Raccoon-Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder Plans

Our Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder is now Raccoon Proof

Bird feeder is squirrel proof, was that a raccoon?

Our Bird feeder, empty with the lid on the ground

When my wife got a cute bird feeder as a gift a few years back, who would have thought it needed to be a squirrel proof bird feeder as well.  I innocently mounted it on a wooden pole in front of our dining room window for easy viewing. After a few months we noticed that the top lid kept falling off.  We thought it was just the wind and added some large rubber bands to hold it on.  About a week later the top was off again, and the feeder was empty.  Something was climbing the pole.  Was it squirrels?  I knew that squirrels were common pests around bird feeders.  Since I used a wooden pole to support the feeder, there would be no stopping any squirrel.  I had some pretty brown valley tin handy, so I nailed a three foot long piece around the post.  Success, the bird feeder stayed full over night and the top stopped mysteriously ending up on the ground. We now have a squirrel proof bird feeder.

Three years later my Bird feeder protection failed

Valley tin or furnace duct squirrel or raccoon bird feeder shield

Our sheet metal bird feeder pest protection shield before installation

Last spring it was very dry so there was not a lot of goodies for the local animal population to eat.  Our bird feeder was full of tasty grain and looked very appealing I am sure. I just bought my wife some geraniums to plant in her new bird bath and all looked great.  Two days later I come out and something had eaten most of the geraniums and gotten into the bird feeder and emptied it.  I moved the bird bath further away from the bird feeder.  Replanted what was left of the plants, went and got some more to fill out some of the holes.  Just to be even more safe, I sprinkled blood meal around all the plants .  Blood meal is supposed to repel most animals.

Next day, the same thing happened, the bird bath was overturned, plants eaten and the top was off of the bird feeder.  What was doing this,  I wasn’t sure.  I had a live animal trap, one of those where you can do a catch and release.  So I set it out near the bird feeder, and put bird feed on a lid behind the trip plate.  Next morning, I found a very angry raccoon inside the trap.  Releasing the animal far away fixed the problem.  Some raccoons are smart enough to climb a metal covered post just like you see the Koala bears climb tree branches.

Raccoon emptied Bird Feeder again

Tube shown at bottom of pole with 3 pieces of wood used to attach it to pole.

Sheet metal tube shown with the three mounting sticks.

Another clever Raccoon emptied my wife’s bird feeder again. The last time it happened was over six months ago.  I noticed our motion sensor light was on in front, and when I investigated found a raccoon at the bird feeder.  The feeder had been emptied, the suet was gone ant the lid was on the ground.  What a pain, who wants to mess around with a live box trap in the winter, I certainly didn’t.  I went online to see what was recommended to keep Squirrels and raccoons from raiding bird feeders.  My previous solution was good for squirrels, so if you only have a squirrel problem just cover the bottom of your pole with sheet metal.  Do you know it was a squirrel?  Did you see the culprit like we did.  Last spring I even caught one of the raccoons on top of the bird feeder.  What a shame I didn’t have my camera right then.

Finding a Squirrel and Raccoon Bird Feeder Protector

Three shield mounting sticks shown installed

Bird Feeder Squirrel and Raccoon shield mount sticks installed

What I found online was that my existing sheet metal shield was an almost solution.  The problem it had was that the diameter was still small enough for a raccoon to get its legs around the post.  Many commercial solutions were available for around $40 plus shipping.  Most of them were metal tubes that you mounted on your post.  I didn’t like spending money, I also didn’t want to take the bird feeder off the post to install it either. I was also taking to long fixing the problem, as my wife restocked the feeder a few days later and it was immediately raided.  This time the top was damaged and I had to fix it.  What follows is my gift to the bird lovers of the world, who like animals too, but don’t want them eating your bird’s lunch.

Home made Bird Feeder Protector Design Plans

Home made Bird Feeder protection against Raccoons and squirrels

Completed Bird Feeder Raccoon Squirrel Protection

Here was my list of design goals:

  1. Keep the squirrels and raccoons our of the bird feeder
  2. Low Cost, free if possible, construction
  3. Easy to make
  4. Do not have to remove bird feeder to install
  5. Can’t be noisy (birds addition)
  6. must look nice (wife’s addition)

My first though was, why not use a two foot long piece of 6 inch furnace duct?  It is galvanized metal, will look nice, and usually comes as an open sheet of metal that you have to clip together to make a tube.  I could just hang it on the post just under the feeder using wire. That would cost me about $6 or what ever the duct cost was.  My list #5 would not be happy. It needed to be rigidly mounted. After some thought, why not mount strips of wood on the post and slide the tube over them?  The day after the second raccoon raid, I knew I had to act now.  That meant a special trip to the home supply store, a fifty mile round trip ($7 in gas).  I looked in my store room thinking I might have an extra furnace duct piece as I do furnace repair work sometimes.  No luck, I did find a piece but it was not pretty. Funny i just added a new list item, must look nice, my wife’s idea.

