I recently conducted a class for the Master Gardener chapter that I’m a member of on 20 “DIY” bird-feeders utilizing natural sources, recycled materials and re-purposed items. Of course the best bird-feeder is what nature provides: nuts, seeds and fruit from native trees, shrubs and wildflowers.
But – this class was all about creating bird-feeders and I came up with a few original ideas and several DIY feeders I found over the Internet. These chick-feeder inspired bird-feeders are all over the web (especially Pinterest and Etsy). And if you happen to have a flock of backyard chickens that have outgrown these feeders, this is a great way to recycle or re-purpose. If you don’t have a spare chick-feeder (or never had a reason to purchase one), they are only about 2-3 dollars at a farm supply store. If you’re going to re-purpose a feeder that had been used by your flock, be sure to thoroughly wash the feeder with a mild soap before using it as a wild bird-feeder.
I think every chicken keeper has had some exposure to this feeder in one way or another; either your grandparents had one or you’ve used one yourself with your own young chicks. I tried to come up with some trivial facts and history of this jar feeder that has sustained its usefulness throughout generations. However, I couldn’t find any definitive answers on who was the original inventor or when this particular feeder first appeared on the market. I asked the Community on our facebook page if they knew how old this feeder design was or who the ingenious inventor might be… One Community follower led me to The Ball Jars Collectors Website. and according to this site, the first automatic-flow jar feeder was invented in 1905 (I assume that was the glass version of this feeder and the galvanized base appeared later). Miller Manufacturing seems to be the oldest (still operating) manufacturer of poultry feeders, dating back to 1941 where under the brand name Little Giant, they began producing automatic poultry feeders. In the end, I guess it really doesn’t matter how the feeder came about, but it has certainly proven itself over the years!
I came up with three different ways to transform this domestic bird-feeder into a wild bird-feeder…
The first version of bird-feeder uses a re-purposed glass or ceramic plate as a cover for the feeder. The hardest part of this DIY was learning how to drill a hole into a glass jar…
- Start with a 1/4 ” diamond drill bit.
- The drill needs to stay lubricated with water so keep a spray bottle close by.
- Start drilling at a 45° angle (have the drill on and go toward the glass – don’t put the drill bit on the glass and then start the drill).
- Slowly move the bit to a 90° angle. Avoid applying pressure (you’re grinding or chipping away at the glass, not drilling).
- Continue to spray water on the bit and stop a few times and clean the area off and apply more water.
- It’s a slow process… When you’re close to the end, slow the speed of the drill down and mentally remember to go up with the drill and not push the drill through the jar. ( I did that a few times and the jar shatters). ~ Remember to wear protective eye glasses…
- Once the holes are drilled: add an eye bolt, a couple of rubber washers and nuts. It took a while for me to figure out how to tighten the nuts (your hand won’t fit inside the jar). My husband then brought me a basin wrench to accomplish this task, but it was still a little difficult to get the nuts tightened securely.
In my second feeder example, I wrapped 8-gauge copper wire (Home Depot: 66 cents/foot) around the jar and created a hanger.