Introduction: Fruit Tree Cage

Chickens, jays, and mockingbirds can wreak havoc on your fruit and nut tree crops unless you provide protection. Store bought tree cages can be astronomically expensive and most of the really nice ones are in the UK. The added shipping costs make it impossible. This post is my solution. It is intended for dwarf variety trees that will be pruned to 6 to 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide. You can adjust the measurements for bigger trees, but longer lodge poles can be hard to find.

For this project, you will need these tools:

  • tape measure
  • post-hole digger
  • hand saw
  • hammer
  • chisel
  • drill and screws
  • staple gun and staples
  • tin snips
  • heavy thread and embroidery needle
  • tall ladder

And these materials:

  • (5) 8’ or 10’ lodge poles
  • 25’ x 2’ roll of chicken wire
  • bird netting
  • (2) 8’ 1”x2” boards

Step 1: Drill Pilot Holes

Drill a pilot hole one inch from the top of each of four lodge poles and insert a long screw. The fifth pole will be used to make the doorway, so set it aside, for now.

Step 2: Dig Post Holes

Using four lodge poles, flat on the ground, mark out an 8-foot (or smaller) square around your tree. On the inside of each corner, dig a hole at least one foot deep with the post hole digger. [If the ground is really hard clay, like mine, you can use a drill fitted with a large drill bit as an auger. It works surprisingly well.] Place one lodge pole in each hole and gently press the dirt you dug up back into the hole, making sure that the drilled hole runs outside to inside of the tree space, rather than side-to-side. You’ll see why in a minute. Also, dig one more hole to create the doorway space.

Step 3: Make Overhead Support

Take both 1”x2” boards and cut a 1/2-inch notch out of the middle of each, only cutting halfway through. I used a handsaw to make the perpendicular cuts and then a hammer and chisel to knock out the chad. Fit the 1”x2”s together in the middle and hammer together into a giant X-shape.

Step 4: Install Overhead

Position the ladder on flat ground, next to one of the lodge poles. Climb up with the giant X-shape, some screws, and a drill. Carefully position the far end of the X-shape on top of the lodge pole opposite the ladder, making sure it doesn’t fall and damage the tree. Holding the X-frame up with one hand and positioning it against the side of the lodge pole, drill the screw in the lodge pole into the 1”x2”. Repeat the drilling for each of the four lodge poles.

Step 5: Install Chicken Wire Skirt

Staple 2’ chicken wire to the lodge poles, all the way around.

Step 6: Install Netting

Drape bird netting over the X-shape and staple it down to make it taut. Ideally, you want birds and bats to bounce off, not get tangled. Bring the netting down over the sides until it reaches the chicken wire. You can use the wrapping wire from the roll of chicken wire (or string) to “sew” the netting to the chicken wire. I used heavy duty black thread and an embroidery needle.

Step 7: Make a Door

If you are really handy (which I am not), you can build yourself a fancy door. I opted for something far more simple: I cut a piece of bird netting that was larger than the door opening, attached it to the opening at the top, and ran a piece of thin scrap wood through the holes at the bottom. The wood weighs the netting down enough to keep chickens, mockingbirds, and jays away from my fruit and nut trees, and it’s easy to use. For added stability, you can add a cross piece above head height between one of the four lodge poles and the door lodge pole.

And that's it. Not bad for a middle-aged woman with bad hands, eh? Hey, if I can do this - so can you!

This is my very first Instructable and I hope you like it.

Step 8: Update:

Last year, a car hit my house (DUI) and took out my redwood fence. I saved some of the boards and made birdhouses out of them. Since bluebirds and many other indigenous song birds won't use birdhouses attached to fences (due to cats, opossums, and raccoons), my birdhouses were only used by sparrows. Now I have POLES and am hoping for bluebirds! I think they look nice, too, don't you?

