DIY Squirrel and Raccoon Proof Bird Feeder Hanger
I like raccoons and squirrels but they can empty a bird feeder in just a few minutes, and a hummingbird feeder in seconds flat. Worse, once they are on the feeders the birds stay away.
There are lots of birds around these days. We are still getting the migratory ones that are only passing, and the regular lot is wooing and cooing and already making nests. They love the feeder when there is no squirrel.
None of the animals have figured out how to climb up the feeder with my baffles but one clever little squirrels figured out that he could leap from the house to the feeder. It took him no time to teach his brothers and sister, and soon all the local squirrels had learned the trick of it. It took him 4 years before he figured it out though.
Raccoons, opossums, skunks and other local wildlife can't go up the feeders. Squirrels are another story. Trying to curb their damage I set up a couple of meshed feeders. They work quite well to discourage squirrels. The birds and squirrels can reach in and get a seed but the squirrels are too impatient to keep at it and after a short while they give up. They can still reach the white bowl of jelly that I keep for the orioles though, and the platform feeder is fair game. I figured out how to make my squirrel proof peanut butter feeder and the birds can. Here is a link
In the end I decided to make another bird feeder holder and to place it away from tall trees and the house so that no one can jump onto it.
Materials and Tools I used to make my bird feeder holder rack
- 2 pressure treated posts 4 inches x 4 inches x 10 feet, Cedar would have worked just as well but It's expensive here. I chose 4x4 rather than 2x4 because they look nicer. I think the smaller lumber would work fine. Use pressure treated though.
- 2 pressure treated cross pieces 2 inches x 6 inches x 8 feet
- 3 1/2 inch deck screws and 12 short sheet metal screws, 6 1 inch screws, 6 heavy screw-in hooks or screw eyes with S hooks.
- 2 decorative hooks I rescued from my neighbour's trash. She had put it on the side knowing that someone would like them. I think they were originally light holders. The dollar store has hooks for either plants or bird-feeders or garage organizing that would work just as well.
- 2 5 inch galvanized pipe. I think it is used as a air exhaust for dryers or kitchen fans.
- 2 7 inch black stove pipe.
- 2 7 inch black end cap
- A small amount of rust proof paint to paint the black pipe, this is optional but it rusts quite quickly.
I used a jig saw to cut out the cross piece pattern at the end of the arms, and I used a chop saw to cut the post to 9 feet. That might not be necessary for you but I only have about 18 inches of soil before I hit rock so I need to cut the post. If you can dig a little over 2 feet then you can use the whole 10 feet. If you need to cut you could use a handsaw too. If you check how deep you can make your hole before going to the store, you can get the lumber store to cut your posts to size.
I used a drill to drive the screws in. I also used the drill to make pilot holes for the large screw eyes and also for the sheet metal screws. Don't forget safety goggles, the small drill bits used to drill the pipe can break easily and I've had pieces fly in my face while I was wearing the safety goggles.
I used a level to make sure the crosspieces and the posts were level, and a square to check that I was attaching the posts square to the crosspieces. I also had a tape measure.
Once cut and with the glass ball removed, the light holder made a handsome hook. I had to drill holes through the down part so I could screw it to the post.
I put a bowl of jelly in one and a plate of oranges in the other for the orioles.
Cutting the parts of the bird feeder rack.
Decide where you want to locate your feeders. I wanted mine away from tall trees and the house but close enough so that I could watch the birds from the house. This works so well that I set up a camera on a tripod and just open the door and take bird pictures.
I dug one hole to see how deep I could go. I only had 15 inches before I reached rock. I would have preferred a couple of feet to anchor the posts solidly. There are many ways of anchoring your posts. Look up deck posts if you are not sure. I put the post into the holes added some gravel around while it was braced in position. I then tapped the gravel till it was settled. Finally I poured a few inches of concrete mix into the hole after checking that the rack was in proper position.
Dimensions are your choice. My cross pieces are 79 inches across. This allows 2 feeders on each arm and 2 in the middle section.
I marked the size of the middle section (27 inches) The posts fit on either side of the mark. This leaves 26 inches for each arm.
NOTE: MY POSTS WERE 3 1/2 BY 4 INCHES. THEY WERE NOT PERFECTLY SQUARE. MEASURE YOURS AND ALWAYS ALIGN THEM SO THEY ARE THE SAME THICKNESS FACING THE SAME WAY.
