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
- 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?