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How to build a "Flexi-Perch" Squirrel-proof birdfeeder for $10 or less

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Anyone who puts up a birdfeeder hoping to to enjoy the birds will soon attract unwanted guests - squirrels. These cute but rapacious little monsters chase off the birds, eat all the seeds, and can chew birdfeeders to bits.

I've been trying to fight off squirrels since 1989, when I put my birdfeeder webcam, SeattleBirdCam.com, online. I tried ultrasound generators, slingshots, and spiking the birdseed with hot peppers - all to no avail. After studying a number of expensive "squirrel-proof" birdfeeder designs on the market, I came up with my own inexpensive patent-pending birdfeeder design which can use cable ties (tie wraps) as flexible plastic perches. These "Flexi-Perches" (tm), combined with PVC pipe of the right length and width, make an inexpensive, easy-to-build, and effective squirrel-proof birdfeeder.
 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
- 4" diameter plastic drain pipe at least 24" long. Quantity: 1 (a 10' pipe cost me $5.48)
- 1/2 " PVC couplers. Quantity 4 ($0.39 each)
- 4" PVC cap. Quantity 1
- PVC glue
- 3/8" sheet metal screws. Quantity 4
- 10 gauge (about 1/10") galvanized wire at least 33" long. Quantity: 1
- 6" cable ties (tie wraps). Quantity: at least 4
- wood block approx 6" high x 6" wide x 1" thick (i.e. a 6" long piece of 1x6 board)

Note on Materials:
The cable ties are critical. When used as perches, they won't support a squirrel's weight.

For maximum anti-squirrel effectiveness, the plastic drain pipe must be at least 24" long so that the squirrel can't reach feed holes while hanging from the top of the feeder.

The pipe must also be at least 4" in diameter so that the squirrel can't cling to the feeder.

The wood block will be cut down to fit into the bottom of the pipe to act as the base plate. It fits flush into the bottom of the pipe so that there are no protrusions for a squirrel to hang on to.

Other dimensions can be changed to suit whatever materials you may have on hand.
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Hanks5 years ago
This is a great idea for a feeder. Just an idea though, would it not be better to use the black UV resistant cable ties? The sun would not make these brittle. Or has someone already tried that? Also getting longer ones would allow you to feed it from 1 slot, through the feeder, and out the other slot - any excess could be trimmed off. You may not even need staples or screws to hold it in place. I plan on making one (or more), so I would appreciate feedback. Thanks. Hank.
billr (author)  Hanks5 years ago
Hanks, the plain cable ties seem to last for several years, but I'm sure the UV-resistant ones would last longer. I like the idea of using longer ties, send us a photo and let us know how it works! - Bill
Hanks billr5 years ago
Bill, Don't know if I can do as good a job of the photos as you did, but will try. An electrician friend is bringing me some of the 12 inch black cable ties today. Just a quick question - I purchased 1/2 inch fittings for the baffle, but the OD is about 3/4 inch. Why did you drill 1 inch holes in the tube? Or did you indeed use 3/4 inch fittings - they measure just over 1 inch OD? I now bought both sizes. Hope you don't mind my questions. Hank
Hanks Hanks5 years ago
Bill, here is my first attempt at adding a pic. The fitting on the left is 1/2 inch, the one on the right is 3/4 inch. Note the OD of each. Would the smaller fittings (1/2 inch) still work with Black oil sunflower seeds?
100_1802.JPG
billr (author)  Hanks5 years ago
Hanks, I think you've found an error in this instructable. I just went and measured the fittings I use and they are indeed the 3/4 inch variety with a 1 inch external diameter. I think the 1/2 fittings might be a bit small. - Billr
cowhead12 billr3 months ago

The 1/2 inch fit great for mine..3/4 too big..My delimma now, Raccoons. Squirrels are taken care of, but coons shake branch till feeder falls, or emptys all the seed out...

