Tit.  But look what they have done. They've almost emptied the blue feeder. And this during the windy, wet weather we've been having over the past two days.

    All the birds queue up waiting their turn; I feel there is a pecking order. It is not unusual to see two or more birds per home made feeder.  The birds also queue up in the trees and bushes around the garden. They come zinging in when a feeder comes free.

    Our local Nuthatches also join in the fun, though a lot of times they will simply hang down from the wooden feeder and pluck a peanut from the home made feeder.

    I think I have about three flocks of tits using this feeding station. One of them is large, well over ten individuals of three different species. Each flock comes round several times a day as they do their rounds of their various feeding resources. No wonder they deplete my home made feeders. The depletion is even more rapid when the Magpies or Jaws also help themselves.

    The birds are quite used to the position of the blue feeder, as it has been on this side of the feeding station for about a year. They are less used to the position of the red feeder. I simply swap the jars around when the blue feeder is reaching empty. The lids are secured to the feeding station. I just unscrew and swap the jars. I refill them when both are empty.

    Though, thinking about it. If I don't swap the feeders around then the birds will go to the red feeder and so get used to it. Some, as you can see from the photo, are brave enough to use the red feeder. The others are slaves to convention.

  • We have a large flock (eight or more birds) and a small flock, about two birds. The 'flocks' comprise a mixture of species of tits. There is a term for this, which eludes me. This is the large flock, accompanied by a couple of Blue and Great tits. The birds tend to charge in, grab a bit of food, then head back to the safety of trees and bushes to consume their morsel. Occasionally they will hang around on the feeder for a few seconds, but this is dangerous. We do have raptors around.

    I've found that what attracts the LTT is a bird seed cake made with lard or suet. I add finely chopped up bread to the bird seed cake, with a ratio of 1 part seed to 2 or 3 parts bread.

    The LTT go nuts (no pun intended) over the bread, as do the Blackbirds, Nuthatch, Jays and Magpies. The bread soaks up all the excess fat (no lumps of congealed fat in the cake and bird feeder!), and provides a nice energy hit, plus I find LTTs don't seem to like seed much. It's energy they need, especially after such a cold, frosty night.  I think they burn up 10% of their body mass per night during cold winters.

    The wide necked feeders are proving a hit with the birds. I have to replenish them every other day. I used to crush the peanuts, but this was proving wasteful as the birds chuck out the smaller pieces as they go for the bigger pieces. So now I'm experimenting with one feeder containing whole nuts. Seems to be working. Less spillage going to feed the pigeons. I'll probably go back to crushing the nuts during the breeding season.  There seem to be some concern whole peanuts mighty choke newborn chicks.