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

Picture of How to build a
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.

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.
xwania1 year 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
thanks! I know that pretty much all spray paint is highly toxic to birds - especially the paint residue itself that will certainly get on the seed as it moves through the pipe - so this is a much better option for not damaging wild birds' health!
Hanks6 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)  Hanks6 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 billr6 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 Hanks6 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?
billr (author)  Hanks6 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

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 billr6 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 Hanks6 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)  Hanks6 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 billr6 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)  Hanks6 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 billr6 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 Hanks5 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 Hanks5 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 billr5 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 billr6 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 Hanks6 years ago
These are the cables ties I used - hope the pic uploads as planned. hank
15 inch Cable ties.JPG
cowhead121 year 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!

rbmccall1 year 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

suezq4 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)  suezq4 years ago
I like the window idea. Please post a photo when you finish it!
- Bill

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

hmiller-13 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

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.
xwania1 year 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 xwania1 year 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 :-)

xwania1 year 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

Grkehler2 years 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...
hmiller-13 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-13 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
lkreisz4 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)  lkreisz4 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
Marcos3 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!
Takhli3 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 Takhli3 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.
doflagie3 years ago
This 'ible has an interesting take on the seed baffles...
blueshark3 years ago
Hello. I bought half-inch PVC couplers but only realized after I cut them up, that the 1/2 inch was the inside diameter. The outside diameter is 7/8". If you have to use pliers to force them into the one inch holes, what is the outside diameter of the couplers you used?

Also, what kind of bit did you use to drill the one inch feeder holes?

billr (author)  blueshark3 years ago
I used a 1" spade bit like this one to drill the holes:

I'll have to check but if the instructable calls for 1/2" PVC couplers then that's wrong. I just measured the ones I use and they are nearly 7/8" inside diameter and just barely over 1" outside diameter. This is why I had to squeeze them with piiers to get them to fit into the 1" holes.

Hope this doesn't cause you too much trouble,
blueshark billr3 years ago
Hello Bill,

I bought new 3/4" PVC couplers and they worked just fine in the 1" hole... Yes, the instructions did call for 1/2" PVC couplers.

The bird feeder works well. I temporarily suspended it to a wire. It is somewhat too low at about 36" from the ground and squirrels can jump up to it. Most of them slip off but I've seen one that hung to it, probably from the feeder holes. The situation will be corrected soon.

Thank you.

DavidM454 years ago
Finally ... the squirrels are driving me crazy! well thought out, thanks
billr (author)  DavidM454 years ago
Good luck and post a photo when you're finished!
- Bill
myles1364 years ago
Hello again Bill,

In place of the 10 ga wire, I used 0.30 mig welding wire. This nearly invisible wire drive the squirrels nuts because they can not grip it!

I have another 6 sided plastic feeder. (the $5.00 Walmart variety) that is also now squirrel proof by adding a "dollar store" 14"diameter serving plate over the top like a baffle. The plate is fastened DOWN to the cheep feeder with short lengths of that 30ga wire that hold the plate rigid over the feeder. Again, it is suspended on mig wire. NO squirrel can climb down that super thin wire!!

Dr.Squirrel4 years ago
You guys are sooooooooooo annoying!!!!!!
forthebirds4 years ago
Hello Bill and thanks for sharing the plans for your squirrel proof bird feeder. I built one with a few minor modifications and it turned out and works beautifully. I hope you got your patent and are profiting from your idea.

One question if I may. Previously I was feeding from a tray on a pole. My main visitors were cardinals, blue jays and of course squirrels.

After a month the cardinals are still ignoring the feeder. In a attempt to lure them back I added a tray to the same pole the feeder is on. The jays and cardinals are back at the tray but they(cardinals) still ignore the feeder. The jays show no interest in the feeder, but that is ok I built it for the cardinals.

I did not paint the feeder and left it white. Do you think this could possibly be keeping the birds away?. Thanks again! Don Lewis...Grapevine Texas
billr (author)  forthebirds4 years ago

We don't have Cardinals up here in Seattle, but I'm wondering what you used for the perches? Several people have commented here that the zip-ties were too light for Cardinals, they used weed-wacker line instead.

I've tried 0.13 inch "Grass Gator" weed-wacker line and Black-Headed Grosbeaks, which I think are close to the weight of a Cardinal, had no problem perching at the feeder.

- Billr
davele4 years ago
Any success using 3" piping? Any reason why it needs to be painted?
I'm thinking of replacing the wood base with a PVC drain plug (after covering the holes), thoughts?

I'm interested what folks think about the following: To determine when to refill the feeder, I'm planning to drill a small hole near the top, but below the cap. Then by threading a knoted nylon cord through the hole and glueing it to a margarine lid, the lid will free float down as the seeds are eaten. When the lid drops and the string is no longer visable, its refill time!
billr (author)  davele4 years ago
Davele, I think 3" PVC pipe would be too small to keep squirrels from climbing the pipe. I only painted my feeder because I don't like the way the plain white PVC looks. Several commenters here have suggested using a drain plug, so that sounds feasible.

I like your string idea, but I just use the simple method of looking through the feed holes. If I can see daylight, then it's time to refill the feeder!