Hanks billr5 years ago
Bill, I used 2 of each size in the feeders I built - when I get them up, I will be able to judge which works better, and will post an update. Thanks again for your instructable - you did a great job.
Hanks Hanks5 years ago
Bill, Hung up one feeder today. Chicadees were there within minutes. They do prefer the 3/4 inch fittings (openings) over the 1/2 inch ones. I may just try to drill out the 1/2 inch fittings and replace them with the larger ones. Hank
Chicadee at feeder.JPG
billr (author)  Hanks5 years ago
That's a beautiful feeder, Hank! Can you tell me more about the the pvc hanger in the photo? Is it fixed in the ground or can you move it? It looks to me like it's got the right dimensions to keep the squirrels from easily getting at the feeder. I'd like to build one myself - can you provide some assembly instructions? - Bill
Hanks billr5 years ago
Thanks, Bill - but it was your great idea! I was out at the farm today (where the feeder is) and there were 4 different birds on it at the same time - a Chickadee, a Pine Siskin, a Redpoll, and a Pine Grosbeak! And no camera! The electrical ties I used held the Pine Grosbeak very well. 1. The hanger is not PVC - it is 1/2 inch steel pipe (painted). PVC would not be strong enough. I would use 3/4 inch pipe next time, and maybe a Tee instead of an elbow (for 2 feeders). I used cast elbows and fittings, then welded a hook to hang the feeder. 2. Yes, it is movable. The pipe is welded to a base in the shape of a bird's foot about 1 foot across (I need to measure it and take a pic when the snow is gone). I then have a steel rod (1/2 inch diameter) pointed on one end, and welded under the "foot", directly below the pipe. The rod might be 6 inches long. I can just lift it out of the ground and then step on the foot to push it in the ground at the new location. 3. I'm guessing it is about 8 feet high to the hook - no squirrels guaranteed! It sure is good to have it near some trees and shrubs though, so the birds feel safe and have a place for quick escape. I will be glad to send you a pic with measurements, come spring! Hank
billr (author)  Hanks5 years ago
Hank, Thanks for the info! I definitely need to make one of these - maybe you could write an Instructable for it? - Bill
Hanks billr5 years ago
I would maybe attempt that - I would have to follow your step-by-step method, which you did so well. However, I can't do it until spring is here in northern Alberta. I would have to pull it from the ground and take pics and measurements. The base is the most work - I used materials that I had on hand or obtained where the price was right. Making the base to resemble a bird's foot was very time consuming. Just an FYI, I plan on making my next base using some steel horse shoes - the kind for the game, because I have 3 that I got for a dollar at an auction. I would place them together with the open side facing out, and then weld. More later Hank
Frmeyers Hanks4 years ago
Frmeyers says: Great ible and follow-up discussion. Thanks guys! I have been battling my bushy tailed tree rats for years. So far, they have been winning. YIKES! Another suggestion for the vertical portion of the hanging post: I think if you use 3/4 inch steel pipe, you can use rebar as the stabilizer. This would allow the hanger to be moved, if desired. Just a thought. I made a vertical trellis for one of my raised beds using this combination. It was very easy to pound the three foot length of rebar two feet into the earth then simply slide the pipe over the remaining 12 inches. Originally I tried using PVC and found it too flimsy too. Basically, it ended up as a U shaped frame ( two vertical "posts", stabilized with rebar and with a horizontal steel pipe cross piece at the top). Since I knew I would be disassembling the frame, I connected the vertical and horizontal pipes with 90 degree PVC elbows. (No welding required!) I used nylon netting attached to the frame with nylon ties. Now my vining plants (gourds, squash, watermelons, etc.) grow vertically, getting a lot more sunshine while saving ground space, too. Unfortunately, I did not take any photographs during assembly. I will when I make the next one!
Frmeyers Hanks4 years ago
Frmeyers says: Great ible and follow-up discussion. Thanks guys! I have been battling my bushy tailed tree rats for years. So far, they have been winning. YIKES! Another suggestion for the vertical portion of the hanging post: I think if you use 3/4 inch steel pipe, you can use rebar as the stabilizer. This would allow the hanger to be moved, if desired. Just a thought. I made a vertical trellis for one of my raised beds using this combination. It was very easy to pound the three foot length of rebar two feet into the earth then simply slide the pipe over the remaining 12 inches of rebar. Originally I tried using PVC and found it too flimsy too. Basically, it ended up as a U shaped frame ( two vertical "posts", stabilized with rebar and with a horizontal steel pipe cross piece at the top. Since I knew I would be disassembling the frame, I connected the vertical and horizontal pipes with 90 degree PVC elbows. (No welding required!) I used nylon netting attached to the frame with nylon ties. Now my vining plants (gourds, squash, watermelons, etc.) grow vertically, getting a lot more sunshine while saving ground space, too. Unfortunately, I did not take photos during the assembly. SIGH... Frank
Hanks billr4 years ago
Bill, Finally, here are some pictures and measurements of my hanger and the "foot" or base. Sorry for the delay, Bill. 1. I used 1/2 inch steel pipe for the hanger (about 3/4 inch OD), but will use 3/4 inch for the next one (it will be about 1 inch OD) - this one bends with a full feeder. 2. From the centreline of the horizontal pipe to the foot (base), it is 99 inches. 3. The horizontal piece with hook is 20 inches long (to centreline of vertical pipe). 4. The "foot" or base is made from 3/8 inch thick by 2 inch wide flatbar. The centre piece (or toe) is 12 inches long (8 inches to the vertical pipe in front, with 4 inches to the back). The two other "toes" are about 6 inches long at the centre (welded at an angle). 5. I welded a pointed 1/2 inch rod 7 inches long at the bottom (below the vertical pipe). I also welded some pointed 1/4 inch diameter rod, each 1 inch long toward the front of each "toe", and on the "heel" on the bottom, so it cannot swivel or turn once it is pushed into the ground - works well. So far these dimensions have worked well for me. Hope the pics upload as planned. Hank
The bend.JPGThe foot.JPGThe point.JPGFeederHanger 2.JPG
Hanks billr5 years ago
Bill, Hope this image upload worked. If it did, you will get the general idea of how tall it is. The feeder is 2 feet high plus 1 foot of rod above the feeder, where it has an eye to hook onto the hanger. I would guess that the bottom of the feeder is still 5 feet above the ground. You can see that even with using this 1/2 inch steel pipe as a feeder hanger, it will deflect slightly from the weight of the feeder full of black sunflower seeds. The original intention of building this hanger was to hang a hummingbird feeder where it would be quite sufficiently strong. This pic is the best I can do for now - you can't see the base at all, as it is still under the snow. Hank
FeederHanger 2.JPG
Hanks Hanks5 years ago
These are the cables ties I used - hope the pic uploads as planned. hank
15 inch Cable ties.JPG
cowhead124 months ago