Comments

author
KneeBlink made it! (author)2017-06-05

My problem is cockatoos. I acquired an old portable garage frame (new on eBay from $130) and covered it in wire and a wooded base. Door is shade cloth. All in pots - 3 apples-espalier (year 2 60 apples) , 3 figs - over 80 good fruit, orange, Australian native lime, 2 x blueberries and 2x guava. Shade cloth at end is to protect from cold southerly winds.

Orchard 1.jpgOrchard 2.jpg
author
Kate Russell (author)KneeBlink2017-06-06

Cockatoos! Wow ~ we don't have those loose in California that I know of. Wire would have to be the only way to go. I love your idea with the portable garage frame! And what are you feeding your fruit trees?

author
KneeBlink (author)Kate Russell2017-06-07

Hi Kate
I feed my fruit trees with off-the-shelf 'citrus and fruit tree' slow release fertiliser every two months except during the dormant period. I also give them a feed of Seasol liquid fertiliser monthly. The Bay tree in the front of the photo has been in the same pot for 10 years so has been kept to a reasonable size. I used chicken wire so that the small birds like wrens, thornbills and shrike can get in to keep the bugs at bay. They do not eat much, maybe a couple of strawberries or blueberries, but not so many that I even notice. The other half of this 'garage' has been made into a glasshouse by a friend using clear acrylic (Novaroof) sheeting. seems to work well.

author
Kate Russell (author)KneeBlink2017-06-07

Thank you for letting me know. It looks like a great set-up.

author
SusanH75 (author)2017-06-05

I Really like this idea for small trees. You won't have to use chemicals and keep those birds from pecking the fruit. Great job.

author
Kate Russell (author)SusanH752017-06-05

Thank you, SusanH75!

Check out the update ~ I think you'll really like the new bird housing addition!

author
grannyjones (author)2017-06-03

Our peach trees are so loaded that a few birds is not a problem. However, I want to protect the tree and its fruit from 2-legged skunks. Without breaking the law, of course. This cage looks like a good plan, but with chain link fence and alarms.

author
Kate Russell (author)grannyjones2017-06-03

Skunks are smart. You may want to try hardware cloth, rather than chicken wire and netting, for the whole thing. Good luck!

author
Penylayn (author)2017-06-02

Do the pollinators seem to be able to get through no problem? We have chickens, squirrels and wild birds that like to snack on everything! They ate every one of the nectarines we had going overnight! It is frustrating to feed all the critters when you've worked so darn hard to keep things healthy and thriving! >.<

author
Kate Russell (author)Penylayn2017-06-02

The pollinators have had no problem getting through the netting. Of course, that also means codling moths and other pests can get through, too. It does stop the hens, jays and squirrels though!

author
mmmelroy (author)2017-06-01

going to repurpose this idea for my blackberries. the birds and the chipmunks are treating my bramble as if it was their own! and I'm a big fan of pies made of the berry variety...

author
Kate Russell (author)mmmelroy2017-06-01

It works just as well for blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries.

I'd love to see photos when you're done!

author
LydiaT2 (author)2017-06-01

This is Great! You did a Great job!

author
Kate Russell (author)LydiaT22017-06-01

Thank you! I love gardening and hate enabling freeloaders, so this was a win-win.

author
impied (author)2017-06-01

This looks so helpful! Good way to keep squirrels away!

author
Kate Russell (author)impied2017-06-01

The nice thing is, the chicken wire and netting help stabilize the whole thing, so you don't have to be particularly skilled at building to make it work. Most critters will shy away from anything they can get tangled up in. The trick here is simply making it more trouble than the fruit is worth. If you decide to make one, I'd love to see photos!

author
Swansong (author)2017-06-01

That looks like a good setup :) I hope it helps! We have a problem with prairie dogs here so we had to put down a metal floor to keep them out of our greenhouse.

author
Kate Russell (author)Swansong2017-06-01

Thank you! It was surprisingly easy to put up and is working very well.
[The jays are not happy.]

No prairie dogs here, but tons of ground squirrels in nearby orchards. I have two dogs, so it's not a problem here. I have heard, however, that chicken wire isn't strong enough to keep them out. You have to use a heavier gauge hardware cloth. Good luck!

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