Build Your Own: Coffee Can Feeders

We feed hundreds of birds both summer and winter at our cabin. Unfortunately, we do not visit the cabin as often during the winter as we do in the summer, and although we utilize numerous varieties of bird feeders, their capacity simply will not supply our beloved chickadees, woodpeckers, and jays when we’re away.

I have finally hit upon an idea that helps solve the problem of insufficient feeders. My new feeders require a minimum of effort and expense, yet provide for many birds over a period of time.

Take a three-pound coffee can and with an old-fashioned beer can opener make three or four holes approx. one inch apart at the extreme bottom of the can. Don’t push the tin inside each hole all the way down, but leave each hole partially blocked on the inside of the can. Otherwise sunflower seeds, which we use exclusively in this feeder, will spill onto the ground too easily.

Punch two small holes on opposite sides of the can so that a small length of string, rope, or chain can be pulled through and tied to a tree limb or other means of support. Make certain that the two holes are punched just below the bottom edge of the plastic lid that comes with the can.

Place the plastic lid on the filled can and run a piece of duct tape across the top, over the plastic lid and partially down each side. This helps to prevent chipmunks and squirrels from pushing the lid. off. We have added four of these feeders to our existing group and find that they are a most welcome way of keeping our birds fed during long absences from our cabin. Try it — I think you will appreciate the results.

Easy Coffee Can Feeder

by Benjamin Burtt

Illustration by Sally Onopa.

One of the easiest feeders to make is constructed from a coffee can with a snap-on plastic lid. Cut off the bottom and snap a lid on that end. Cut a 11/4-inch hole in each lid, a bit off center near the edge. Pass a wire through the can before snapping on the lids, and hang it from a branch. An alternative is to put a bolt through the top surface of the can and fasten the wire to it. This feeder can be filled with sunflower seeds or Niger seed right up to the hole. Punch a small hole in the can near each end at the bottom so water will drain out if any gets through the entrances.

The transparent lids make the food obvious to the birds. The interior is so bright that they are not reluctant to enter. A chickadee will fly to the opening and grip the plastic with its toes. It may reach in for a seed or go all the way inside.

In typical chickadee fashion, the seed is taken to a nearby branch, where it is held in the bird’s toes and opened with its bill. If squirrels get to the coffee can feeder, they will gnaw their way in. However, it does keep jays and other large birds from getting to the food. If squirrels are a problem, the feeder can be suspended from a wire on which you have strung a number of spools, short lengths of conduit pipe, 35 mm film canisters, or plastic tubing. These spools rotate as the squirrel crawls along the wire, and the animal is dumped to the ground.

Coffee Can Overhang Feeder

by Benjamin Burtt

Illustration by Sally Onopa.

A feeder with an overhang is another way of keeping large birds away. You can use a coffee can to make a feeder with an overhang. A three-pound can is good for this type of feeder. Cut away half-round sections from both ends of the can as shown. Cut the plastic can lid in half and snap it in place as illustrated. The overhang protects the seed from weather and from larger birds. Dowels can be added as shown, as can the wire hanger.

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