I was getting ready for a road trip when I remembered I had a left over coil of 20 inch galvanized valley tin I could use to make my own tube.  I decided to make a 7 inch tube since I could, though I am convinced a standard 6 inch furnace tube is good.  I looked at lots of commercial versions and none were larger than 6 inches.  I made a temporary tube around the pole and measured a three inch gap between the post and the new tube.  That meant had a four inch post, so I needed 3 three inch spacers.  I have a table saw, so I cut up a 2×4 into three sticks 1×1.5 inches in size.  I attached them to the post, then slid the tube up over them.  My final step was to screw the sheet metal to the bottom of the spacers.


What would I do differently

Blue Jay enjoying Bird feeder safe from raccoon and squirrel raids

Blue Jay at Bird feeder with anti-Raccoon and Squirrel shield

Its been several days now without raccoon raids on the bird feeder.  Looking back in retrospect, I can see that just wrapping the pole in tin was not a good solution.  I would stop squirrels, but would not stop raccoons.  Also, I could have installed my animal shield on a bare pole, I didn’t need the tin layer underneath. But, I still needed to stop squirrels and other rodents from climbing up the post under the shield. If I didn’t have the tin on the post, I could roll up some metal screen wire make a doughnut shape with it then slide it up under the shield.  That would even look nice.  Another thought was to cut tabs around the bottom and bend them into the post, but I have always liked doughnuts better myself. So now we not only have a squirrel proof bird feeder, but a raccoon proof one as well.

Bird Feeder Shield Design Process Photo Gallery


Iowa Prohibition in the 1800s

Pioneer Days

Traveling to Iowa in the 1850s took a lot of courage.  There were many risks associated with a building a business on a newly developing minniehousefrontier. When Mr Kohl brought his family to the Anamosa, Iowa community to start up a brewery he had no idea what he was up against. Iowa was at that time was a stronghold of the early Republican based prohibitionist party. Add to that, Anamosa was home of Colonel Shaw one of that party’s  top leaders.  Colonel Shaw was a strong proponent of Iowa prohibition and had to be upset that the brewery was only 4 miles from his mansion.

Iowa Prohibition

Alcohol production and sales was banned or restricted on and off during the entire time the rickhousebrewery was trying to operate.  In 1854 a law was passed banning all alcohol, when they found they could not enforce it, in 1858 an agreement was made allow beer and wine made from fruit and grain.  Called the Minnie Creek brewery at the time in 1858 when this law passed, they produced an ale form of beer.  As permitted by the new law, the brewery produced alcohol beverages in the home town of one of Iowa’s most active opponents. In 1859 Minnie Creek brewery’s founder and builder went busted.  Mr. Rick and his associates took over after the Sheriff’s sale and tried again.  Rick decided that bigger would be better and enlarged the brewery in 1872.  The large addition was emblazoned with his name over the large street side wagon entrance.  From what remaining records say, he managed almost two decades of successful brewery operation before the political Iowa prohibition war of 1890 ended it.

The End

The Iowa prohibition laws continued to come and go, this is likely the reason why the brewery shows two separate sheriff sales on its abstract.  They went busted due to Government regulations.  We believe that Rick’s Brewery closed down for the final time right at the peak of the 1890s prohibitionist fervor when it went busted the second time. Read an excellent Iowa prohibition article: Tracing beer’s history in Iowa: Alcohol was banned years before Prohibition by Jonathan turner.

Historical Significance

Rick’s Brewery is locally significant under criterion C as one of the few remaining examples of early Iowan industry in the Anamosa area.  Originally constructed prior to 1859, the stonework with minor exceptions appears exactly as it did when the last addition was completed in 1872.   Building materials came from a local quarry and sawmill, businesses that were already established by this time.  Further research conducted by contacting Randy Carlson, author of “The Breweries of Iowa,  Bemidji, Minn.: Arrow Printing,1985”, has shown that this brewery site represents a  design of German origins.  Mr. Carlson has in his possession a book printed in Germany in the 1800’s that describes how to build a brewery.  During a telephone conversation from his residence in Minnesota, Mr. Carlson was able to conduct a virtual tour of this brewery site using that reference work.  Rick himself emigrated from Germany around 1847.  Immigrant stone cutters and masons were responsible for the buildings construction.  The hillside location with a creek in close proximity was chosen by design for optimum brewery operation, just like early mills were built near water power.

This is one of the few small home breweries built in the late 1850’s left in Iowa.  In 1878 there were 132 breweries recorded as operating in Iowa, many of these had a very limited output and few were initially constructed as breweries.  In the last years of operation Rick’s Brewery produced 500 barrels per year.  For reference, there were two large operations in Cedar Rapids, twenty miles to the west, which had production over 3000 barrels per year.