- Billr
Ron Calkins5 years ago
I built 2 of them for my ex-wife...I also substituted using zip ties with nylon weed trimmer line. They work great...but now I need to build her a new "Shepherd's Hook". She has a double-hooked heavy duty hook, but it's not strong enough to support the 2 of them, especially if they're full of seeds...and there's a breeze. Anyway...thanks for the plans, and I will try to attach the photos. Thanks again, Ron :-)
Hi Bill,
                  I followed your instructables reasonably close, except I used 1" PVC Couplings instead of the 1/2' as siggested after reading some others comments.  I did cut out 1/3 of of the coupling, squeezed them in through the 1" holes that I had drilled with the cuts facing down. After the glue dried and the PVC was painted I couldn't wait to pour on the bird seed and much to my disappointment the seed flowed out of each of the PVC couplings until the PVC pipe was empty.  Can you tell me if I did anything wrong?
Joe C. @ Jcas721@yahoo.com
billr (author)  Joe Castrianni5 years ago
Joe, I can't think of any obvious problem from your description, but here's a few wild ideas:

1. How long are the baffles?  Mine are 1.5 inches long, so they extend that far into the body of the feeder.  If yours are too short, they may not block the seed from pouring out.

2. How much space is there between the the bottom of the baffles and the "floor" of the feeder?  Mine has less than 1/2 inch.  If  yours has more space than this, the baffles may not work effectively.

If you could upload a photo, that would help diagnose the problem.

- Billr
Hi Bill,
                   Thanks for the reply.  I have included (2) photos of the feeder. One an interior view looking down from the top.  The couplings all were almost 2" in length I installed the first one at full length and when I went to insert the second, third and fourth they would not sit flush with the exterior wall of the PVC because they were butting into the first coupling.  The other three couplings are an 1-1/2" in length.  The wooden plug at the bottom of the feeder is approximately 15/16" from the bottom of the couplings.  I left the overall length of the 4" PVC a bit long so there is a few inches of false overhang at the bottom.  I am look forward to your reply.  Thanks for you help.
Interior view.jpgOverall view.jpg

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billr (author)  Joe Castrianni5 years ago
Nice looking feeder, Joe! 

I don't see anything in the feeder that could cause a problem, so now I'm wondering what kind of seed you put in it.  Although I don't think I've mentioned it, the only seed I use is black-oil sunflower seeds in the shell.  The seeds are big enough so that the baffles prevent them from flowing out.

If you're using smaller seeds like milo or millet (which make up the majority of "wild birdseed" mixes),  they may not be big enough for the baffles to keep them from flowing out.

Are you using small seeds?

- Billr

Hi Bill,
                     Thanks for the reply.  I was indeed using small seed!  I purchased a bag of the black oil sunflower seeds in the shell & filled the feeder the same day I received your message.  The seeds are retained in the feeder.  It has been filled for three days nopw, but I have not as yet seen any birds land on the feeder. Any ideas as to how to attract the birds to the feeder?

Thanks again for all your help.

Joe C.
billr (author)  Joe Castrianni5 years ago

I'm glad to hear that the larger seed solved the problem!  

If you haven't already had a feeder in your yard, it may take a few weeks for the birds to find the new feeder.  You might try scattering a few handfuls of seed around the yard to help let the birds know that it's a good place to explore.

Also, I don't fill the feeder all the way up because it holds a huge amount of seed and the seed at the top might get moldy before the the birds get to it.  I put in no more than a half-gallon of seed at a time and refill it when the birds have emptied the feeder.

Good luck and I hope the birds find your feeder soon!

- Billr
Hi Bill,
                 As you have been such a big help, I thought I'd let you know that the birds have finally discovered the feeder.  So have the squirrels but they have not been successful and the birds have been.  Thanks again for your patience & help!

billr (author)  Joe Castrianni5 years ago

I'm glad to hear that the birds are happy! 

If you can get some video of the squirrels trying and failing to get at the birdseed I'd love to see it!

myles1365 years ago
Bill, I am in the prrocess of making one of your feeders now, but I definately want to feed jays and Cardinals so I will experiment with perches. On my existing feeders I have found that Graphite grease smells so bad to a squirrel that they wont get near it, yet the birds don't mind. I am generally not in favor of grease as I don't want to kill squirrels that could ingest it, but as I said, with the graphite, they don't cross it!
billr (author)  myles1365 years ago

On my live video birdfeeder site, seattlebirdcam.com, you can watch Black-Headed Grosbeaks happily use perch made of 0.13 inch "Grass Gator" weed-wacker line. 

I think that size line would work well for cardinals and jays.

Thanks for the idea about the graphite grease.  I've got some in my shop and I'll give it a try.

- Billr
OldMoose5 years ago
At my local Walmart they have some thin, flexible, cheap cutting board/pastry sheet thingies that we use in the kitchen for food prep that you could drill a hole in and use it above the feeder to keep the squirrels off. They measure 12" X 15" and and are real slickery and flexible. It use them on different types of feeders very effectively. Hope this helps.
billr (author)  OldMoose5 years ago
Sounds like a good idea!  When I was researching the flexi-perch, I ran across a patent using the same idea except the material was round instead of rectangular.

- Billr
 Great idea, squirrels have been raiding our feeders this year and the 'squirrel-proof' ones we bought just aren't. I shall be making up one of these as soon as I can get the parts together.

Thanks for a great 'ible.
billr (author)  mr_magicfingers5 years ago
Good luck, mr_magicfingers!  Be sure to post a photo of your feeder!  Video would be even better!

