Last month, I came up with an idea to help prevent some of the larger birds and the squirrels dominating my feeders and demolishing all the expensive foods I use to attract a wide range of species. Don’t get me wrong…. I love attracting as many species as I can to the garden, but I wanted to create some sanctuaries for the smaller birds, where I could feed the specialised foods. I also have a range of open table feeding areas where the pigeons, magpies, jackdaws, blackbird and squirrels can feed.
I had spotted a cheap Value Dog Crate in a local pet store and the hole size looked about right to allow the species I wanted in, yet keep other out. It was £20… the price you could easily pay for a squirrel proof feeder and, if it worked, I would be wasting less food and be able to use a range of feeders usually destroyed by the squirrels.
You can read more about my Patio Crate Feeding Station HERE.
That crate feeding station has been in place for over a month now and I have been trilled with the results. Within a few days, a wide range of birds were in and out of the crate and it was clear they felt safe in there. The species that have visited and are able to get inside include: Blue tit, great tit, coal tit, long tailed tit, nuthatch, robin, house sparrow, dunnock, greenfinch, goldfinch, chaffinch, bullfinch.
It has been so successful, I decided to build a similar set up at YewView, where I work. Banging 4 fence posts in the ground, we created a frame on which to sit the crate. I set a camera inside and, just as it was in my patch, the birds were using it within a few days…
I decided to build another one at the opposite end of my garden and explain exactly how I did it, as there has been lots of interest on Twitter, with people asking how to create the setup.
The materials used included:
Value Dog Crate (I have used both small & medium sized crates)
4 rounded tree stakes, to create the stand
2 rough sawn planks to rest the crate
Waterproof sheet for a roof
A selection of feeders
The space I wanted to use another crate feeding station is up by my hub. This is a rather difficult site as it is on a bank with only a small area on which to place the feeders.
I decided to use a medium size crate this time, to give me a little more space for feeders and a camera. I purchased mine at Pets at home. You can also purchase lots of similar online. I felt the black powder coated ones would fare better outside. Also think about positioning and whether a singular door is sufficient or whether you would like to pay a little more to have two doors. You may already have an old dog crate you could use visit some of the ‘pre-loved’ type sites.
I bought 4 cheap tree stakes and, using the base of the dog crate as a size guide, banged the stake in to create a stand. I already had one post in that had been used for a camera. I decided to leave this there as I could cable tie some perches, for photography, on to it at a later date.
I sawed the tops off to create a level standing.
Using two rough sawn planks that I had in the garage, I screwed these onto the top of the posts to create a platform on which the dog crate would sit…
The tray at the bottom of the crate creates a perfect base to catch waste food , but it needed drainage holes. I drilled a series of holes into the crate base to allow rain water to escape….
Heaving the crate over the fence, I rested it on top of the frame and cable tied it into place. I fitted the camera inside and checked the image I was getting , using my icatcher app on my phone. I can access all the cameras I have via this app and check to see what is going on. It is great for camera set ups as I don’t have to go back to my office to check the image.
The base slides out of the crate, which is perfect for cleaning.
Now, it was time for the fun part! I experimented with different camera angles and different arrangements of feeders. I made a log feeding platform by drilling out a hollow from a log so I could place food inside. The birds are used to feeding at this position, so were all in the trees and hedges around me and a blue tit even came in whilst I was working on it! Many of these birds will have visited the crate feeder at the other end of the garden so are used to such a set up!
The visitors started coming in as soon as I left the area and I was able to watch from its large window . The blue and coal tits were first in and by the end of the afternoon, the robin, long tailed tits, goldfinch and great tits were inside. I am hoping that visitors will gradually increase as the week progresses. I would recommend putting a waterproof cover on the top. I am going to use a plastic translucent carpet protector as these are cheap and can be easily cut with scissors. I need a roof that lets the light in because of my cameras, but any waterproof covering with a bit of an overhang will protect the feeders and keep help to keep food on feeding platforms, dry.
There is one species that I would really like to be able to come in and that is the Great spotted woodpecker. I am going to experiment with the hole size, to see if I can create a space that is big enough for them (and possibly the blackbirds) but not big enough for the squirrel to get in. My first attempt was by stretching a few of the bars to just enlarge a couple of spaces…. I will play around with idea and see if I can create something that works.
These crate feeding stations are now live streaming on my website, so you can watch the visitors yourself!