Rob and Sue Allison have spent the last 20 years planting hundreds of native trees on their 12ha lifestyle block in North Canterbury, appropriately named Otemanu (Place of Birds). In winter, they supplement the birds’ intake with hanging feeders. This is the design Rob has found the simplest to make and most popular with all feathered visitors, especially wax-eyes and sparrows.
By Sue Allison
Photographs: Juliet Nicholas
Home handyman Rob Allison originally made his first birdfeeders as Mothers’ Day presents for his mother, mother-in-law and wife. Popular demand has seen his feeders, with a few modifications, hanging on trees in the gardens of friends and family around Christchurch.
“It’s a very simple design,” says Rob. “An ideal first project for a youngster interested in woodwork, and they will have the added pleasure of watching the birds enjoy their handiwork.”
The construction, designed to hold either a fat-and-seed ball moulded in a standard plastic dripping container or an apple, is made from three pieces of wood, three lengths of dowelling and a handful of nails and screws.
The central piece is 20mm dressed pine (thick enough for a hole for the skewer to be drilled in the side without splitting). Cut a rectangle 280mmx180mm. Mark with a pencil,then cut 45˚angles from the centre top to create a 90˚pitch for the roof.
Cut a 100mm-diameter circular hole with its highest point 120mm from the peak. Rob started this with a drill then cut the hole using a handheld jigsaw. (While time-consuming, it could be made by drilling a ring of holes then punching out the circle.) File the hole to finish.
Treated pine was used for the roof to give some weather protection. Take two pieces of 10mmx 150mmx180mm wood. Using a handsaw, cut 45˚angles on the top edges to create a 90˚mitre joint.Centre each side over the peak of the central board and nail, then screw, them into place.(They can be braced front and back with triangular pieces of wood to ensure the joint doesn’t open.)
Cut three200mm lengths of dowelling(either 10mm or 12mm) for the perches, drilling the holes 2mm smaller and hammering through to wedge them in place. Centre the top perch about 15mm above the central hole and the bottom ones about 15mm below and 40mm in from each side. Rob’sMark I model had a flat base for the birds to stand on beneath the ball, but they tended to slip on it. A more elaborate version could include both a feeding tray base and dowel perches.
Coat with boiled linseed oil for protection.
Fit a hook or ring to the top, hang it from a tree and wait for the birds to find it.
Use a rigid rod to secure the block of bird food so it’s easy to guide it through the opposing hole. A kebab skewer was used here.
Make your own bird tucker
Melt a pottle of supermarket dripping in the microwave.
Meanwhile mix in a large bowl: wild birdseed (available from the pet section of supermarkets), cereals such as rolled oats or rice bubbles, dried fruit, raw sugar or honey, breadcrumbs, nuts, bacon rind, pet biscuits…anything birds might like.
Pour melted fat over and mix. Spoon back into containers and freeze until needed. One pottle of fat will stretch to fill two empty containers.