Before you start on your quest of making DIY bird feeders, save yourself some trouble and make them squirrel proof.
I’m one of those people who wear binoculars, and a funny hat, that you see in parks with necks bent to the sky, watching birds.
Yep, I’m a birder. So naturally, I like to feed the birds in the yard, and hopefully get some interesting -out of the ordinary species from time to time, but notice I said species, not genus.
Yes squirrel, I’m talking to you! I love all animals alike, but I’m not loving you hogging the feeder all the time. One day I might give you your own, but for now, hands off.
And if you’re like me, and everyone else I know, you’ve probably got a squirrel problem. So if you want to feed birds, then you’ve got a dilemma.
I’ve heard all the tricks for keeping squirrels off feeders and have tried them and none of them worked.
I tried things like sprinkling hot pepper like cayenne pepper on the seed, spinning tubes across the feeder’s arms and even spreading vaseline on the feeder pole- ha, squirrels are way too smart and determined.
It is true that can use safflower seed instead of black oil sunflower seed because squirrels don’t eat that type pf seed.
But guess what, plenty of our feathered friends aren’t in love with it either, so there’s quite a few that you’ll miss out on if you only use safflower seeds.
So I set out on my quest to make the perfect squirrel proof bird feeder, and after hours and hours of engineering, I finally made the first version of this back in 2007.
And I even have moved from state to state since then, and so this has been tested by pesky squirrels from multiple regions- and I’m happy to report that none have yet to conquer!
You see, the first trick to this is that you have to make sure there are no surfaces that a squirrel can grab that are below 6′ off the ground.
And to save some of the cost of purchasing a bird feeder pole, I instead used a black plumbing pipe as the feeder pole. This is much better than using PVC because it provides rigidity.
However, you can’t just use a black pipe or PVC pipe because a squirrel can climb a PVC pole, and so you must use a baffle over it.
I found that a large, round HVAC duct pipe is the best thing to use for the squirrel baffle. This is because squirrels simply cannot grab hold of something that wide with such a completely smooth surface.
And for this reason, if you are wondering, I would not recommend using a 6” PVC pipe for the bird feeder pole or baffle. A squirrel can easily dig its nails into the PVC plastic and get enough leverage to climb up the PVC pipe.
Using this 6” round pipe is the best way to keep a squirrel from climbing to the top of the feeder.
As a renter, I had the additional challenge of needing to be able to easily dismantle it in case the landlord doesn’t want it around whenever we move.
So I used a PVC pipe buried in the ground to act as a sleeve so I could simply pull the whole feeder out of the ground and it could be dismantled.
And it would leave nothing but a small hole that could be covered with sod later. Oh, and an added bonus… It’s totally weather resistant.
Years later, the only wear and tear is minor scratches to the paint and subtle fading. There is some rust on the metal pole, that’s only visible because I could see it after pulling the inner pole out of the ground, but it is still in great shape.
Seriously, I’m not a brilliant engineer by any means. But I can confidently say the final product here is… a truly, undeniably legitimate -squirrel proof bird feeder.
**Make sure to plan to install this away from any tree branches or other obstacles that are within a 6′ drop or 6′ jumping distance.
Here’s another tutorial to help with bird watching- DIY Cement Bird Bath.
Quick Links In Post
DIY Difficulty Level | Moderate
Materials For Making A DIY Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
- (1) 6″ Round HVAC duct pipe @ 60″ long (for the squirrel baffle)
- (2) 6″ Round duct caps
- (1) 10′ PVC pipe 1″ schedule 40
- (1) 10′ PVC pipe 1 1/4″ schedule 40
- (1) 10′ black pipe @ 81″- (for the metal pole- you can get this cut to size in the store)
- 2-Part epoxy adhesive or PVC glue
- Concrete -Fast Setting -20lbs
- Garden stake or skinny scrap wood
- Bucket of water
- Sandpaper- 220 grit, several sheets
- Acetone- small can
- PVC spray paint- for plastic
- Bird feeder chains
- Miter saw or hack saw
- Power drill
- 1 3/4″ Forstner bit or Spade bit (this one comes from Amazon, but we got ours in a kit from Ryobi at Home Depot. I don’t have an affiliate link.)
- 1/4″ metal drill bit
- Rubber mallet
DIY Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder Tutorial Steps
Please Note: This will be much easier to follow if you download my illustration showing how to assemble this bird feeder! Please see Step 2 for the free download.
Step 1 | Cut The PVC
Make the following cuts from the 1″ pipe, using a miter saw.
(4) @ 2″ = D
(1) @ 3″ = C
(2) @ 12″ = G
(2) @ 17″ = F
(2) @ 20″ = E
(1) @ 11″ = A (11″ should be your remaining piece after cuts are made- close to this number is fine)
Now cut the 1 1/4″ pipe to 72″. This piece will be B.
Step 2 | Assemble The Feeder Arms
To see how to assemble the feeder, I strongly recommend downloading my super handy, free PDF plan.
It shows a diagram of how each piece of the 100% squirrel proof bird feeder goes together.
Download The Free Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder Diagram
If you don’t want the free plan, then here are the written instructions without the diagram. Afterward, continue to Step 3.
• First, connect 2 of the D’s from the tee connector to 2 elbow connectors.
• Next, connect the E’s from those elbows to the wye’s.
• Then connect both F’s from the wye’s to the cross tee so they connect in the middle.
• Add the last 2 D’s to the open connector of the wye’s, then add 2 elbows.
• Now connect the G’s to the open ends of the cross tee and add the last 2 remaining elbows.
• And last, add the caps to each of the 4 open pipes.
