How to make a bird feeder: instructions & ideas

Frederike
Frederike
Frederike
Frederike

I am a student of agricultural sciences and a real country kid. At home, I love tending my small vegetable garden and spending time out in nature. When not outdoors, I love to write. Beyond gardening and writing, however, I am particularly passionate about wildlife.

Favourite fruit: currants and raspberries
Favourite vegetables: salsify, savoy cabbage and potatoes

What should a bird feeder look like and where should it be kept? Find out about the factors to consider when choosing a location as well as instructions on how to make your own bird feeder.

bird and birdhouse in snow
A bird feeder is inexpensive and quick to make [Photo: Susanna Hietanen/ Shutterstock.com]

Many birds fly south in autumn, and for good reason – winter is hard on them. In winter, food is especially scarce, meaning that birds often cannot find enough food sources. But even in summer, birds can have a hard time. Rock gardens and green lawns hardly offer any food sources. Fortunately, you can help our feathered friends quite easily. A bird feeder is inexpensive and easy to build and can be styled to suit your garden. Here you will find some ideas for different types of bird feeders and learn the requirements for building them.

Making a bird feeder: what to consider

In contrast to building nesting boxes, which must meet the exact requirements of specific bird species, building bird feeders has almost no limits. Whether small or large, colourful or discreet, almost any bird feeder will be well received by birds. But there are few essential things to keep in mind.

The right location for a bird feeder

The placement of the bird house is important for successful feeding. The bird feeder must be placed high enough so that cats and other predators have no chance of reaching the birds. Possible climbing aids, such as garden walls or tree trunks, should also not be too close to the bird feeder. That said, many birds do not feel comfortable in open spaces either. In the end, a compromise is best – place the bird house so that predators cannot easily ambush the bird feeder, but the birds can still find shelter quickly in the event of danger. Birds are especially attracted to bird feeders placed near shrubs that provide berries or edible seeds.
Last but not least, keep an eye out for any glass panes nearby; birds have a difficult time seeing them and may suffer fatal injuries if they fly into them by mistake. Place bird feeders at least metres away from windows and other glass panes.

cat on a bird feeder
Bird feeders must be placed high enough to protect the birds from predators [Photo: Astrid Gast/ Shutterstock.com]

What should a bird feeder look like?

There is a plethora of design options for bird feeders. But which parts are essential, and which are just a matter of taste? The right building material certainly plays a role. Wood, plastic and/or other materials can be used to build a bird house, and each material has its own advantages and disadvantages. The risk of injury to the birds, the workability of the material and how well it can be cleaned are all important considerations when choosing a material. Pay particular attention to the last point – dirty bird feeders can easily spread diseases and parasites among the birds.

Wood is easy to clean and work with but must be sanded down to minimise the risk of injury. In the case of built-in metal brackets, additional care must be taken to avoid sharp or pointed edges. Plastic is the easiest to clean and relatively durable, but it can be difficult for beginners to work with and is unfortunately not particularly sustainable. Organic materials, such as straw or cardboard, pose little danger of injury but are almost impossible to clean. They should only be used if they can be replaced regularly.

bird feeder with tin roof
A roof protects the birdseed from moisture and mould [Photo: Kella Carlton/ Shutterstock.com]

In addition to the right material, weather protection should also be taken into account. A roof on the bird feeder keeps the feed dry and protects the birds from birds of prey. To ensure that the bird feeder is protected even against heavy rain and wind, it is recommended to have a significant roof overhang on all sides. This keeps the food dry and prevents it from spoiling or growing mould.

Equally as important as protection from moisture is the protection from other contaminants. If the birds can sit directly in the feed, their droppings will most likely contaminate it. So, when constructing a bird feeder, make sure that only small amounts of food are available at any given time. This can be done with the help of a food dispenser.

Overview: What to consider when building a bird feeder

  • Location: height and terrain should keep predators from entering
  • Avoid sharp edges, sharp corners and nets
  • Choose materials that are easy to clean
  • Feeders made of cardboard or other organic materials must be replaced regularly
  • The design should prevent birds from sitting in the feeders
  • A roof protects against weather and birds of prey

How to build a wooden bird feeder

The classic material for a bird feeder is and remains wood. After all, wood has a number of advantages: it is weatherproof as well as easy to work with and clean. Almost anyone can build a bird feeder without any problems. A hopper bird feeder is an excellent choice because it releases only small amounts of food at a time, preventing moisture and contamination.

bird approaching hopper bird feeder
Hopper bird feeders release small amounts of seed into the side feed troughs [Photo: Oleg Senkov/ Shutterstock.com]

Finished with non-toxic varnish, this basic birdhouse model can be placed on a stand or hung up. Of course, you can further decorate or individualise the birdhouse. There are no limits to your imagination. To make things a little easier, you can also get a birdhouse kit from a DIY store, which includes all of the necessary parts as well as instructions. Birdhouse kits can be assembled quickly and easily. Here too, however, first make sure that the design is indeed bird-friendly and hygienic.

How to make a plastic bottle bird feeder

“Upcycling” is quite popular in the world of bird feeding. This is most likely due to how easily bird feeders can be made from a variety of everyday objects. For example, it is quick and easy to make a feeder from an old plastic bottle. To make such a feeder, drill two holes opposite each other in the plastic bottle. Then, insert a thin branch or wooden stick through the holes in the bottle. This stick will serve as a perch on either side of the bottle. Directly above the perches, drill small holes into the bottle so that the birds can later access and peck out the feed. To hang up the bottle, drill two more holes in the bottle’s neck. The bottle cap will keep the feed dry when it rains. And there you have it; the plastic bottle food dispenser is ready.

bird on plastic bottle feeder
A plastic bottle can also make a practical and hygienic bird feeder [Photo: tomap/ Shutterstock.com]

Other feeding options for birds

Besides bird feeders, there are other ways to feed birds. A popular alternative is to hang fat balls with thin plastic netting from a tree. However, this method poses a problem. Small birds can get caught in the nets and can seriously injure or strangle themselves. To remedy this, replace the plastic nets with thick wire. Use the wire to form a basket-like structure around the fat balls in a spiral or grid pattern. This not only looks nicer than plastic nets, but it also minimises the risk of injury.

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