Tuesday, March 26, 2013

If you want it to last, build it right!

What happened to the bird feeder?

Earlier this week I shared some videos of our bird feeders, Songbirds in the Garden.  Well, a few days after these videos, we found the feeder on the ground, completely empty.  The lid was bent and the internal side got wet from morning dew.  How disappointing.   So how did this happen?  Well, it's a good thing we had a trail cam watching...

Raccoons and other Wildlife Rascals

Raccoons, opossums, and other wildlife can cause havoc on your bird feeders. Not to mention the damage they can do to your garbage cans and patio furniture.  Several years ago, rodents chewed through pvc pipe to get a drink of water.  And before that, wild feral hogs chewed busted the water faucet spigot and spilled a LOT of water from our tanks. 

While they are rascals, the indigenous animals all have a purpose.  The armadillos eat ants, even the nasty red fire ants.  The opossums and coons eat small snakes, scorpions, and other scary, crawly things.  Foxes and coyotes also eat snakes and they keep the rodent population in check.  So, don't think these rascals need to be eliminated.  They have a job to do.

On the other hand, the feral hogs are not indigenous. They destroy natural habitats as well as agricultural and commercial property and should be eliminated (see previous posts Invasive Species - Feral Hogs.)

How to Keep Wildlife from Ruining Your Day?

If the rascal coons don't get into it, then perhaps the foxes or scrub jays will.  Or heck, the wind and sun will destroy anything left outside for too long. So, we learned that here in the country, we have to "harden" everything.  

  • Bird feeders must be sturdy; 
    • made of metal, not wood or glass.
    • hung on metal pipe or by chain, not wire.
  • Any exposed pipe must be insulated and wrapped.
  • Fences must be made of heavy gauge wire.
  • Tarps are useless in our sun and wind; store valuables in the garage or barn.
  • Plastic pots, buckets, and other do-dads will disintegrate quickly. Buy metal. Store them properly.  Maintain them. 
In every purchase, even when buying bird feeders, we ask ourselves, "Is this going to stand up to the wind, sun, and wildlife?"  Part of our sustainability goals is to invest in systems that will last a long time, maintain themselves or need little maintenance from us, and will accomplish the task at hand.  

Is it sustainable to feed the birds?  

Sure it is.  They provide us with a good trade as we said in the last post Songbirds in the Garden.  However, we are working on planting food crops that will feed them as well as us.  That will be more sustainable than buying bird seed for those hungry little guys and gals.

Is it sustainable to hang bird feeders by wire?  

No, it isn't.  As we've seen the video above, the animals can twist the feeder until the wire bends and breaks.  Replacing bird feeders and bird feeder hangers is NOT sustainable.  I had already replaced wire with chain on several other feeders.  I knew it needed to be done on this one, and now I'm kicking myself for it.  I hope the feeder lid doesn't rust.  

On the flip side - Good news is that it is already rehung and we are capturing more trail cam videos. 

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