How do you find center of pvc lid to drill the hole? My $7 lid from home depot, does not have any markings on it, like the one does in your photo. Its rounded of course, and I havent had much luck eye-balling it. Thanks!

rbmccall4 months ago

I bought striped sunflower seeds instead of black oil sunflower seeds. Since the striped are bigger, do you think they will work okay in this feeder. I made a feeder yesterday with the 4" PVC and I'm not sure about the seeds.

thank you

suezq3 years ago
I think I'll make one of these and take my roto zip tool, cut a groove in one side about a 1/2" wide x 6" long, roughly 4" up from the bottom. Then I'll cut a strip out of a clear 2 liter pop bottle and glue it to the inside of the pipe over the groove so I can have a window to keep track of the seed level. Maybe it's less trouble just to lift the lid and look...
Nice instructable and quite doable. Thanks!
billr (author)  suezq3 years ago
I like the window idea. Please post a photo when you finish it!
- Bill
cowhead12 billr4 months ago

Window would be great, but might give squrrels more leverage? Wonder how racoons will act?

hmiller-12 years ago
The squirrels keep snapping my zip ties. There are male cardinals who love this feeder, and I suspect them and the squirrels are in cahoots. I'm trying a new build this evening. I found that with 4 holes, the squirrels can grab hold and do some gymnastics and their mouth is perfectly situated for the middle hole. The pic is the build as close as I could get it to the instructions.
Screen Shot 2012-07-08 at 9.57.48 PM.png
xwania hmiller-17 months ago

I'm having similar issues. did you find a solution? I'm thinking to build one with only 1 hole and a copper wire perch. let me know. thanks.

For the bottom, I don't have any woodworking tools to cut a circle out of wood, so I used the craft foam that comes in sheets. I was planning to sandwich several small sheets together, but found the craft store had some 1/4 inch thick foam for door hanger signs and projects. I got two pink circles that were about 8 inches in diameter. I cut out two circles and kept trimming until I got a very tight, slightly concave stopper. You can't see it at all, and it's easy to get out by pressing one side, so it looses its concave shape. When I refill the feeder, I flip the concave to the other side of the foam piece. My new version has only 2 holes, and uses a wire perch. For the baffle, I simply use an extra tube of PVC. I cut it at a 45 degree angle about 1/4 inch from the end. This gave me a nice baffle. Then I cut a perpendicular cut about 1/4 inch from the tip of the angled cut. This gave me an identical second baffle. I drilled a 13/16 paddle bit about 8 inches apart and on opposite sides. I tapped the baffles in point side toward the top and got the edge flush with the outside. It was tight enough, I used no PVC glue. I'll see how it fares tomorrow.
xwania7 months ago

After 3 weeks I see that this morniing all the perches have snapped off.

