Introduction: Bird Feeder Shelter
We recently moved into a new house which has huge picture windows. One of the side windows looks out onto a narrow side yard. We placed our cat's large tree in front of that window and then hung a couple bird feeders on hooks on the fence outside so he would have some "cat tv" for entertainment. This was okay, but the feeders hung too low, the big hooks were expensive, and the seed got wet since we live in the wonderful Pacific Northwest. So we needed a better solution.
Step 1: The Sketch
I made a hasty sketch and roughed out my ideas. My priorities for the structure were:
1) it could hold multiple bird feeders
2) it would provide a shelter so the seed would not get wet
3) the structure would be flexible so that feeders can change throughout the seasons
4) the size would be large enough to "fill" the 7ft picture window width
5) it would be tall enough so the view was maximized for people sitting in the front room looking out that picture window (and for the cat!)
6) it would help obscure the view of the neighbor's house and back yard.
Then I called my dad and talked about what was needed to turn the sketch into a viable design - proper roofing, increase footings, etc. (Thanks Dad!).
Step 2: Materials and Tools...
Here are the items we used for our build:
(Quantity - Material)
2 - 4x4x10 treated wood posts
1 - cardboard concrete tube (cut in half), we used an 8" wide tube
2 - 80 lb bags of Quikcrete
7or 8 - treated or untreated 2x4x8 lumber (they are not in contact with the ground, so we used untreated)
1 - treated 2x6x8 lumber
2 - untreated 1x4x8 lumber (you will have quite a bit left over)
1 - 4x8x3/4 exterior grade plywood (cut in half lengthwise by the DIY store)
1 - 8 ft length of 3/4 metal electrical conduit pipe
2 - 5 ft lengths of 5" ducting pipe
1 - package of 3-tab asphalt shingles (I got a damaged package from Home Depot for $10)
1 - roll of asphalt paper (you will have LOTS left over after this project)
1 box - 3/4 inch roofing nails
1 box- 2 1/2 inch exterior screws
1/2 box - 3 inch exterior screws
1/2 box - 1 1/2 inch exterior screws
4 - EMT straps (U-shaped ones with a hole at each end)
6 - Slant Nail Joist Hangers
2 - 1-9/16-in x 3-9/16-in Rafter Ties (this holds a 2x4 on top of the 4x4 post)
2 - L-brackets
These items were a mixture of purchased items and ones we had on hand, so I am sure improvements/changes could be made in the materials list. NOTE: I got most of my metal fittings from Habitat for Humanity's Restore at a great price since they sell them by the pound.
The tools we used: circular saw, hand saw, drill, speed square, staple gun, post-hole digger, hammer, 2-way post level, level, angle grinder.
Step 3: Setting the 4x4 Posts
The window is 7 foot wide, so we positioned the posts to line up with the ends of the window. We dug 2 holes approximately 25 inches deep and about 10 inches wide with a post-hole digger. Then we threw all the stones we hit while digging the holes into the bottom. Next, we cut the cardboard concrete tube in half using a hand saw, and placed one half in each of the holes, on top of the stones.
We placed one 4x4 post in each of the holes, inside the tubes, and braced them using various materials we had on hand. Then we mixed up the two bags of Quickrete and put one in each hole around the posts. We used a stick to tamp down the concrete around the posts, then left them to set (sorry, should have taken a picture at this point).
The next weekend, we removed the bracing and covered over the top of the concrete with the dirt we removed from the holes. The cardboard tubes were a bit proud of the ground, but those can be trimmed later (I intend to pave that side yard eventually, so I just left them proud for now). Finally, we put the 5" diameter ducting down over the posts. NOTE: trying to set the ducting into a round shape was infuriating until I looked up a video on the easiest way to do it. We had to sand down the corners on the posts in a few places in order to adjust the placement of the ducting on the post. I thought we would need to secure the ducting with a screw or two, but it holds tight with just a friction fit.
Step 4: The Roof Ridge and Pipe
Next item was the roof ridge. We placed the metal fittings on top of the 4x4 posts without screws and set the 8 ft long 2x6 on top so that we could check to see if it was level (of course it wasn't). Based on the reading, we trimmed a post and then fixed the fittings and the 2x6 in place with screws.
