To build or buy, a birdfeeder

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

What say we get this admission before even getting into the topic of building a bird feeder. If your time is worth much to you, buying a ready-made bird feeder would be much less expensive. This is for folks who just need an easy winter project.

Some bird feeders that are ready-made are terribly difficult to functionally duplicate, and they are so inexpensive that making one is senseless. (And yes, I have constructed such bird feeders, but not because it made any sense.) Making finch feeders for thistle and other very small seeds, hummingbird feeders, and other bird feeders of this nature is a big waste of time.

On the other end of the bird feeder spectrum are large capacity silo feeders and large platform feeders, which can be hard to find in stores, and building them is very easy. They may take up too much shelf space to be profitable.

The large capacity silo feeder should be large enough to hold a bucket of black oil sunflower seeds. The time and the place to use a large capacity silo feeder is when you may not be able to refill it for a few days. The time and place not to use the large capacity silo feeder is anywhere or any time that the feeder is frequented by deer or bear. No matter how big the silo, those hungry critters can empty it in a night, leaving slim pickings for birds.

The materials needed are an 8-foot 1×8 pine board, which will be 3/4 inch thick and 7-1/4 inches long, (16) 1-1/4-inch outdoor wood screws, (16) 1-3/4-inch outdoor wood screws, two hinges, or one long hinge, with screws, a 10 inch-long piece of 1×10 pine board, and a piece of board to serve as the bottom which is at least 2 inches wider than the body of the feeder on all sides. This latter piece of wood can be two narrower pine boards joined along the edge and reinforced.

One-inch firing strips around the edges of the base will hold plenty of seeds for perching birds to eat without preventing a good amount from falling onto the ground for birds that prefer to feed on the ground. Attach the firing strip to the base with thin nails, which serves two purposes. First, thin nails seldom cause long splits in the firing strips. Second, bears will tear these strips off no matter how they are attached, so do not make it so hard on the bears that they tear apart the entire feeder.

Seriously good advice here- Do not tick off bears.

Also sound advice, if bears are getting to be a nuisance at your home, the reason almost certainly is that you are inviting them by leaving things they eat outside.

Cut the 1×8 boards into any length you want, so long as it does not exceed the entire board length. My current project uses 14-inch sides on the silo. This is a good bit less capacity than the silo feeder it is replacing. The main reason for this is that there are a fairly large number of deer in the neighborhood, and with Chronic Wasting Disease just across the county border, causing deer to congregate is bad business.

Notches must be cut at the bottom of each side. I make these 1-1/2 inches high at the center, and about 3 inches wide. If you do not cut the openings high enough, squirrels soon will chew it to their preference.

Hang the silo feeder using an inexpensive chain on two sides.

A platform bird feeder is even simpler. It can be any size you want. The main advantage over just tossing seeds on the ground is that a roof over the platform prevents the bird food from being covered by snow. Maybe it also reduces risks from overhead hawks, although hawks also must eat.

Here is something I wonder about. Hawks and owls are among the birds that people most enjoy seeing. But when it comes to the raptor trying to kill a baby bunny almost everyone roots for the baby bunny.

As with the platform bird feeder, it does not matter, and it probably is preferable, that some seeds get scattered on the ground. However, to keep plenty of seeds on the platform, the lip around the platform edges should extend at least 2 inches above the platform.

Do not hang the platform feeder high above the ground.

Use only plain, untreated boards, not plywood or any artificial boards which contain chemicals that might kill critters which chew and peck at the feeder.

Hang just about all bird feeders close to cover birds can use to escape predators. We should not make it too easy on the hawks. If there is no cover in your yard consider planting something that is beneficial to wildlife. Check the Pennsylvania Game Commission web site for more specific suggestions.