Obviously I could have gone to a hardware store and bought one, but then I would have ended up with a plain little cage which would have done the job but not been particularly attractive. Instead, by expending just a little effort - and using spare materials from other projects - I was able to create a hanging dispenser that actually looks quite nice.
Step 1: Materials
* Galvanised garden wire
* Two wooden beads
* One Ikea kitchen hook
* Outdoor varnish
* Something to shape the wire - I used a bottle of flavoured water.
The Ikea kitchen hook was a leftover from a kitchen project, but if you don't have one you could hang the dispenser from a length of chain, string, paracord... whatever you like.
Step 2: It's a Wrap
I'm afraid I can't tell you how long the piece of wire I used was, because I worked straight from the original spool. I advise you do the same.
Step 3: Rewind...
Now you're going to do the same thing, but in reverse. Leave a tiny bit of loose wire at the bottom of your coil and start wrapping around the bottle, this time working from the mark you made and winding back up towards the bottle top. Try to make the same number of loops in this half of the dispenser as you did for the first, to try and ensure that both halves are the same length.
Once you're satisfied, loosen up the coils at the bottle top and slip your spiral off. Using your hands, bend the two halves of the coil together to complete the main body of the dispenser. If, like with mine, the two halves are uneven, you can easily even them out a little with your bare hands.
Step 4: Do the Twist
Step 5: ...And the Max Power Way
I completely forgot about varnishing the beads first and instead went straight on and fixed the beads onto the body of the dispenser. Thread a bead onto the spare straight wire at one end of the dispenser and, using your pliers, bend the wire round into a loop; this is how you'll eventually hang your dispenser. Clip off any unneeded wire. At the other end, give yourself a couple of inches and cut your coil from the spool of wire. Thread the second bead onto the wire and then bend the end of the wire into a tighter loop. Cut the wire short and tuck the end of the loop back into the hole in the bead. You want the loop big enough to firmly hold the bead and prevent it from falling off, but not so big that it's obtrusive and ugly.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Whichever method you've followed over the last two steps, you should, by now, have a nicely coiled wire dispenser with two decorative wooden beads - definitely more attractive than anything you could have bought for a couple of quid from your local branch of Wilkinsons!
Step 7: Feathering Your Nest
Human hair - Birds will happily use human hair to line and insulate their nests. And thankfully, you have an unending supply (unless you're bald, in which case, I'm very sorry). Just check your hairbrushes.
Pet fur - Pet fur is also perfectly usable, so collect up the fur the next time you brush your pet. However, if you're using any flea treatments on your pet you should avoid using their fur, as the chemicals used in them can be quite strong.
Material scraps - The material pictured here is blue fleece left over from some microwaveable wheat sacks I made. It's a good idea to make sure that the material is cut thinly, and not too long, as short pieces can be more easilly transported and woven into the nests.
Feathers - Birds use their own feathers to insulate their nests, so why not give them a helping hand by collecting any small feathers you can find and adding them to your dispenser?
Sheep's wool - I'm lucky enough to live right next to the English countryside, and when walking in the fields it's not uncommon to come across bits of wool snagged on fences. Sheep's wool is perfect nesting material - it's soft and strong, and provides excellent insulation.
Twigs - This may sound obvious, but twigs provide the basic structure of the nest. Short, thin twigs are best, strong enough not to snap but with some flexibility.
Commercial nesting material - This can be anything from coconut hairs to alpaca wool, and can be purchased from pet shops, but with so many free alternatives around I've never found a need to buy it.
Other things you might choose to offer to birds are moss, strips of bark, straw or pine needles. Some small birds apparently use spider silk in their nests, so making your garden a safe habitat for spiders can help attract birds of that kind. Many birds also use mud in the construction of their nests, so you might consider keeping a muddy puddle in your garden for them.
Some people use the fluff from tumble or spin dryers in their dispensers. This is NOT recommended. The lint dries out and crumbles once it's been rained on, meaning that nests built with it become unstable, and residues from detergents and fabric softeners can prove harmful.