- Billr
are the baffles nessescary?
billr (author)  schoonovermr5 years ago
Yes, otherwise the seeds will just fall out the feed holes.
ok thanks
BigBoutte5 years ago
very clever
pops446 years ago
Maybe that didn't come out right....Should they be shortened?
billr (author)  pops446 years ago
pops44, How long are the feed tubes/baffles? Mine are 1.5 inches in length, which leaves plenty of room inside the 4" diameter tube for the seeds to reach the bottom plate. Did you cut out the bottom 1/3 section of the baffles? - Billr
pops44 billr6 years ago
Yes, I did cut the tubes so they are shorter now, and there seems to be plenty of room inside. Apparently, we both used different length of tube...Now just waiting for the birds. Also, I was concerned about the seeds falling out of the feeder when the birds begin eating. Thanks..Tom
pops446 years ago
I noticed that when the feed tubes are inserted, there isn't very much room for the seed to fall through on the inside of feeder, is this correct or should the connectors be cut in half length wise to leave more room on the inside?
pops446 years ago
Instead of stapling the ties to the base plate, I drilled four holes around the tube instead of cutting slots. (they should be small enough to hold the tie tight). Then I inserted one 12" tie through one hole and out the opposite hole.
horsbk26 years ago
I build myself several of these about 6 years ago similar in style. I would like to suggest what I used for the top and bottom. I used a cap and drilled a hole then sealed with silicone for the hanger so that you can fill it very easily with food. Then I added a pipe adapter that meets the cap with pipe thread on one end and slips over the tube on the other. Glue the slip side and you have a very easy top. At the bottom I used a flat cap and glued it on. The wood causes mold and fungus to grow.
horsbk2 horsbk26 years ago
Forgot to add the photos. The flat bottom is called a knock out plug. The top two pcs can be purchased together as a clean out adapter but the bottom goes inside instead of out. I preferred to use a pc that fits on the outside of the pipe. These can be purchased at the local hardware store.
knock out plug.jpgbird feeder.jpg
billr (author)  horsbk26 years ago
Thanks for sending the pictures of this very nice-looking feeder! I keep meaning to look for these "clean out" adapters but haven't yet tracked them down. Are you still using them and did they keep the squirrels out? What did you use for perchs? - Billr
horsbk2 billr6 years ago
Billr, If you cut the pipes so that they are at least 24" it seems to be more of a squirrel deterrent but they still try. Perches I use 5/16" dowel rods. I usually get the adapters at Lowe's along with the knock out plug. Good luck!
You inspired me BUT - watch out for the hole sizes! Apparently, I made mine just right and gave it to my neighbor to "test" as he had more avian visitors than I. When I went back to check, he had it down on the ground and there were blood stains 'round two of the orifices where the neighbor's son had tried to extricate the little birdies that got their heads stuck! Two died in the process! Just a (pardon the expression) Heads-up.
billr (author)  charlessenf-gm6 years ago
charlesssenf-gm, i'm appalled by this story. Also a bit skeptical. Did you actually see any birds with their head stuck in the feed holes? Pictures, please. - Bill
Absolutely no need to be skeptical. Dennis (the neighbor) is a straight shooter as are his wife and son. I would suspect that the holes need to be of a certain size (like they do with bird houses) and sanded smooth to remove "edges" as well. I put ti up again with larger holes and had no difficulty. I suspect that, since I simply drilled the holes and did not try and round over the inside and outside edges, it was the sharp edges as much as the small hole size that caused the problems. Since their feathers grow from head to tail, getting in was no issue, but backing ut may have caught their feathers and prevented them from gracefully exiting with a craw full of seed. I don't know how to attach pictures to these responses, but, if you tell me how, I'll take a picture of the device I made and send it along.
billr (author)  charlessenf-gm6 years ago
charlessenf-gm, I'd like to see pictures of your feeder. When you reply to this, there will be a button labeled "add images" above the text entry area. Clicking this button will give you several ways to add an image. You want the last way, at the bottom, which is to upload an image from your computer. - Bill
Try a jpg
billr (author)  charlessenf-gm6 years ago
charlessenf-gm , It's a nice-looking feeder (what did you use for a top cap?), but based on the photo, it looks like the baffles (the tubes inside the feed holes) have not had their bottom 1/3 cut away as described in step 11 of the instructable. If so, this may cause a problem since the birds would have to stick their heads and necks all the way into the baffle to reach the seeds. When the bottom 1/3 of the baffle is removed, as specified in the instructable, the birds can reach seeds without having to stick their entire heads in the feed hole. Can you double-check that the baffles have been correctly cut? - Bill
"Can you double-check that the baffles have been correctly cut?" Ooops, you are right. I removed the baffles to enlarge the holes the birds had gotten stuck in - forgot that part! I will enlarge the holes a bit more and try inserting some new baffles to hold in the seed better. I'll post a picture later.
"what did you use for a top cap" I found these clean out scraps at a construction site. They had a female adapter and a screw-in plug at the end they cut off and tossed when connecting the house plumbing to the city pipes (I assume). The bottom fitting is a temporary cap that fits inside the Sched 40 4" PVC pipe. Its thin translucent plastic cheap, but forget how much! The female adapter and plug, on the other hand are NOT CHEAP - but work great.
"the tubes inside the feed holes" Yes, forgot to mention that, to enlarge the holes, I drilled out the tubes entirely. The heads got stuck in the tubes - not since. But, maybe I could make some more tubes/baffles to keep the seed from dropping out (unless in a beak!). Thanks for reminding me about those parts.
Never noticed the "add images" tab. Here 'tis
Hogan56 years ago
Positive: Ok. This was a fun project and only cost a few bucks. Negative: This is a squirrel feeder! Not a bird feeder! Within a day, my squirrels were shimmying down this thing upside down and feeding at will. They hang off the bottom with a hand in one of the holes and eat or hang off one of the tie-wraps and eat, or just shake the seeds out and feed their friends on the ground. Already chewed off 2 of the tie wraps. No birds yet, as the squirrels have been at it constantly. I hung it below a bracket on a tree...it's 4' off the ground and 2' from the tree. They climb down from the top. It would prolly work if it was in the middle of the yard on top of a pole with a squirrel baffle below....but then so would any feeder. First rate squirrel feeder, very poor bird feeder.
billr (author)  Hogan56 years ago
Hogan5, How long is your feeder? Maybe it needs to be longer. The 24"-long feeders I make are too long and too big around for my local gray squirrels to "shimmy down" and reach the feed holes - they have to let go of their foothold at the top and slide down, and then they're going too fast to hang onto the feed holes. You must have some bigger and stronger squirrels than I do! Lately I've been putting a piece of galvanized sheet metal over the top of the feeder to keep the squirrels from chewing the (PVC) top of the feeder off. If I make it a little bigger, it could act like the "rat guard" that thepelton suggests. - Bill
Put a disk around the support wire to block the squirrels shimmying down from the top. The basic idea is like the rat guards the navy uses on mooring lines to prevent vermin from crawling up from the docks.
kma764396 years ago
Just want to caution everyone about what can happen if the feeder gets too low and the birds try and eat from the center. I have never had this problem and have been using the feeder for about 6 months and it really has reduced the squirrels from getting into the feeder.
danlab6 years ago
I'm not sure if anyone has already addressed this, but I would suggest using black zip ties instead of white; since the black zip ties are much more resistant to the sun and uv rays than the white, and won't get as brittle as the white ones.
markerbuoy6 years ago
This bird feeder by billr is cheap, easy to make or modify and very effective!