I cut a little decorative twiddle at each end. I just worked it out on a piece of cardboard and marked it on the wood. Cut both ends of your first cross-piece then use it as a pattern for the second crosspiece. Don't push the jig saw otherwise it will go off the mark. Take your time and let the blade do the work. The twiddles are decorative only. If you don't want them just cut it blunt and the bird feeder rack will work just as well.
I used off cuts from the posts for separator blocks between the 2 crosspieces, but you could just as well use the offcuts from the ends of the 2x6. Whatever you use you will need at least 6 pieces cut the same thickness as your posts to act as separators and spots where you can screw in your hooks. Remember your posts might not be square so choose whichever side for the thickness you want but make them all the same.
Screw the crosspieces to the posts
The hardest part of the process is making sure the posts are parallel and the crosspieces are square to the post. I positioned my 2 heavy posts on the ground. I had cut them to the height I wanted. For me it was 7 1/2 feet plus the 15 inches underground. I'm not so tall so I wanted to be able to reach all the feeders without having to use a ladder.
I measured, and measured again. I used the square, and checked that the diagonals were the same length. Finally I was happy that the 2 posts were parallel on the ground and that they were lined up at the same height. I screwed my first crosspiece. I only used one screw and checked that everything was square and that my distaces separating the 2 posts were even. Then I added a few more screws. I had marked the position of the posts before so all I needed to do was to line up to these marks. Make sure your posts are lined up the same way. I had 3 1/2 inch x 4 inches posts.
4 screws in each crosspiece held it solidly to the posts. I turned over the holder by swinging up the long pieces over the crosspieces and gently lowering them so I could screw in the other crosspiece. A helper would be useful to turn the hanger over. Line the 2 crosspieces up as best you can and with the posts between the 2 crosspieces, screw the second one in place. Your 2 crosspieces are now screwed to the posts. Insert your separator pieces where you intend to hang bird feeders and suet holders, and screw them in position. I put one at each end and evenly spread the others. They will add a bit of stability and give you a place to place your hooks or eyes. The photo shows the crosspieces with the separators blocks. You might have to lightly hammer the blocks into position or even loosen some of the screws to fit them in if you did not cut accurately.
If you are feeling very fancy you could cut a bunch of 2x4 pieces and screw them across the top to make the bird feeder holder look bigger and more imposing. If you do that you can cut a similar twiddle in the pieces to make them more decorative.
If you want, you can drill your pilot holes and screw in the hooks while the bird feeder rack is on the ground. If you prefer you can do this after it's upright.
Installing the stove pipe.
I use a 2 fold deterrent to stop squirrels and raccoons from climbing up. The slippery 5 inch galvanized pipe is 30 inches long and gets screwed around the post starting at about 18 inches from the ground. I then add a 7 inches diametre and 24 inches long black stove pipe. This black pipe is not fastened to the post but rather flops around and makes it harder for a strong raccoon to climb up.
The first step is to cut a square opening in the black pipe end cap. I did this by measuring my upright post sides and adding a quarter inch to the measurement. I then made a cardboard template and use that to mark the top of the cap. The opening is in the center of the cap. No need to be hugely accurate, position it as well as you can in the centre. After drilling 4 holes the size of my saw blade in each corner, I was able to cut the opening. I used the jig saw with a metal cutting blade. I tried using chisels and grinders to make the hole and this did not work well. The saw works well. Not particularly difficult but you need to be careful because the cut edges are sharp. Once your opening is cut, use a file or sandpaper to remove the burr on the rough edge.
I put it onto the posts and put my rack into the ground at this point but I think It would have been easier to work on the ground and get the baffles all set up before installing the holder into the ground. So that's what I'll describe. The photos will show it upright rather than laying on the ground.
Thread the black pipe cap onto each of the posts and slide it up out of the way. It needs to go on first otherwise you won't be able to slide it over the shiny pipe. Because I had already put my holder in the ground, I put temporary screws in the wood to keep the cap out of the way until I was ready for them.
Take your shiny galvanized pipe and clip it together. It goes over the post about 18 inches above ground. You need to know how deep your holes are and add 18 inches to your measurement. Once you have it positioned, make 3 pilot holes into the seam making sure you go through both sides of the seam. This stops the pipe from coming apart and attaches the pipe to the post. Using 1 inch screws with smooth tops, so the animals won't have something to hang on to, attach the seam of the galvanized pipe to the post. My pipe was 30 inches long and I had a screw at both ends and one in the middle.