Has anyone else had this happen? It is -20 C outside so not sure if the tie wraps got brittle

xwania xwania7 months ago

I have a super-squirrel in my back yard. It has figured out how to slide down the feeder and grab a hold of the little holes. Then is it open season. For some reason, it chews off the perches and then starts its feeding through the tiny holes. It is also chewing through the pvc pipe to make the openings bigger. What I'm going to try is just to put 1 feeding hole. this way the squirrel wont have much to hold on to. Squirrel 1 - bird feeder 0 :-)

xwania8 months ago

Here is mine completed without the screws for stopping the bottom wooden block. Just tapered the circular block so that it gets wedged in to the tube. See the second picture

Haven't seen any birds yet but look forward to it. Thank you again for a great Instructable

C360_2014-01-11-10-39-34-283.jpgC360_2014-01-05-19-03-00-418.jpg
xwania8 months ago
Great instructable. Thank you for sharing.
I can suggest 2 modifications. 1 the base plate can be cut on a slight angle , instead of trying to be precise. I just tilted the band saw table by 10 deg or so and I just cut the base plate using the inside cut of the outside diameter of the 4 inch pipe. This way you don't need to be precise on the circle cut and don't need the screws for stopping the plate either. It works well and you don't need to spray paint the inside either.
2 cut a window near the base. Maybe 3 cms square. Cut a larger piece of plastic from a transparent plastic drinking cup and glue it on the inside. This way you can see the seeds and know when you will run out. Or you could also cut a 6 inch strip from 2 inches from the bottom, 1/2 inch wide and stick a piece of optix acrylic or similar material for checking on the seeds.
I've done the first one but not the second one.
Awesome instructable and I'll be making a few. Thanks
Grkehler1 year ago
Here is the way I cut my holes for the wire ties. Find an old screwdriver and grind it down to the size of your wire tie. Make the tip sharp. Than, heat the tip of the screw driver. Goes thru the PVC pipe like it was butter and you get a perfect square hole.
cbosson2 years ago
Just wanted to thank you for the Instructable. I built one and the chickadees and nuthatches love it so far. I'm going to stash it away until the Canadian winter, when things get really interesting for the birds. Then I'll find out whether the squirrels are sufficiently discouraged...
_MG_7576.jpg
hmiller-12 years ago
This is a great idea. I've tried so many feeders, but this has to be my favorite, because I can build it myself. I commended early but don't see it yet. One thing I forgot to add was that the large tubes are sold in 4 and 6 foot sections already cut in my orange big box home improvement store. They are priced about $1 more than if I'd gotten an 8ft tube. So for $3 more, I don't have to figure out how to fit a 12 foot pipe into my tiny ride. And the cut was perfect, and already de-burred.

