Feeding the birds is a favorite pastime of many gardeners. We enjoy filling our bird feeders with black oil sunflower, safflower, thistle and millet seeds. But there’s another important way to feed your feathered friends: with a platform feeder. There are many species of birds that can’t or won’t land on the slender ledge of typical backyard feeder, including jays, grosbeaks, woodpeckers and native sparrows. To attract these birds and others who don’t use regular feeders, it’s easy to build a DIY platform bird feeder and keep them happy all winter.
Instead of the seed being stored in a hopper and “fed” to birds via small openings in the base or side of the feeder, platform bird feeders are completely open so birds can land directly on them. The seeds are exposed and easily nabbed by feeding birds. Squirrels and chipmunks also enjoy eating from platform feeders, and many gardeners enjoy watching their antics as they crack open peanuts and sunflowers and shove their cheeks full before scampering off to bury them.
Closed-bottom platform feeders are a no-no because water collects in them and causes the seed to remain wet and possibly develop mold. This DIY platform bird feeder uses an old, round grill grate to keep the seeds dry. It also allows the discarded seed hulls to drop through and collect in the base where they can be emptied into the compost pile from time to time. It works best with large seeds such as peanuts and dried corn cobs, but you can cover the grill slats with a circle of hardware cloth if you want to use it for smaller seeds, like sunflowers and safflowers.
Materials and tools:
- Old metal garbage can lid
- Round grill grate (smaller diameter than garbage can lid)
- Decorative rope
- Peanuts or dried corn cobs
- Scratch awl
- 3 plastic zip ties
Step 1: Mark The Hanger Placement
Flip the garbage can lid over so it’s upside down and begin by marking three equally spaced spots around the diameter of the inside rim of the lid.
Step 2: Make The Hanger Holes
Hammer the scratch awl through the rim of the metal lid to make a small hole on each of the three equally spaced markings. Then, make a second hole about 3/4 of an inch to the left of the first hole you made in each of the three marked spaces.
Step 3: Measure & Cut The Hanger Rope
Measure and cut three equal pieces of the decorative rope, each approximately six inches longer than you want the feeder to hang. For example, if you want the feeder to hang three feet below the tree branch it’s hanging from, cut each piece of rope to a length of 42 inches.
Step 4: Tie The Top End Of The Hanger Ropes Together
Collect the three pieces of hanger rope together at one end and tie them together in a tight knot. Then, lay the tied rope flat and make sure all three pieces of rope are still equal in length. If any of them are too long, cut some off so it matches the others.
Step 5: Tie Knots At The Base Of Each Rope Piece
Next, tie each of the three rope pieces in a single knot at its loose end.
Step 6: Secure The Rope Hanger To The Garbage Can Lid
Use the zip ties to secure the loose end of each of the three ropes to the garbage can lid by running the zip tie through the scratch awl holes and securing it on the inside of the lid.
The rope’s knot should be on the outside of the lid and it should sit just below where the zip tie arches through the awl holes.
Step 7: Make Drainage Holes
Use the hammer and scratch awl to make three or four drainage holes in the bottom of the garbage can lid, near where the handle is. This will allow collected rainwater to run out of the lid.
Step 8: Place The Grill Grate
Pass the grill grate in between two of the ropes and lay it down inside the opening of the inverted garbage can lid. It should rest somewhere inside the rim of the lid. If you plant to use smaller seeds on your DIY platform bird feeder, cut a circle of hardware cloth to the same size as the grill grate and place it on top of the grate to prevent smaller seeds from falling through.
Step 9: Hang Your DIY Platform Bird Feeder & Fill It With Seeds
Use a hanging basket S-hook or a similar hanger to hang the feeder from a tree branch or shepherd’s hook by the upper rope knot. Make adjustments as necessary to ensure the platform sits fairly level. Fill the grill with a handful of whole peanuts or dried corn cobs and get ready for the show!