In this project, I was able to combine two of my favorite activities—bird-watching and DIY.
Do you want to attract birds to your garden? Are you looking for a cheap bird feeder pole? This article will show you how to build one out of an old patio umbrella. The finished result is a tall pole with six sturdy arms that will allow you to hang an array of bird feeders. The winding mechanism allows you to raise and lower the arms for easy refilling and the sturdy base prevents it from falling over.
The Search for a New Bird Feeder Pole
I love watching birds in my garden. My original bird feeder pole was made from a shepherd’s crook with two plant brackets bolted to the top to provide additional arms to hang bird feeders. It has served me well, but it recently rusted away at ground level.
During my search for a replacement, it seemed as if almost all pole systems consist of three or four separate poles that join together. I was concerned that these would be too flimsy, so I decided to look for alternatives using a single pole.
I investigated using copper or other metal water pipes but always ran into the same problem—how would I attach the arms to the pipe? If you have access to welding equipment, this might not be a problem for you, but for me it was.
During a visit to my neighbour’s backyard, I noticed an old patio umbrella and stand that he was about to throw out. Like all good hoarders, I hate to see things thrown out, and I was sure I’d find a use for it one day.
Then it hit me: an umbrella has arms, so why not turn it into a bird feeder pole?
How to Turn a Patio Umbrella Into a Bird Feeder Pole
As you can see here, the process is quite simple. These are the steps that you need to follow:
- Remove the umbrella fabric: Close the umbrella, unscrew the finial from the top of the pole, carefully remove each arm from its pocket in the fabric, remove the fabric and screw the finial back in.
- Cut the arms to length: Determine how long you want each arm to be, then cut to the desired length using a hacksaw. I decided to cut about three inches beyond where the supports meet the arms. This gave a total arm length of 22 inches.
- Drill holes to hang feeders: Drill holes about one inch from the end of each arm to hold s-shaped hooks for hanging the bird feeders.
- Stabilize the tilting mechanism: If the umbrella has a tilting mechanism, it should snap into place in the upright position and be quite stable. However, it it seems wobbly at this joint then simply add a supporting clamp over the joint.
- Secure the base: Most umbrellas have a heavy base that should stop the umbrella from falling over in all but the strongest winds. However, as the bird feeder pole can become top heavy when you add the bird feeders, I decided to attach the base to a round paving slab. I used a high-speed metal drill to make holes in the base, then used a concrete drill bit to put rawl plugs into the slab so that I could screw the base to the paving slab.
- Winding mechanism: Most patio umbrellas have a winding mechanism. Mine did but it was broken. The mechanism is very simple, basically just a string winding around an axle, and it was easy to fix. This is a great feature because it allows me to lower the arms to facilitate refilling.
- Make s-shaped hooks: Cut some stiff wire to a length of four inches then bend into an S-shape using pliers. Insert the hooks into the holes at the end of each arm.
- Hang your feeders: Fill feeders, with seed, lower the umbrella arms, attach them to the S-shape hooks and raise arms to a horizontal position.
Depending on where you live, it is likely that you have squirrels and/or raccoons that want to get at your bird seed. I have a constant battle with raccoons in my garden.
To stop them climbing the pole, I constructed a heavy-duty baffle out of a regular squirrel baffle (a 14” wrap-around metal cone) and suspended from it a 12” diameter cylinder made from an old garbage pail. Positioning this at least 4 feet from the ground prevents squirrels from jumping into it, and raccoons from climbing round it.
Start Birdwatching Today!
Now, sit back and wait. It won’t be long before you will have a host of birds feeding at your new bird feeder pole.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have 10lb feeders. Do you think these umbrellas can hold two or four of those, one on a single arm?
Answer: I think the arms would hold the weight, provided you spaced the feeders evenly, but it would be very top-heavy. I think you would need to reinforce the base either by making it heavier or add some wider supports.
Blanster on May 11, 2019:
What a great idea! I just bought a $200 pole from Duncraft that is pretty similar to what you've constructed. I wish I'd have seen this a week ago, LOL.
netster53 on January 08, 2018:
Fantastic idea. I was just searching for feeder poles on the cheap. I have an old umbrella like this. Thanks so much for your brainstorm of an idea, definately will be doing this!
geoffclarke (author) from Canada on October 06, 2016:
Thanks - I'm glad you like it - Happy birdwatching!
Nancyklassen on October 06, 2016:
Great Idea - I copied it & it's working great
Vicky C. from New England on August 09, 2012:
Really cool and I like birdwatching too.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 08, 2012:
Awesome and up, Geoff! A fine idea for repurposing something that was mean for trash!
geoffclarke (author) from Canada on August 08, 2012:
Thanks Moonlake. I get a lot of different animals in my garden but fortunately not bears!
moonlake from America on August 07, 2012:
I love this and such a good idea. I would like one in our yard but the bears would also like it. They would have it torn up in seconds. Enjoyed your hub. Voted up. Love your pictures.