I like the bird that knocks the other bird off the perch.
billr (author)  markerbuoy6 years ago
Thanks for sharing your video! - Bill
labmngr366 years ago
Bill, Great Idea FYI, I used 15 inch cable ties and folded them in half then stapled them to the base, this gave the "perches much more strength but not enough to hold a squirrel.
robdbeal7 years ago
Has anybody figured out an alternative to the zip ties? Something that would be strong enough to allow birds the size of cardinals to sit? I've been picking my brain to try to think of something.
Hanks robdbeal6 years ago
Rob, I am new to this. I used 1/4 inch x 15 inch long black UV resistant electrical ties. They should hold a heavier bird. I made a slot on each side of the pipe, and pushed the cable tie through, across the bottom and out the opposit slot. There is no need to fasten these ties - the slot is tight. I welded a washer to a 1/8 inch diameter Stainless steel rod which was 36 inches long. I drilled and screwed this washer to the bottom (underside) of the wood base. Hope the pics upload as planned. Hank
15 inch black ties.JPGSlot for black ties.JPG
Hanks Hanks6 years ago
These are the 2 washers I used to weld onto the Stainless Steel rod to go through the wood base at the bottom. One is a large washer; the other is a "furniture nut/washer" combination - these are then put together and "tacked" to each other with a (Mini-Mig welder). The rod is then inserted through these and tack-welded on the very bottom. Hope these pics upload. Hank
Washers.JPGWashers together.JPG
robdbeal Hanks6 years ago
Yeah, turns out that while the wooden dowels did work rather well, eventually with swelling and shrinking they fell out... I just figured they'd be a little more comfortable on the birds
billr (author)  robdbeal6 years ago
rodbdeal, Thanks for sharing your findings with us. How were your dowels mounted? Were there 4 separate dowels (1 or each feed hole) or 2 dowels (1 for 2 feed holes on opposite sides)? - Bill
robdbeal billr6 years ago
4 feed holes, 4 dowels, I attached a small spring to the pvc under the feed holes and just "threaded" the dowels onto the springs... with time they shrank and fell out.
billr (author)  Hanks6 years ago
Hank, The feeder looks great! I like the idea using a washer on a rod to hold up the wood base. I'm sure the birds will love your feeder! - Billr
bwca44 robdbeal7 years ago
How about the plastic coffee stirrers the red ones they are partially flat durable and do bend
billr (author)  robdbeal7 years ago
robdbeal, I've also used weed-whacker line on one of my feeders. I bought a package of 0.130 inch replacement line at the local hardware store, cut it to length, and stapled the pieces to the base of the feeder just like I did with the zip ties. They work fine. We don't have any feeder-visiting birds as big as cardinals out here in Seattle, but the chickadees and finches like the weed-whacker line just fine. The feeder is still squirrel-proof, too. You can see this feeder on the live video feed at seattlebirdcam.com. - Bill
ymscoyle6 years ago
I made one of these feeders, but made a slight modification. Rather than a wooden plug in the bottom, I used a plastic cap that I found at Home Depot with the PVC pipe fittings. It fits in 4" pipe and has a lip that is slightly larger than the pipe. I put a small hole in center of cap, twisted a small washer at end of wire, strung my wire through a large washer, through the cap, up through the feeder, and through the top cap, and then created a loop for hanging, leaving enough wire so that the top cap can slide up for filling. As long as you keep tension on the hanging wire, the bottom cap is secure. Has worked very well. Hope this is clear.
billr (author)  ymscoyle6 years ago
ymscoyle, That's a nice description of your solution to a bottom cap. Maybe you could upload a photo? Do you have a Home Depot part number for the plastic cap? I've looked for PVC fittings like these but have never found them. - Bill
ymscoyle billr6 years ago
I was at home depot today and got some info on cap. First, the cap is yellow plastic, I don't think it's pvc. It was on the aisle with pvc pipe, etc, but down the aisle where the cans of adhesive are. It is made by Oatey and called an inset test cap. The upc code on the sticker on the cap is:038753391038. The shelf tag ups is:508-288. Hope this helps!
billr (author)  ymscoyle6 years ago
Thanks, ymscole! I'm off to Home Depot to try and find these... Bill
Hanks ymscoyle6 years ago
Bill, I found the PVC caps at Canadian Tire here in Canada - around $2.00 each. I used them for the top only; I considered using them for the bottom, but unless they were glued in, I worried about water seeping in. I stayed with the wood (plywood) bottoms. It is a bit of extra work to cut out the circular shapes, but uneven or high spots can be easily removed with a wood rasp so they will fit perfectly. I then put 4 small screws equally spaced around the circumference, through the pipe into the plywood bottom. ymscoyle, do you mean your caps fit INSIDE the 4 inch PVC pipe?
ymscoyle Hanks6 years ago
yes, the cap fits inside the pipe and has a lip that brings the cap diameter to same OD as pipe. The shape is the like a top hat, with very different proportions. The "hat" itself is size of ID of pipe, "brim" is size of OD of pipe.
egmart6 years ago
Folks, I made one from this design (great work, Bill) with a few minor tweaks that seem to be working well. Rather than weed wacker line, I bought 12 inch cable ties , made two sets of holes below the feed tubes and just fed them through. I also bought two caps and skipped the wooden disc entirely. Rather than doing any gluing of the caps. I drilled small holes and secured them with sheet metal screws so I can remove both for easy cleaning. The birds are flocking, and no squirrels except for the ones looking for spilled seed.
billr (author)  egmart6 years ago
egmart, The reason I use the wooden disk as a internal base is to reduce the number of protruding edges that a squirrel can hang on to. If you don't have any trouble with squirrels hanging on to the edge of the bottom cap, then maybe we don't have to go to the trouble of fitting an internal disk. Please let me know how the bottom cap works out for you and please post a photo of your feeder! - Bill
woodfinery6 years ago
Very nice easy to understand simple instructions. This was exactly what I was looking for. Ya gotta love those Squirrels, but not hanging all over the bird feeders!!
bwca447 years ago
This was such a great idea,the squirrels have frustrated me for years.I have shot em' (destroyed feeders in the process) trapped em ,gave em a bath.I have built 2 of these now 1 like the original posting and the 2nd with 3/4 couplers for sunflower seed. I went one step further to hush up the stifled Brett Farve fan here in MN. and wish too share this great picture right before NFL season. This will be fun too watch this winter.
billr (author)  bwca447 years ago
Great looking feeder! Nice graphic design, too! What kind of paint did you use? It's hard to find paint that will stick to the PVC. - Bill
Hanks billr6 years ago
Bill, I found something made by KRYLON called KRYLON "fusion" for painting plastic. It comes in a variety of colors. It states that sanding or priming is not required. Time will tell how it holds up.
bwca44 Hanks6 years ago
Hank, Thank you for the update for paint. I will try this in the spring for my next design. So far the current one is successful.The squirrels have not even attempted to get into it.
Hanks Hanks6 years ago