What is the best paint? I don't want to have paint chips in a year. Also what is the best color?
hmiller-12 years ago
(1) I built one of these in early spring and hung it in my ornamental cherry tree. Before they shredded the zip ties, the birds loved it and visited it often. (2) The larger birds and squirrels had the L zip ties shredded in a day. I removed the entire thing, and got XL zip ties that were 1/4 wide. It took them 2 days to shred it. I put their favorite sunflower seeds in there, and let all my other feeders empty. Before long I watched squirrels sitting on branches waiting for another on of them to slide down it, jiggle it a bit and they'd all pounce on the fallen 2 or 3 seeds. One particular one stuck his arm into one of the holes and held on for dear life. He wiggled himself around and got hold of the bottom PVC edge of the thickness of the PVC tube. He was there for a while, but dropped off after a bit. (3) I could never find a bottom that was not a cap with a ridge for the squirrels to get a foothold on... I searched my orange home big box store, my smaller local place that says it's the place, and the blue big box store that promises lowe prices. I found nothing. I tried a plunger but it was too big. So, I went to an arts and crafts store and got 1/4 inch "pink" door hanger foam pieces and stack about 4 of them into the bottom. I used foam "dots" that go on picture frames as stoppers. I cut the pink foam a tad too big, so there is some resistance going towards the top of the tube. (4) I had 4 holes 2 low and 2 a bit higher. They effectively allowed the squirrels to have handles to the side and get their little heads right at the 3rd hole. So, I cut the big PVC tube just above the 4 holes. I drilled 2 holes this time. Once near the bottom and the other on the opposite side but 6 inches higher. I substituted Zipties for a piece of copper wire, the biggest the big box store had (about 3 inches each slot), so about $.50 cents or so. (5) For the baffles, I used an extra piece of PVC pipe I had laying around. It was remnants of a sprinkler job. I simply cut a 45degree angle about a half inch from the end. Then I made the second cut 90 degrees to the length of the pole. This made 2 nice baffles. I used a paddle bit 13/16 to drill the hole which was slightly smaller hole than the baffle. I used a deadblow (soft hammer) and smacked the baffles in until the edge was flush with the outside. It was secure enough that I didn't use PVC Cement. (6) filled the version 3.0 tube feeder with the bird coveted black sunflower seed. I hung it outside and will watch tomorrow for the results. I added a pic of tube feeder 2.0. You can see one bird's tail on the other side of the feeder.
Screen Shot 2012-07-08 at 9.57.48 PM.png
lkreisz3 years ago
I have been so frustrated by the squirrels in our yard that my husband and I built a somewhat modified version of this bird feeder. At first I hung it on one of my free-standing flower hangers. Day 1 - I laughed with glee as the squirrels slid down the sides of the feeder. But by day 3 the buggers had figured out that they could cling to the pole with the rear legs and fling themselves at the feeder until they grasped either the perches or the edge of a hole. They would then pull the feeder close enough to literally stick their face in and chow down. Obviously the pole was too close.


Now the feeder is hung from a wire suspended between two house corners. It's only a matter of time till these crafty creatures figure out how to get onto the roof and cross the wire but so far so good. As I type there are six squirrels prowling the ground for seed and staring up at the feeder. The young ones are the daredevils.


I had mainly chickadees and smaller birds on my original "squirrel-proof" feeder but since I painted this feeder I've been inundated with Stellar's Jay, Grosbeaks, woodpeckers and finches. I placed some extra perches between the holes for these bigger birds so that they aren't so close to the hole. They've figured out that if they grasp both pieces of the perch it's strong enough to support them.


My first seed fillup lasted 4 days but we do have a forest so the feeder is busy with birds virtually nonstop. I tested it for a couple days before painting it to look like tree bark and the birds didn't seem to like the white.


We made changes to make it simpler to build and refill. The top is just a loose cap that I pop off by hand. The perches are heavy guage weed-whacker line looped through two small holes below the feed holes. I filled in the base cap with a styrofoam block as a false bottom to keep the feed base close to the bottom of the feed holes and drilled a hole in the bottom to drain any potential moisture.


I was too cheap to buy the cleanout and knockout for this first one but I will on my second one. It's just simpler. By the way, the blue and yellow rods are to attract more birds because I read that these are the only colors that birds can see. They love to hang from them while waiting for a perch to land on. My next one will be painted in those colors.


Thanks for the great idea!
bird feeder 2.JPG
That looks great! Good job.
billr (author)  lkreisz3 years ago
What a beautiful feeder! I'm tickled to hear how frustrated the squirrels are. Thanks for sharing your story - it really made my day. I wasn't aware of the blue/yellow bird vision, please let me know if the birds prefer a feeder painted in those colors.

Thanks again, Bill
Marcos2 years ago
How about more seed ports/perches? Most commercial tube feeders have several levels, staggered so that none are directly above the others. My mom has one, sequestered in her shed, because the #$%*! squirrels gnawed a hole in it. I guess I need to build another squirrel preventer. Come to think of it, I should probably put 'em on the market!
Takhli2 years ago
Your feeder worked like a champ for 3 months then I had a STUCK BIRD trying to get the "last seed", saved the bird and added a 3/4 inch spacer inside on the floor of the feeder so they can't or don't have to reach down to get the "last seed". I would recomend that you put this step in your instructions and perhaps we can save a bird somewhere.
The bird was stuck in the slot in the bottom of the 3/4" coupling.
Takhli Takhli2 years ago
Giving it further thought, the same thing can be done by turning the base block upside down (wire ties on bottom) leaving the inside floor about 1/4" below the couplings.
doflagie2 years ago
This 'ible has an interesting take on the seed baffles...
http://www.instructables.com/id/Bird-Feeder/
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