This guest post is by my husband, Jim Bush, who loves to analyze, problem solve and invent.
Jim here! Often, I have looked at the design of a retail product and thought, “I could make that.” Before retirement I never really had enough time to prove it true, but now that I am not spending most of my hours working and commuting, I decided to put one of my ideas to the test.
I enjoy watching the hummingbirds that visit the two feeders on our deck. In our mild coastal climate, some of the Anna’s hummingbirds stay all winter. If they rely on feeders to make it through the winter, it’s vital to provide them with syrup that does not freeze, so I thought I would test my claim by devising my own hummingbird feeder heater. I had looked at these in local stores and online, and found them to cost around $60.00 for a simple design.
With trial and error, I perfected my method and gathered all the parts and tools I needed. Once that was accomplished, I found it takes less than half an hour to create this hummingbird feeder heater from start to finish. Here are my steps to make this heating unit.
My first challenge was to find a suitable container that would fit nicely under the hummingbird feeder. It had to be lightweight, the right diameter, and not affected by cold weather or heat from the heating source. My solution was a 32-ounce cashew container. The diameter was right, it was lightweight, and the plastic was durable enough to not warp or crack easily. The full jar without the lid gave me the distance I wanted from bulb to feeder, so all I had to do was soak off the label and put the lid aside for use when storing the heater.
The problem I puzzled over the most was how to set the light bulb into the unit without leaving a large hole in the bottom of the canister. I settled on this. I cut off the end of a cheap extension cord that had a dimmer, then drilled a small 3/8” hole through the canister for the cord to go through. I spliced the end of the cord to the light unit that I could affix inside. I happened to find an unwanted candelabra fixture with small tubes that had nice size threads which would allow me to create a ‘collar’ that would keep the bulb unit inside the canister in a fixed position. During a recent stop at a local thrift store I saw similar fixtures for about $5.00 with five or six bulb units as seen in the picture here. A little deconstruction and you would have most of the parts needed at this stage.
In order to affix the unit to the feeder, I needed some type of elastic or stretchy line to go from the canister to the feeder but not cause so much tension that it would break the perch on the feeder. To accomplish this, I bought some coated hair elastics that cost $1.25 for 100. I then measured down 2 ½ inches and drilled four small holes in the canister at 90 degrees of each other to match the joins on the feeder unit. I fed the elastics through the holes, using the metal connectors as anchors to keep the elastics in place. After that I used four small picture hangers I had on hand to allow the unit to be quickly detached in order to refill the feeder.
The last step was to put the light fixture through the hole in the bottom of the canister, solder to the extension cord and put a collar on it so that it would stay in place at the correct distance in the canister.
After plugging the unit in, I then watched to see if the hummers would accept my contraption. Well, the proof is in the eating, and here is a picture of a hummer happily doing just that.
Just the Steps
1. Use lightweight, hard plastic canister with 4 ½ inch diameter. Soak off the label, keep the lid.
2. Drill a 3/8” hole in the center bottom to match light base.
3. Drill 3 1/8” drainage holes at the lowest points in the bottom of the canister.
4. Drill 4 – 1/8 inch holes 2 ½ inches from top for coated hair elastic attachments.
– Feed elastics through the holes.
– Attach picture hooks.
5. Insert light fixture through bottom hole and solder to an extension cord (with the option of having a dimmer switch), with collar using a threaded bolt or nut.
6. Insert 7 or 15-watt bulb, attach unit to feeder, plug in and enjoy the show!
This is such a great idea! I made it today and am so happy to help the little ones out when we get frozen! Thanks Jim!
Thanks for your kind words, Dave. I’m glad you found this post helpful. When hummingbirds trust us enough to stick around through the winter, it’s vital that our feeders are not frozen in the cold weather. All the best with your unit.
Good idea. Your dimmer switch will help to regulate the heat of the bulb and not heat the nectar to a point where it could burn their tongues. I have looked at many dyi & for sale hummingbird heaters, and I have not found 1 that deals with the temperature of the nectar once heated up. Granted most of the heaters use a low wattage bulb, but I have not seen anyone who bothered to check the temperature of the nectar after their device is in use.
I plan on making one, but will use a preset thermostat or adjustable thermostat cut in the line. Will see how it goes.
Good work Jim !! You have an inventive mind, and I am sure the Hummingbirds will be very happy not to
have a frozen feeder. They may tell their neighbors and you will be bombarded with feathery friends. 🙂