Sorry, here is the link to KRYLON (I hope).
bwca44 billr7 years ago
I used spray can paint from Walmart the cheap $.99 a can. masking tape for a design Bullseye spray shellac for a sealer. This has worked so far. -bwca44
euspar6 years ago
Thanks so much for such an easy and ingenious project! This was much better than just buying something at the store to feed the birds that will hopefully soon inhabit the newly hung house nearby. I had a couple of "Oh, that is why he said to do it that way" moments, but by and large it went together without a hitch. Thanks again.
billr (author)  euspar6 years ago
Thanks for the email, euspar! I'd love to see a photo, or even better, a video of your feeder in action. Let us know how the feeder & birdhouse work out, bill
Bitsi7 years ago
I am really impressed by the lengths that you have gone to to keep the critters out of your feeders. Perhaps I've been very lucky, but I've had success with two strategies. 1) Mixing safflower seed in with my thistle in the feeders 2) Mounting the feeders on a long "shepards hook" outside my windows. The feeders end up being too high off the ground for the racoons and too far below the eaves for the squirrels to jump on. To refill the feeders, I just open the window and pop out the screen. :-)
billr (author)  Bitsi7 years ago
babair, sounds like you've found a good solution. How do you keep the squirrels from just climbing the shepherd's hook (which I assume is stuck into the ground)? - Bill
Bitsi billr7 years ago
Actually the hangers are attached directly to the window frame, on the outside of the house. They rotate, so that I can pull the hanger towards the window to refill the feeder. I push it back out when I'm done.


