Monday, January 11, 2016

DIY small bird feeder instructions

I promised to post the instructions for making the spinning chickadee feeders. And after I checked out prices of commercial feeders, (15 bucks and up for the basic versions, squirrel-proof ones almost $100!) I realized that this little feeder is even better than I thought. Fun to watch, squirrel-proof, easy to maintain, easy to make, and free, to boot!

A very old photo, from when I had one hanging right by my window. 2008

You will need:

  • One empty plastic pop bottle with screw-top lid.
  • A clean twig about 8 inches long, slightly thinner than a pencil.
  • Sturdy twine, about 4 feet.
  • A washer or nut or small button.
  • Twine for hanging from your tree or post. A plastic twine that won't rot in the weather is good. Fishing line is ideal, but I've used ordinary household string for years with no problem.


  • Sharp knife
  • One large nail
  • Pliers
  • Source of heat; stove burner, lighter, or even a candle


  • Choose a clean, unscratched plastic pop bottle. I used the medium size. The large 2 litre bottle would need filling less often, but would be too heavy to spin as the birds landed, thereby losing some of its entertainment value. (The chickadees seem to have as much fun at it as we do!)
  • Remove any paper or plastic label.
  • With a sharp knife, cut a slit about 2 inches up from the base of the bottle, and about 1/4 of the way around. Repeat, making a matching slit on the opposite side of the bottle.
  • With your thumbs, squeeze gently just above the slits, to bend a U-shaped section inward. This makes a kind of "mouth" where the birds can reach the seeds.
  • Thread a length of twine through the slits, in one side and out the other. Tie one end firmly around the top of the bottle, just below the lid. Pull on the other end until the twine holds the two U-shaped sections in place, with the two "mouths" open. Tie firmly around the neck of the bottle. Trim off any excess.
  • Heat the nail on the stove. With the pliers, grasp it firmly and make two holes in the bottle, about 1/2 inch under the center of each "mouth". Make a third hole in the center of the screw-top lid.
  • Force the twig through the bottle, in one hole and out the other. It should fit snugly. You may need to enlarge the holes to fit. This will make perches, one at each mouth.
  • Thread another length of twine, about 3 feet long, through the lid. Tie the inside end around the washer or nut. Pull the washer tight inside the lid, and tie a knot on the outside, close to the lid.
  • Fill your bottle with black oil sunflower seeds. 
  • Screw on the cap.
  • Hang from a tree or hanging post. To keep squirrels off, hang it at least a foot away from any branch they can stand on. They can't manage the twine or fishing line without solid footing.

Every time a bird lands or takes off, he gives a push to the perches, setting the feeder spinning like a merry-go-round.

I make a second bottle to match the first, but without the lid. When a bottle is empty, I fill the second one and exchange it with the empty, screwing it into the lid, which stays attached to the tree. This allows me to wash the bottle as necessary, and to dry it completely before filling it again.

A pair of house finches, 2009.

Today, as well as the chickadees and sparrows, I had a pine siskin at the feeder. It's several years since I've seen one.


  1. I wish I had squirrels!. This sounds great.

  2. Looks like a good alternative to my suet balls. - Margy


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