The brewing process is very complex and time consuming.  Mashing, boiling, and aging temperatures all had very critical limits.  All of these main brewery function areas are still represented here.  Grain and other supplies were stored in the attic/loft.  Grinding and mashing took place on the second floor.  Boiling and cooling on the first floor, and fermenting was done in the now collapsed aging tunnels.  Cleansing and racking was done in the small stone shed usually built apart from the main brewery for that purpose.  The racking process was dangerous due to the fire hazard when the barrels/kegs were charred, then pitched inside with tar.  The building was constructed into the side of a hill to provide easy access to aging tunnels, other breweries often used caves.  A creek ran through the property providing necessary cooling water.  Proper filtering methods were vital for maintaining a quality output, and necessary to produce the maximum output for a given amount of grain.  It can take up to 10 weeks from start to finish to produce a barrel of beer.  By this description you can see that Rick’s Brewery was a very sophisticated engineering feat for this locale at that time.

The brewing industry in Iowa went through many different prohibition periods.  Iowa had prohibition from 1855 to 1857, 1882 to 1883, 1884 to 1894, and finally from 1917 to 1933.  With operation dates from 1859 until 1878, Kohl and Rick operated their brewery within a window of opportunity.  Generally Eastern Iowa wasn’t effected greatly by these prohibition periods.  However, Anamosa contained a strong pocket of prohibitionists.  It was said that one of these individuals was Colonel Shaw.  It was from pressure by these men that Anamosa remained a dry town through most of these years.  This certainly had something to do with why the brewery property was just outside of the Anamosa city limits.  Thebrewery did have a retail sales tax certificate at the time it was sold in 1878, so one could assume they were also selling beer to the public.  In spite of the government regulation and local municipal opposition, Rick’s Brewery operated for 20 years.  During that time it was rumored to be a meeting place for the townsmen that the prohibitionists had dried up with the town.  It is also rumored that even long after that time owners of the “old brewery” still continued to brew their own private stock and entertain friends “regularly”.

Historical archaeological potential may be present in different areas around the site pertaining to the original operations of the brewery.  These include tunnel ruins, remains of other outbuildings, possible waterworks, and other artifacts.  While digging a shallow drainage trench along the North side of the building in August of 1991, evidence of the underground tunnels were uncovered.  These were build in 1872, when the building expansion was done.  Later in 1995, when doing additional drainage work directly north of the original 1857 structure, the remains of the original aging tunnel walls were found.  A large hand dug, stone lined well that dates back to the 1870’s can be found near the west side of the building.  This well was likely used in place of the creek to provide necessary cooling for the brew.  It has a diameter of nearly five feet.  The old kettle room has a wooden floor.  Removal of one loose board revealed several very old bottles underneath.  When digging a post hole twenty feet north of the 1872 addition, limestone footings were discovered that were likely from a stable or similar structure.

Repairing the Corner

Masonry Damage

There are a number of different causes for masonry damage in an historic building like Rick’s Brewery.  Most of these are natural derived, but not all, here is my list of them:

  • Hot cold cycling
  • Expansion restriction
  • Failing mortar
  • Insect, bird, and rodent erosion
  • External forces
  • Wind erosion

We will explain all of these different source of masonry damage in a future blog.  Our repairing the corner was necessitated by a combination of Failing mortar and a poorly place concrete patio slab.  This large area of concrete was originally the floor of closed in porch. Unfortunately it was poured right against the limestone walls of the brewery.  The large single piece slab would expand in the summer and pushed against the brewery walls.  Eventually pushing the large corner stones four inches out of the wall.

Brewery Masonry repair first step

Brewery Masonry repair start

Here is what the wall looked like when the two large misaligned stones were removed. Not a happy moment I can assure you. Not all of the mortar was powder, but there certainly was lots of it. Here are a couple more views, just to give you a better perspective on what 150 year old masonry looks like after it get exposed to the weather.  If you attend to masonry damage early, you can greatly reduce how bad the damage will be.

Brewery Corner masonry damage

Masonry damage from mortar failure and concrete pushing against it.

Brewery masonry closeup of failed mortar

Brewery masonry failed mortar closeup view

Once all the bad ‘decayed’ mortar and dirt have been removed, the reconstruction can start.  Our first step was to get a level starting plane that was appropriate for the existing stones.  It also needed to eventually line up with the three large stones we were reusing.

Starting to fill the masonry cavity

All the loose mortar remove, starting layer completed

Filling the void with fresh mortar and stone

A better view of the freshly added mortar.

Second masonry repair layer added

Yet another layer has been added, everything below this is now sound

Using wooden mortar joint spacers

Another view showing the use of wooden spacers.

Using spacer sticks in masonry repair

Using spacer sticks to place large stone

Spacers for a 100 pound limestone block

Necessary spacers for setting a 100 pound stone block.

Completed 100 lb stone block installation

Completed corner with the 100 lb stone in place

Masonry repair job completed

Completed masonry corner repair