I think that the success of this scheme would depend a lot on the position of your window relative to the ground. If it's too low, the squirrels can still jump up to it. If it's too high, the squirrels will jump onto it from the roof.

But having the feeders right outside the window has been wonderful for our indoor cats. They can watch the Bird Channel for hours!

danstax7 years ago
Robdbeal-I made one of these, but used weed-wacker string instead of wire ties. One perch is .080, the other .090. I haven't seen any birds on mine yet, because I'm not home at the right time of day, but the seed is going down. I wondered about the cardinals' weight after your post, and found they weigh about 1-1/2oz. That is equivalent to eight quarters. I taped eight quarters to a spring paper clip, and the .090 string can support it. The .080 will hold, but they better have a good grip with their feet.
I'm finishing up on my version... I took a dowel rod and attached it to a spring, hopefully this is strong enough for heavier birds but not for squirrels... will let you know how this works out
billr (author)  robdbeal7 years ago
I'm looking forward to the photos! Bill
robdbeal billr7 years ago
I haven't gotten any photos yet but I figured I should give an update. The dowel rod/spring combination worked great. Unfortunately, squirrels have figured out that they can just sit underneath the feeder and a lot drops out just from the birds. Now I just gotta figure out a way to keep the seed from falling out so easily.
billr (author)  robdbeal7 years ago
Glad to hear it's working! What size dowel & spring did you use and where did you get them? The birds do scatter the seeds, but I personally don't mind that too much, since it attracts ground-feeding birds like towhees and other sparrows. The squirrels are welcome to what's left over on the ground. - Bill
srt0477 years ago
This is a great idea! Droll Yankees makes a similar feeder, the Yankee Dipper Bird Feeder.

