The Custom Customer: A Backyard Bird Paradise

I was sitting at home one day when there was a knock on the door. I answered and saw two women standing before me.

“Do you make bird houses?” one of them asked.
“Yes,” I said and tried to direct them to my website.

Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, they didn’t have computer knowledge or even access to one.

I have quite a few products in my garden being weathered and tested over the years to make sure they work well. I led the visitors out to the garden and they were amazed at what they saw. One of them was a prior customer who purchased a house number sign and sign holder a few years ago. It was still in great shape. Apparently, that was the connection between us from a prior craft show.

Part of the history to this story was that one of the women had had a multi-story, wooden birdhouse that had deteriorated over time. The birds were so used to using it that when the house was gone, she feared she would lose her enjoyment of watching them. She loved the idea of PVC, and knew all about the low maintenance aspect of it. She was really excited to build her “bird paradise” back up again.

Choosing a custom collection

So, it turned out they didn’t just want a birdhouse.

They also needed something to hang it on. They spied one of my PVC trees and decided that it wasn’t tall enough, so I would have to customize the length as well as the internal pipe and brackets. They wanted four birdhouses to hang on the PVC tree, so I had to customize the chain for hanging. They decided that they didn’t want the customary post cap on top of the PVC tree, so I sold them our new post toppers.

It was quite a day where I went from relaxing in my chair to full-on product customization. But, you know, that’s what I thrive on, giving people what they want, whatever makes them happy.

Delivery and installation

By the end of the week I was ready to deliver the goods, when I thought, Who is going to install them? Well, I am the designer and I know all about my products, so why not install them myself this time?

Before I could start installing, we had to determine the location. I held the post in place while she went to the kitchen window to see if she could see the bird activity clearly from the window. She gave me the thumbs up to begin.

First, I installed the steel pipe. I drove it approximately 24” in the ground. I attached three brackets to hold the PVC post plumb. Normally, I use two brackets, but because of the extended length of the PVC tree, three added more stability.

Once the steel pipe was in the ground, the PVC tree simply slides over the pipe and sits on the ground.

As my customers wanted to hang the houses, I had to run hooks and chains from the front to the back of each roof. To stop the chain from slipping on the hook, I cut the chain in half and put a key ring in the center to join the chain. Now the key ring can be hooked to the PVC tree arm.

Birdhouses, bird feeders and post toppers

All of the birdhouses they selected are from my PVCedar collection on Etsy. The body of each birdhouse is made from PVC, the base is cellular PVC and is hinged to open for occasional cleaning. Our signature roof finishes off each house. 

Some of the other features of the birdhouses include a ladder on the inside for the small birds to grip while they wait for mama to bring their food. The hanging chain on the back is riveted to the body for strength. 

The roof mimics the shape of an English thatched cottage. We also have small gaps under the eaves for air flow.

Instead of a post cap my customer wanted one of our topper bird houses that fits on top of any PVC 4” x 4” post. The decorative base slides over the post and sits firmly on top.

The finished product

So the finished product holds four hanging bird houses and a stationary one on top. The reason for the extra height was that the woods in the back house racoons and squirrels that find it tough to climb a PVC post. At least they haven’t figured it out yet.

I ended up installing four PVC trees. Three contained a total of 15 birdhouses, all customized. The fourth tree contains four bird feeders, one conventional tube feeder and three of my designs, which were two open tray feeders for the blue jays and cardinals, and one new tube feeder made using our PVC woodgrain material and a different cut-out. The Chickadees, nuthatches and wrens really like dining from this one. And the crowning glory on the PVC tree was another bird house topper.

We have seen straw poking out of the bottom of the houses and the entry holes, so we know the birds are planning their winter habitats.

Photo: Our newest Canterbury tube feeder with the Taj cut-out. The material is our unique textured and variegated woodgrain PVC body with a 2” acrylic tube running the full length. This is great for the smaller birds.

Back for one more

Well, I thought my mission was complete until the customer returned and saw what we call the feeding station. This normally sticks 66” out of the ground, but that didn’t work because of the racoons and squirrels. So, I made it longer and also modified the steel pipe for stability.

The modified feeding station uses a 5” x 5” post with a 3” acrylic tube running the full length of the cut-outs.

There are 16 feeding windows and the seed spills out on each tier. There is plenty of room at this table. To Refill, simply lift off the top cap and pour the seed into the tube. The tube certainly keeps the seed protected here with our Buffalo, New York weather that can be quite extreme. 

A happy customer

So, at the end of the day, it’s a bird’s paradise and the homeowner loves it. 

Here she is with a big thumbs up!

She says she gained a lot of her birding knowledge from her now departed Grandma, and she told me she wished her grandma was around to see this backyard display.

All the houses, and feeders, and the toppers can be found in our Etsy shop, My Retirement Gig. If you live in or around the Buffalo, NY area and are interested in a similar customized project, you can contact me here.

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