How to Build a "Flexi-Perch" Squirrel-proof Birdfeeder for $10 or Less

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Introduction: How to Build a "Flexi-Perch" Squirrel-proof Birdfeeder for $10 or Less

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

- 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.

Step 2: Tools Needed

- ruler or tape measure
- hacksaw
- drill & bits
- pliers
- staple gun & staples
- screwdriver
- sandpaper
- spray paint
- dremel (optional)


Step 3: Make the Birdfeeder Body

Cut the 4" pipe to 24" inches long using the hacksaw. This will be the body of the feeder.

Step 4: Mark and Cut the Base Plate

Pick one end of the pipe to be the bottom of the feeder and mark it. We need to cut the wooden block so that it will fit snugly into the bottom of the feeder. Since the pipe is typically not round, we can't just cut out a 4" circle, Instead, we must mark the wood with the pipe's exact/actual outline on the inside. I chose to set the pipe on the wooden block and spray paint into the pipe. The outside edge of the painted area is our cut line.

Step 5: Fit and Mark the Base Plate

Trim and/or sand the block until it fits snugly into the bottom of the pipe. The block will act as the base plate of the feeder. The pipe will have 4 lines evenly spaced around its circumference. Mark the base plate at each of these lines and, for one of them, use a special distinct mark on both the base plate and the pipe so that the base plate can be easily lined up in the correct orientation. Use a straightedge to mark the center of the base plate.

Step 6: Drill the Base Plate

Remove the base plate and drill a 5/32" hole in the center. Put a piece of scrap wood (not shown) beneath the base plate so the drill bit doesn't hit the drill table. Put aside the base plate until a later step.

Step 7: Mark Holes for Retaining Screws

Measure 7/8" up from the bottom of the pipe at 4 equally-spaced points around the pipe. These points should be between the lines used for marking the base plate, not on the lines.

Step 8: Insert the Retaining Screws

Drill a 5/64" hole at each point, and put a screw in each of the holes. These screws act as "stops" to keep the base plate in place, while allowing the base plate to be easily removed when necessary.

Step 9: Cut the Perch Slots

Measure 1" up from the bottom of the pipe on each of the four lines used to mark the base plate. Cut a slot (centered on the line) large enough for a tie wrap to easily pass through.

Step 10: Drill the Feed Holes

Measure 1 3/8" up from each slot and make a mark on the line. Drill a 1" hole centered on each of the marks. These will be the feed holes.

Step 11: Make the Seed Baffles

Cut out a 1/3 section from each of the 4 PVC connectors. These will be the baffles that prevent seed from falling out of the feed holes.

Step 12: Put the Baffles in the Feed Holes

Use a pair of pliers to compress each baffle and force it into a feed hole, with the open side down. Leave about 1/3 of the baffle protruding out of the feed hole.

Step 13: Glue the Baffles in Place

Apply PVC glue to the outside of each baffle and force them into the pipe until the outside edge is flush with the pipe. Set the pipe aside to let the glue dry for an hour.

Step 14: Make the Hanging Loop

Form a hanging loop in one end of the wire.

Step 15: Feeder Cap

Drill a 5/32" hole in the center of the PVC cap and thread the wire through it.

Step 16: Make the "flexi-perches"

Put the base plate on your work surface with the inside facing up. Place a cable tie on the base plate (flat-side down) with the head near the center hole and lined up with one of the marks corresponding with a feed hole and perch slot. The tail of the cable tie should extend past the edge of the base plate.

Staple the cable tie wrap down securely. Do not staple more that halfway to the edge. I used 3/8" staples. You may need to use another cable tie as a spacer to prevent the staple from cutting through the cable tie.

Repeat with a cable tie at each of the other 3 marks. You have now made the flexi-perches for the feeder.

Step 17: Assemble the Birdfeeder

When the glue on the PVC baffles is dry, insert the wire into the top of the pipe until it sticks out the bottom. I decided to paint my feeder first, you may too.

Pass the wire through the base plate and bend the bottom 1" of the wire to prevent the base plate from sliding off. Make sure the base plate is oriented properly with the tie wraps on top.

Rotate the base plate until it is in proper alignment and thread the ends of the tie wraps into the pipe and out of the perch slots.

Slide the base plate into the bottom of the pipe while guiding the tie wraps out of the perch slots until the base plate hits the retaining screws. The bottom of the base plate should be flush with the bottom of the pipe.

Step 18: Final Step & Instructions for Use

Hold the feeder by the hanging loop and slide the cap onto the top of the pipe. Your feeder is complete!

Hang the feeder so that the bottom is at least 4' off the ground and the feeder at least 18" from the nearest vertical surface. Fill by sliding the top cap up and pour seed into the tube. It doesn't need to be filled up all the way.

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    185 Discussions

    I am not into using the toxic glue for the baffles. Making the hole the correct size would eliminate the glue. And NO painting. Not sure why one would do so anyway. More feeding stations are needed . At least for us. Min. of 9 I would say so that will require a long feeder. Not all bad.

    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

    3 replies

    If the pipe is not perfectly round, a hair dryer should soften it enough to allow your tapered plug to slide in nicely.

    If you want to see the level- make it from clear PVC pipe.

    And you will know it is empty when the birds stop coming around, anyway.

    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!

    Dry paint is not toxic, not even to birds. They may not be as attracted to your feeders/ houses if they are painted. But it won't hurt them, once the paint has gassed off.

    I am thinking, any poly saw dust left after construction might not do them much good though!

    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.

    14 replies

    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

    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

    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

    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...

    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.

    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

    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

    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

    Hank, Thanks for the info! I definitely need to make one of these - maybe you could write an Instructable for it? - Bill

    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 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 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

    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