You should really market this; it could be very successful.
Great idea. Good detailed instructions and graphics. Love teh image of the finches - how do you do that photography? What do you use, distance, which camera, etc.
billr (author)  charlessenf-gm7 years ago
Thanks, charlessenf-gm! The finch photo is a frame grab from a video recording taken by a Canon ZR60 miniDV camera. The feeder is on my back porch facing my living room windows, so I can set the camera on a tripod in my living room and it's less than 5 feet away from the feeder, making it easy to zoom in. My live webcam at SeattleBirdCam.com is an ancient Sony 8mm camcorder, also on a tripod in my living room. Its recording function is broken, so I just use it for live video.
shortman7 years ago
Billr, you can use green pvc drain pipe and would not have to paint it unless you wanted to paint stripes or even flowers on it. just a thought. shortman
billr (author)  shortman7 years ago
That's a good idea - I don't like the way plain white PVC pipe looks - but I don't recall seeing any green PVC pipe in the size I needed. -Bill
danstax7 years ago
Unfortunately, I found out last night these are not rat-proof. I saw one sitting on the string perches happily eating seeds. I hate them much worse than squirrels, who at least have the decency to wear fur coats on their tails.
billr (author)  danstax7 years ago
Sorry to hear about this, danstax. So it sounds like the .080 and .090 weed-whacker line will support the weight of a rat? I wonder what the best size is for supporting a cardinal but not a rat? - Bill
danstax billr7 years ago
I hate to turn the direction of this instructable, but since we're talking pest-proof bird feeders, rats are included, I guess. Now I had to look up the weight of the brown rat, and it varies from 3-21 ounces. Full disclosure-my feeder was made with 3", not 4" pvc, and is 20" long, instead of 24". I used what I had. It also hangs on a shepherd hook between the window and some bushes, so I am asking for trouble there, as it's easy for the little buggers to get on it. If I put it elsewhere, I can't watch the birds. I loved your feeder, it was easy to make, but I think I'll have to go to a weight activated type that shuts off the seed holes.
billr (author)  danstax7 years ago
I don't blame you for not wanting to feed the rats. I hope you a feeder that feeds only the birds! Good luck, Bill
dontno7 years ago
Hey Billr Nice "ible." Have you ever thought of electricity? When I was about 11-12 years old. My Mom was at her wits end trying to keep the squirrels out of her bird feeder. She said to me one spring morning. You're good at fixing things and making things that work. See if you can come up with an idea that'll keep the squirrels out of my feeder. I said OK Mom. I went out to the feeder and sat on the ground and and started to brain storm the feeder. After an hour or so I finally hit on it electricity. I wired up Mom's feeder with 12 AWG wire and plugged it into an outlet. Only one squirrel got zapped, but word got out quickly in the squirrel community to stay away. By the way the squirrel lived. He landed on the ground a little disoriented, ran back and forth a few times, and the scouted away. To this day I still feel bad for the squirrel.
billr (author)  dontno7 years ago
dontno, you were ahead of your time! It turns out that electric shock is a very popular technique for squirrel-proof feeders. When I was researching patents on this topic, I must have found dozens that zapped squirrels. I have no doubt that they are quite effective, but my goal was a design that needed no batteries or switches or any kind of complicated mechanism. - Bill
danu017 years ago
Hi Bill, Thanks for the design. It was fun to build and put up. Started getting hits in about 20 minutes after hanging it up. Squirrels are out of luck with this beauty. They have tried about 4 times already. Dan
billr (author)  danu017 years ago
Congratulations, Dan! Did you apply any of the design enhancements described elsewhere in the comments? I should update the instructable to use David/GreenishApple's style where the tie-wraps are attached to the bottom of the base plate. Good luck and send us some video if you can! - Bill
tlev7 years ago
Thank you for the excellent design! My son and I will get busy and build one of these this coming week. I will include the suggestions for the perch (monofilament line) and forward photos when I get them. We have a serious squirrel poroblem and to be honest, I have almost given up feeding because of them. They have ruined 2 feeders so far so will give your design a good test. Will let you know how it works out. Thank you, Tim
billr (author)  tlev7 years ago
I'm looking forward to your photos (and video, too, I hope)! - Bill
tlev billr7 years ago
Hello Bill, I have just completed the feeder and tweaked your design as mentioned. I used 0.020 monofiliament (weed whacker) line and this seems to be perfect in that if you drill a hole that is snug, there is nothing to prevent you from just using the hole to retain the line. In addition, I created an 8 feed stations instead of four and the last thing I did was use 90 degree elbows cut in half to act as the feed portal and this seems to hold the seed very nice and the added benefit is that I need half the PVC parts to complete the project. Attached is a group of photos to show our work. The paint job is loud but this was paint we had left over from a previous scout project so it will do in a pinch. I want to install this coming weekend and will try my best to get you a video....wish me luck....Tim
tlev tlev7 years ago
Sorry now with picture...:-)
billr (author)  tlev7 years ago
That is the absolute coolest bird feeder I've ever seen! I like the way you've mounted the perches, too. I'm a little concerned that the squirrels might be able to reach the top row of feeder portals, so I'm looking forward to your effectiveness report. Good luck, and show us the video! - Bill
tlev billr7 years ago
Hello Bill, The effectiveness report you been waiting for…the biggest of 6 squirrels started jumping from the tree trunk and grabbing the feeder tube but the rest have given up in frustration and only eat from the ground. This big male can shimmy down the tube too and if his approach is right, 1 in 3 tries he gets lucky. He can catch a top port with his rear foot (as you thought) and then he gets to town by first chewing off the perch (it interferes with access) and then attacking the seed port. I think the port is still too small for him to eat from so he has started chewing on the edges of the port (white on side). I have not given up on the 8 port concept however. To limit access further, I have since moved the feeder 2 feet further west and have added a cone roof from a 14" piece of pre-painted aluminum flashing (photo attached). Decided I would lengthen the hang distance from the tree and added the pitched roof to further limit access. I will let you know if this limits the big guy’s access further but so far he is ignoring the tree! By the way, I know that having this feeder installed in a tree is partly to blame for all of the attention it is getting but it is also proving to be an excellent testing location. No matter, it is a great joy to watch these guys try to get to the seed as they are very crafty. I can report this feeder has caused them all a great deal of frustration and my wife and I, some very good laughs…:-) Thanks, Tim
billr (author)  tlev7 years ago
tlev, I hope the new "conehead" top does the trick for you. I've been enjoying hearing (and seeing) about your local squirrel's attempts to defeat the feeder. They sound like they're just as clever and persistent as the squirrels I used to have in my backyard. While I had a family of five squirrels making daily raids on my feeders last winter, there's only one squirrel making occasional visits this year. I think the coyotes that moved into my neighborhood this summer have had a large impact on the local squirrel population. Any chance of getting more video? - Billr
tlev tlev7 years ago
We installed the feeder today with 4 fresh inches of snow as backdrop. It took the squirrels about an hour to come look, in the interim I had my video camera ready. We watched 2 squirrels attempt to get seed from the feeder and after about 2 hours witn NO success, the left the tree. Just wonderful. I have to get myself some software to send you the video but I will get this to you, just give me time. For now, here is another photo showing both trying to get seed and they both gave up! Thank you, Tim
billr (author)  tlev7 years ago
tlev, you just made my day! There's nothing I like better than causing squirrels great frustration, especially after they've annoyed me for so long! - Bill
I'm back and I have revised my copy of the feeder. You can see the changes here. Flexi-Perch Mark II
I haven't added the door-stop spring yet.

