Help me design a bird feeding station
January 26, 2009 2:22 AM   Subscribe

Help me design a bird feeding station for my garden.

Last summer one of the best things about living out in the sticks was watching the birds in the garden. This year I want to build a bird feeding station so I can put out more types of food, attract different birds, maybe convince them to take a bath, etc. Can anyone share links to photos/websites that will give me inspiration for what to build? Or, can you comment on my plan so far (crappy graphics alert):

The blue is 2X4 posts (or whatever's cheap at the DIY store), the red is fence wire (which I already have and which the birds seem to love perching on) and the green is the feeders, water bath etc. I might replace the posts and cross bars with some suitably-sized logs that are lying around in the wood near my house.

In case it's relevant, the birds we currently have are assorted tits, green and fold finches, robins, chaffinches, and a family of woodpeckers.
posted by primer_dimer to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The only suggestion I would make is that you add some 'suet cake' for the woodpeckers. The suet cake is just a product that has bird seed combined with fat. There are small grid containers that you put the seed product in. The flickers and downy woodpeckers just love that stuff. And a bird bath of any description will suffice. I have a heated one so that water is available year round. And it is very popular will all the birds and ever for a couple of squirrels that live on the property next to me. The birdbath is just outside our kitchen eat-in area with a big window so that we can watch them when we have breakfast.
posted by JayRwv at 2:38 AM on January 26, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, I'll give the suet cake a try. The woodpeckers are the most dramatic birds we get - but also the shyest - so it would be great to see more of them. Currently they come and hang from the peanut feeder, but I was wondering if I could encourage them to land on the side of the upright posts to feed (i.e. the way they do on tree trunks). I've occasionally seen them clinging to the side of our wooden fence posts that way.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:50 AM on January 26, 2009

Best answer: I've been feeding birds in my garden for a long time now and what I've noticed is how certain birds don't feed from the conventional hanging feeders. Robins and blackbirds (and other thrushes) will tend to peck around the base of my main bird table and collect bits that have been dislodged by other birds. So some kind of close-to-the-ground feeding area, preferably one with a clear line of sight all round (to help the birds avoid predators), might be worth considering.

Here's another suggestion. Why not plant a tree (of one of the many varieties that have clusters of berries that birds like to eat), and hang your feeders from that, rather than your posts and wires?

Another idea (this is what my neighbours have) is a conventional flat 'table' on a post, to which you attach various 'arms' - just scraps of wood - and then hang things from those. You can add more 'arms' as required.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:54 AM on January 26, 2009

Best answer: Don't forget that some species like to eat on the ground. I've seen a low table for sale, that was simply 6" long pieces of wood as legs, and 8" pieces of wood as the top, with a tray on. That should be easy enough to fix together, and you'll increase the amount of birds that visit.

For the Woodpeckers, maybe get hold of some tree trunks and attach them to the side of the unit, so they have something to grab onto that is quite like what they're used to perching on. I don't think 2x4's would be very comfortable on Woodpecker feet.

One last thing; don't put out anything containing wheat. You'll get bigger birds who will just eat everything.
posted by Solomon at 6:29 AM on January 26, 2009

Best answer: Love the idea of drawing birds to your yard; we had birders next door for years who did this and were sorry to see them go, because the new people got rid of all the things that were bringing in the birds. Your feeder station is cool, but will have some problems, primarily in attracting pests. Suet cakes are great-- we used to make them from bacon fat and put it out on our Christmas tree after the holidays each year.

Don't know if you're also a gardener, but you can draw birds by putting in bird-friendly plants instead of relying on feeders. This will discourage "undesirables" like pigeons, squirrels and cats from eating the bird food or predating the birds. Try putting some shrubs (in particular thorny berry-bearing ones) for the thrushes and grackles, etc. who don't like to eat in the open, and seed-bearing flowers like coneflowers for the finches. The "station" is a cool idea, but you might want to think in the long term of using trees and shrubs as your supports or you will have problems with pests. Just found this website for bringing wildlife to your yard. Definitely plant something underneath the station for the ground feeders to hide under (plus it will be the best part of your garden because of all the fertilizer!)

If you can, put a gentle bubbler in your birdbath to discourage mosquito larvae, or else go crazy and do fish! (A bubbler will not discourage birds)
posted by nax at 7:37 AM on January 26, 2009

One way to make an easy, cheap, and attractive birdbath is to buy a large terracotta saucer (the kind that goes underneath potted plants) and seal it inside and out with several coats of polyurethane. Let it cure for 3 or 4 days before adding water so that the chemicals can dissipate.

You can set this on the ground or on your feeder, if it's big enough.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:53 AM on January 26, 2009

Oh mudpuppie in my experience those clay saucers can break if they freeze when they're full of water. I use the plastic ones.
posted by Restless Day at 2:32 PM on January 26, 2009

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