Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cub Corner: Salad dressing bird feeder

I know I've done a bird feeder before, but it didn't attract too many birds and it ended up swamped with water, so I've changed things up a little. If you're a den leader, this bird feeder will help satisfy Wolf Elective 13 b and e, or Bear Achievement 5 b.

For this bird feeder you're going to save up some salad dressing or ketchup bottles. Make sure you clean them out with some dish soap and let them drip dry for a couple of days. Keep the caps, scrape off the labels, etc.  (You know you have to do selective hoarding recycling when you have Scouts right?) 

So here's the bottle. (I'll apologize now for the blurry pictures. My good camera broke a while back and all I have is a point and shoot and I'm going to blame the camera for blurriness up close rather than my shaky hands.)

Now, you'll need a craft knife.  You want to make and X shape incision about an inch from the bottom. You are making an opening for a small diameter dowel (3/8ths of an inch or close). After you make the X, do that on the other side of the bottle as well.  Then make straight cuts from point to point until you have a diamond shaped hole on either side.  Also make narrow cuts on the bottom of the bottle. You want a way for moisture to drain out of the bottle (one of my mistakes on the milk jug feeder).

Now make triangular holes randomly around the sides of the bottle. These will be where the birds get the seeds out while sitting on the dowel.  I know it seems scary to let Cub Scouts use a knife, however, if the blades are sharp, they will cut through easily without using a lot of pressure. It's when blades are dull and you try to use a lot of force that slipping/cutting yourself happens. Make sure you explain safety to the Scouts beforehand and have plenty of adults on hand to help, or have the Scouts do this step one at a time so you can monitor them.

I didn't want to put seed in the very bottom where the birds can't get at it, so I stuffed cotton balls in the bottom up to the level of the holes where the dowel will go through.  Bunched up cheesecloth would also work and allow moisture to drain down while still keeping the seed up where the birds can get it.

Originally, I used an 8 inch to 12 inch long piece of wooden dowel, but then looking at it, I decided to shorten the dowel to about 6 inches long.  Only small light birds will be able to get on there and that should be okay for this feeder.  Bigger birds tend to need stouter branches or feed on the ground anyway.

So now, how to hang the bottle up.  I tried using a punch tool to knock a hole in the cap so I could thread some string through like I did with the milk jug feeder, but apparently the salad dressing caps are made of more brittle plastic, and I broke the silly thing in half. Oops.  I would suggest using a small nail to punch the hole or make a hole using a drill with a small diameter bit.  The Cubs can use a hammer and nail, but they are NOT allowed to used power tools, so if you use a drill, you'll need to do it yourself or recruit a responsible adult to do this part.  The Scouts can thread a length of string through the hole in the cap and tie a big old knot on the under side of the cap. Screw the cap on after putting in the seed and the feeder will hang on the string coming up through the cap.

Fortunately, these particular bottles I gathered have a narrow part just under the cap that make tying the string around it just perfect. This could be a good opportunity to teach the Scouts a slip knot for the bottle neck and another knot to tie the bottle to a tree branch or some other place where birds can use the feeder. Try to find a place to hang it where cats aren't likely to ambush birds coming to the feeder.

Use a funnel to help you get the seeds in and you're done!  Be sure to check out books about feeding birds that hang around your area in the winter time and find out what kind of food they like. You'll have more chance of drawing birds to your feeder that way.  Your local library or Department of Natural Resources can be a great place to find such information.  Have fun!

1 comment:

Pam said...

HEY I just throw mine on the sidewalk and I get about 50 birds a night wanting food!