Looking at the structure, I decided to add another 2x4 immediately underneath the roof ridge to a) add stability and b) provide a wider surface upon which to mount the electrical conduit pipe that would hold the bird feeders. So we used L-brackets to mount the 2x4 with the 4 inch side against the bottom of the 2x6. This meant that we were forcing two metal fittings into a very small space on each end, but we managed to squeeze them in. In hindsight, I am sure there is a much easier and cleaner solution for this. Afterwards, we screwed up from the bottom of the 2x4 into the 2x6 and that provided some much needed rigidity to the structure.
Finally, we trimmed the metal conduit pipe to fit within the posts using an angle grider, then mounted it using the EMT straps. By using large EMT straps and pushing the ends together a bit, the pipe is able to hang down about an inch below the 2x4. We then hung a large sunflower feeder, a hummingbird feeder, and a nyger seed feeder on the pipe using S-hooks. The use of S-hooks on the pipe allow for the greatest flexibility of hanging options. Early customers to the feeders seemed quite comfortable with the structure so far.
Step 5: The Roof Supports
Now we could move on to the roof. Reading up on how to do roofing in regular construction books and online, I found shed instructions to be the most helpful (probably because they were working with small, light structures). I couldn't find anything specific on the type of roof I wanted, so I just made it up (apologies to those people who know about roofing!).
Now we already had a fixed measurement on the roof panels: 2ft x 8 ft (the two halves of the original 4x8x3/4 panel). This drove all of our remaining roof measurements. Eyeballing the angle with a 2ft piece of plywood scrap, I determined that I wanted the roof to be between a 5/12 pitch (it would drop 5 inches for every 12 inches of run) and a 6/12 pitch (it would drop 6 inches for every 12 inches of run). That would be sufficient to protect the feeders, but not obscure the view of them. I also decided to use 2 inches of the 24 inch width of the plywood to act as an overhang.
Now using the Pythagorean Theorem - in a right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides - I determined that my existing roof panel (24 inches minus 2 inches of overhang) was essentially the hypotenuse. Based on that calculation, I set the crossbar (the b of the calculation) down approximately 8 inches below the top of the roof ridge. We secured the crossbar on each side with screws, then cut two 2x4s to connect them. This essentially created a "box".
The 8ft length of plywood needed to be supported, so we placed three rafters on each side of the roof ridge. The first rafter we cut from 1x4. Based on the earlier calculation, we cut the rafter to approximately 23", mounted a joist hanger on one end and then held it up in place to determine where the "birds mouth" cut would be to have it sit on the "box". We also marked where the end of the rafter needed to be trimmed so that it would be in alignment with the plywood top. Once we had this template rafter, we cut the remaining two for the one side of the structure. Everything was then screwed into place. We repeated the same process for the other side (we had to adjust our measurements slightly for the other side).
Step 6: The Roof
We placed one plywood piece on top of the rafters and screwed it into place. Then we did the same with the other plywood piece on the other side. There was a slight gap where the boards butted against each other over the roof ridge, but that would later be covered by the roofing materials.
Then we measured out two pieces of roofing paper approximately 9ft in length. We centered one piece over one side of the structure and made sure there was approximately 5 inches of overhang at the bottom and enough at the top to cover over the gap to the other plywood piece. This was stapled in place along the top first to hold it while we shaped the other sides to wrap around the plywood pieces. We tried to make all the corners look as neat as possible, then stapled everything in place. We repeated this process on the other side of the roof.
I went to one of the local DIY stores for my supplies and found the shingles which were close to the color of the shingles on the house. There was a broken package of shingles on the floor and they agreed to sell it to me for $10 (60% off!).
I read up on how to attach shingles, and followed their instructions (mostly). So we started by trimming a starter row of shingles and put that at the bottom of the panel, then laid the first row of shingles on top of that row. We then staggered the next two rows of shingles. The other roof panel was done the exact same way. Finally, we covered the roof ridge. We didn't use specific shingles for the roof ridge. Instead, we just used individual shingles to cover the roof ridge.
Now because we used a broken package of asphalt shingles we were probably one row short on each side of the roof, however I don't think it is detrimental to the structure since the panels are completely covered. The effect is mostly "cosmetic".
Step 7: In Use...
The shelter has now been in use for several months and it has worked very well. I am able to change out the feeders easily, the food stays dry, and the birds are comfortable with the structure. The only design issue we've had is with water occasionally dripping down the roofing paper in heavy rain, but that is not really going to damage the structure. Beyond that, it can be a bit dark under the structure, so I am going to add a cheap string of solar lights to the inside so that the birds are easier to see.