billr (author)  Greenish Apple7 years ago
David, I really like how you flipped the base upside-down. That makes it much easier to attach or replace the cable ties. I'll try that (and tradergordo's weed whacker perches) on my next set of feeders! Your bird photos are excellent, too. Any chance of getting some video of a thwarted squirrel attack? The feeder in your photos looks shorter than the 19" you mentioned in an earlier comment. Is this correct? Keep the pictures coming! - Bill
Of the red, grey and black squirrels, I've only seen the grey try, and I left the camera in the other room. I've seen the grey & black sit on the edge of the white shed and twitch their tails but then go to the ground to get the easy pickings. Maybe I'll move the peanuts closer to entice them... I did cut the feeder to about 12 inches. There are so few places to grab onto and the rest is smooth. It works for my situation for now, I don't know how squirrels in other areas would deal with a shorter feeder. David
Thanks for the Instructable! I built one a couple weeks ago and I've had chickadees, nuthatches, house finches, a Downy woodpecker and a Cardinal (though he could not hang on and I haven't seen him since.). I used a 19 inch PVC pipe and cap I found at the ReStore. Today a squirrel tried to get to a string of peanuts that I hung near the feeder. It paced back and forth between the two nearby sheds then it jumped! And fell just as fast, never had a chance. It resigned itself to scrounging the spilled black-oil sunflower seeds on the ground. I might replace one of the flexi-perches with a door-stop spring for the Cardinals and Blue Jays.
billr (author)  Greenish Apple7 years ago
Thanks for telling us about your feeder! I'm glad to hear there's another frustrated squirrel out there. If you try out the door-stop spring please let me know how well it works. I am a bit concerned that a bird could get a toe stuck in between coils of the spring. I agree that a stiffer perch would be appreciated by the larger birds and am experimenting with different kinds of plastic rods and tubing. I'll update the instructable when I think I have a solution.
Maybe a coffee stirer? Can the squirrels really hang on to this type of feeder if you used something rigid but thin like a nail perch? Thanks a lot for the instructible, I'm gathering my materials to build one right now.
billr (author)  tradergordo7 years ago
The coffee stirrers I'm familiar with would be prone to kinking under pressure - that is, they would bend permanently under the weight of a squirrel and wouldn't spring back. As for a nail perch, squirrels are incredibly clever and persistent; I think if they have any kind of leverage to work with they will find a way to get at the seed openings. That said, one advantage of this birdfeeder design is that it's easy to experiment with different kinds of perch options. If the coffee stirrers or nail perches don't work the way you like, just replace them with something else! Please keep us informed on your results!
Yea, I finished my feeder last night. I was so happy that I didn't have to go out and buy a thing. Built it all from scrap I had laying around including a pretty nice top that I found (must of been from an old feeder that was destroyed). I'll take a picture of the finished product tonight. What I tried for the perches were line trimmer line (like from a weed wacker). A little more rigid than cable ties - but hopefully not so rigid that the squirrels gain any advantage. I'll let you know how they work! I can't wait to start using it. p.s. I trapped and relocated over 20 squirrels last year.
I think I got the "weed thrasher refills" from walmart on clearance a while back.
billr (author)  tradergordo7 years ago
Your feeder looks great! The weed-whacker perches are a very promising idea - please let us know how well they work! I'd love to see some video of squirrels trying (and failing) to get at the seeds. For some reason, I'm getting very few squirrels at my feeders this year - it sounds like you've got a lot more at your location.
Well today was the first day I was really around to watch it. I wanted to get that prized squirrel video for everyone so I had my camera near the couch ready to go, feeder is in the window as I'm watching some football. All of a sudden my wife yells "squirrel coming!" As I'm fumbling for the camera we both watch as the squirrel takes a flying leap at the feeder, slips right off, and falls about 15 feet to the ground below. It was hillarious, I was cheering. Unfortunately it happened too fast for me to get the video! Would have been such a great video. I stood by ready for more the rest of the day, but there we no further attempts. They are usually more persistent, but maybe they are going to stop trying with this feeder... -Gordo
billr (author)  tradergordo7 years ago
Terrific story! Too bad about the video, but I'm sure you'll have other opportunities. I would like to have seen the look on that squirrel's face... Keep us updated! - Billr
The overall design works. The squirrels ripped off the nylon ties, but the birds still come to the openings. The angry squirrels are left waiting on the ground in case the birds spill any seeds. Used 1/2 pvc couplers but they were too small for the birds to reach the sunflower seeds. Replaced with 3/4 inch couplers and it works much better. Cut the coupler length as they hit each other inside 4 inch pipe. Placed some duct tape at the end of the coupler so reduce the flow of the seeds to the openings so there is less seed spilled. Thank you for your your design idea.
billr (author)  squirrel_hater7 years ago
Congratulations! Do you have any photos of your feeder? Using 3/4 inch couplers sounds like a great idea although my local birds seem happy enough with the 1/2 inch couplers.

I'm concerned about the squirrels ripping off the nylon ties - how were they able to reach them? Does the feeder need to be longer to put the ties out of reach of a squirrel hanging from the top?

Again, congratulations! And thanks for the feedback!

BTW, I'm experimenting with a live video feed from my birdcam:
carpespasm7 years ago
an easier way to get a bottom cap would be to use a pressure test cap. They're flat and pretty cheap since they're only used temporarily while inspectors check a house's plumbing.
billr (author)  carpespasm7 years ago
That's a great idea!
chalky7 years ago
psyci7 years ago
This looks fantastic! My mother has been fighting the squirrels for decades, I might have to make her one for mother's day. If you had video of squirrels attempting to steal food and sliding off, that would put this one over the top.
billr (author)  psyci7 years ago
We're coming into the height of the "squirrel raiding season" (fall & winter) here in Seattle, so I'll keep my video camera at the ready. I was also hoping that some of you builders could get some good video!
joemonkey billr7 years ago
all you need is a pellet gun to fight the squirrels!
WilderLust7 years ago
This is brilliant! well thought out and very well presented. thank you for sharing this great design. I am definitely building this to go next to my bird bath :-) WL
friezer7 years ago
Very, very smart. Great design, Bill. Looks like I have a project for the weekend now.
billr (author)  friezer7 years ago
Please let me know how it works out! I'd also like to hear any of your suggestions for improvements.
irritant#97 years ago
Hopefully you are not using lead paint to camouflage your feeder.
Well thought out and great use of common materials. Easy and cheap to make too. I have had several squirrel proof feeders and the best I have found look almost exactly like these but they are metal and they have really short metal perches instead of the flexi-perch.
fishhead4557 years ago
Thanks Guy...my birds love you, I am fond of you...but the local squirrels are way up in the trees chattering and growing skinny. I think that the twist-ties are the key. Flatulations ...fer sher.