I put the crimped end facing upwards because I think it looks nicer that way. It will be covered by the black pipe.
The photo shows the hanger upright but you will likely be working on the ground. That would have been easier to do rather than fight gravity.
Click the seams of the black pipe together. Mine was quite stiff and I had to fight to get it together but eventually it went in. Thread the pipe onto the post above the shiny pipe and make a pilot hole in the middle of the pipe seam securing the 2 sides together. Don't fasten the seam all the way with screws until the end is in the cap. You might need to wiggle the seam a bit to get it in the cap. This time the crimped edge faces upwards towards what will be the top. Use a short sheet metal screw to secure the pipe together so it does not open. Unlike the galvanized pipe you don't want to attach this pipe to the wood. You only want to make sure the seam will not come apart. The pipe will swing freely.
Stick the end of the pipe, which is crimped, into the end cap which is already on the post. You might need to tap it gently. Use a few screws to secure it to the end of the pipe. Add 2 screws to the seam of the pipe now that the cap is on and you don't need to squeeze the pipe into the top. You already have a screw in the middle.
To position the black pipe I measured about 22 inches from the bottom of the galvanized pipe. Make a mark with a magic marker, and slide the black pipe to that position and mark the wood above the black pipe cap.
Slide the black pipe back up out of the way and put 4 long screws, one on each side of the post, at the top mark. Drive the screws so that when the cap and black pipe goes down, it fits on the screws without touching the sides of the pipe. Try to make them as even as possible so the black pipe sits evenly on the screws.
Now what you have is about 22 inches of slippery shiny pipe that is hard to hang on to. If the raccoon or squirrel makes it to the black pipe, he finds that not only is it quite large to hang onto but because it swings it is very difficult to go up. My black pipe is about 24 inches long.
The galvanized pipe is very rust resistant but the black pipe will rust. I painted mine with a shiny brown rust paint to protect it and to make it more slippery.
Securing the bird feeder hanger into the ground
You will need to slide the assembly into the holes you have already made in the ground. A helper is nice but it is not that heavy to handle. Have a bucket of small stones to put in and keep the post in position while you level it and make sure it is properly positioned.
Once you are happy with the positioning add more rocks and the soil you took out. Tamp it down really well and check your alignment. If you are planning to pour some concrete check your level carefully, then check it again just to be sure. I poured about 6 inches of concrete on top of the earth that I had tamped down using a hammer. More would have been better but I had a bit leftover from another project and I used it up. The concrete gets leveled so it takes the water away from the posts.
In an ideal world none of your lumber would be warped but warping is what lumber does. Try to get straight pieces when you buy them and store the wood flat until you use it. If it's warped do your best to align it and level it so it looks OK.
At this point the concrete needs to set for at least a day. Plus the paint needs to dry. Go have a beer and admire your work.
Finishing the bird feeder holder
If you have not installed the hooks or eyes then do this now. Drill pilot holes so you don't crack your separating blocks and put in your hooks. I used screw eyes because they were less expensive than similar hooks. I had a bunch of S hooks in my magic hardware box so I used that to hook the various bird feeders. Bend a clothe hanger if you want to make some S hooks.
At this point I also attached the 2 large hook that I had cut from my neighbour's garden lights.
There are lots of hooks available online if you're not into curbside shopping. Here is one: Gray Bunny GB-6838 Hand Forged Curved Hook, 8.5 Inch, Black, for Bird Feeders, Planters, Lanterns, Wind Chimes, As Wall Brackets and More!
The Birds Started Coming
I filled the feeders and sat back to see who would come. I'd been working most of the day at the bird feeder hanger so the birds had been watching me. I made a show of filling the feeders, they know what that means. I was open for business!
Many birds started by doing a fly by without landing. That went on for about half an hour. Then a hummingbird came in and had a drink followed closely by a Baltimore Oriole who landed and had a feed of jelly. The little goldfinch just landed and started eating as if this is what she did everyday. Others were more cautious.
This Blue Jay came and walked up and down looking at the feeders. He eventually went in very quickly and got a peanut. The Goldfinch quietly went on and had a good feed.
Grackles looked for a long time. Then 2 came, one had something in it's beak. When I enlarged the photo I saw it was a salamander with a few seeds stuck to it. A mating offering maybe?
Lady Rose Breasted Grosbeak and grackle in flight.
The new bird feeder rack is a great success! Squirrels have not figured out how to get up... yet.