Step 3 | Strengthen The Bird Feeder Station Arms
Use a rubber mallet to better secure the bird feeder arms by hammering each PVC piece and connector together.
Step 4 | Dig The Post Hole
As a reminder, make sure to plan to install this away from any tree branches or other obstacles that are within a 6′ drop or 6′ jumping distance.
First, carefully lift and remove the first couple of inches of grass with the shovel and set aside to place back on top of the concrete when it’s dry and dig the hole 11″ deep.
Now place the 11″ PVC post in the hole. Use a level to make sure it is standing straight.
Next, mix the concrete directly in the hole. Start by filling the hole about 3/4 of the way with the dry concrete, slowly add a little water.
Your proportion should be about 4:1 with the concrete being the larger proportion. Stop at about 1 or 2″ from the ground so you have room to replace the soil and grass.
Blend the concrete just slightly with the shovel or use a stake and add more water or concrete as needed. It should be the consistency of stirred up crunchy peanut butter.
You’ll know it is firm enough if you can let go of the post without it moving. This should take about 10 minutes. Then let it cure overnight.
Step 5 | Sand The PVC
Keep the arm pieces assembled for this. First, you need to roughen the surface of the PVC, so start by sanding all over each of the PVC pieces except for piece B, where you will only need to sand the top and bottom 6″ or so.
The easiest method for doing this is to grab the PVC with the sandpaper and twist it back and forth, moving along the PVC, but don’t sand it lengthwise.
Be sure to also sand the connectors on the bird feeder arms, as well as the male and female connectors that you haven’t assembled yet.
Step 6 | Clean The PVC
In order to help the paint adhere to the PVC, you need to clean it and make it less porous.
Acetone will do both for you, so take the acetone, pour it on a rag and rub it all over the PVC.
When it dries (about 30 minutes), it’s ready to be painted.
Step 7 | Paint The PVC
First, lay down a drop cloth, and be careful of messy overspray and then lay the bird feeder arms, PVC pole, and male and female connectors adapters on the cloth.
Remember, you only have to paint the top and bottom ends (6″ +/- ) of the pole (B).
*Hint- use a stake or post smaller than the 1″ to support your feeder upright, just stick a stake into the ground and drop the PVC pipe over the stake. Then you won’t need to flip it over to spray the other side and can do it in one shot.
To paint, shake the can of PVC paint (following the instructions on the can) and then hold the can 8-10″ away and for the bird feeder pole, spray in a vertical motion up and down.
Now spray lengthwise for the rest, sweeping back and forth. I recommend 2 coats. Do not use the feeder for 24 hours in order to prevent scratching.
Step 8 | Drill The Pole Insert Openings In The HVAC Caps
Drill a hole in the center of both of the HVAC caps using a 1 3/8″ Forstner bit.
Step 9 | Assemble The Top Cap
Take the reducer bushing and slide it through the top side of the HVAC cap that goes on top, and then slide the reducer bushing into the male adapter.
Step 10 | Drill The HVAC Cap Holes
Using gloves to avoid getting cut by the sharp edges, lay the HVAC pipe down on its side and mark the three locations on the side of the cap where you will drill holes for the bolts.
Make them evenly spaced. Drill 1/4″ holes at each location using a drill bit made for metal.
Hint: Be sure to squeeze the pipe in the opposite direction from where you are placing pressure.
You may want to put an object in the HVAC opening to provide tension while drilling.
After each hole is drilled, test that everything lines up by temporarily securing it with the bolts.
Assuming the holes line up, go ahead and remove the bolts and disassemble the pipe from the cap.
Step 11 | Gluing The C, G and F Pipe
Glue the feeder at the C pipe, using the 2-part epoxy, to both the tee connector and the reducer bushing with HVAC cap attached.
Then glue G and F to the cross tee.
Step 12 | Insert The DIY Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder PVC Sleeve Into The HVAC Baffle Pipe
Take the bottom HVAC cap and slide it onto the HVAC pipe, and then insert the PVC post sleeve into the squirrel baffle pipe with the female end facing the top and connect it to the male adapter.
Step 13 | Insert The Squirrel Proof Feeder Into The Ground
Start by inserting the black pipe into the PVC pole sleeve and squirrel baffle pipe until it hits the top.
Now insert all this into the 11″ pipe sleeve set in the concrete in the ground.
Step 14 | Attach The Bird Feeding Station Arms
Next, this may feel a little awkward, but take the bird feeder arms and screw the whole thing together at the male and female adapter connections.
Once tightened, fasten the top cap to the HVAC pipe with the bolts in the holes you pre-drilled in Step 10.
Replace the soil and grass you set aside to cover the top of the concrete.
Final Step | Hang The Bird Feeders
Use a step stool and wrap the chains around the bird feeder arms and then attach your various feeders to each chain hook.
I recommend not using a feeder that has a spinning hook or one that bends. Since this is 6′ off the ground, a rigid hook will make this much easier to hang the feeders.
I’m 5’3 and can hang my own feeders just by lifting and setting the feeder’s hooks over the s-hooks on the hanging chains.
Now watch in delight as the squirrels try to conquer the 100% squirrel proof bird feeder!
Quick Tips For Birds Feeding At Your DIY Squirrel Proof Feeder
- To truly get the best enjoyment from your squirrel proof bird feeder, the best bird seed to attract the widest variety of birds is black oil sunflower seeds.
This will attract a diverse amount of species. You can purchase the kind without the shells and there will be no mess.
- Set up multiple feeding ports with a different type of food source at each feeding station. I mix it up with two different types of suet, shelled blackoil sunflower seeds, sometimes fruit, and nyjer seed for finches.