Last Updated on May 28, 2021 by Nancie
How do you keep bird feeder and birdbath poles straight? In a perfect world, you would simply insert the pole upright into the ground and call it a day. But poles don’t always stay straight. Often feeder poles will begin to lean. Here are a few low-impact ideas for keeping your bird feeder poles straight.
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Why Do Bird Feeder Poles Lean?
To solve the problem, you first need to consider why your pole is tilting. The poles that hold your bird feeder or even your birdbath can develop a lean for more than one reason. To keep your bird feeder and birdbath poles straight, you need to think about:
- The pole’s design
- The weight you are asking the pole to hold
- The ground where you are putting the pole
Feeder Pole Design Can Discourage Tilt
The pole-mounted feeders and birdbaths in my yard sit on three different pole types, each with a different type of base or “ground anchor”. Each of these poles is sturdy, well-made, lasts for many years and is something I would recommend. All are made by the folks at Erva.
But the reality is that any pole can develop a bit of a tilt in our yard’s sandy soil. Some pole types seem to be more likely to lean than others.
General Feeder Pole Shape Can Impact Leaning
Feeder Mounted on Top of Pole
I’ve found the poles with the least tendency to lean have the weight of the feeder(s) distributed most evenly on the pole. These two covered platform feeders (photo above) each sit centered over their pole. With this simple centered weight and a deep ground anchor, these feeder poles tend to stay straight in my yard with the least amount of trouble.
This large feeder pole with four arms (photo above) and an augur-style base also stays fairly straight on its own if I keep the weight right. I like that this design also lets me hang more feeders on a single pole.
The shepherd’s staff feeders (above), with their more asymmetrical design and H-shaped base, are great poles for one or two light-weight hanging feeders and are fairly easy to move around. I also like the way they look. But these are also the poles with the biggest tendency to lean in my yard.
Bird Feeder Pole Base Design
Auger or “Twister” Style Pole Base
But the part of the pole that goes underground can make a big difference. I like poles with an augur type base that screw deeply into the ground. Of the poles I have, these seem the most stable. (The four-arm pole and the Studio-M birdbath have augur-style “twister” pieces at the base that screw into the ground.)
I purchased the Erva four-arm pole (photo above) from my local bird store (Mother Natures). Notice the deep length of the “twister” ground anchor. It is part of a pole system with various options, including the type of base. (There is even a base option for putting the pole on a flat surface like a deck or patio. I’ve never tried those so I can’t say how stable they might be; it looks like Erva makes special anchors to help hold these desk based poles in place. )
H-Shape With Blade Pole Base
On the other hand, the Erva “Premium Shepherd’s Staff” poles in my yard instead have an H-shaped base where the H’s vertical legs go into the ground. The inside top of the H has an additional triangular “stability” blade to help hold it in the ground without shifting sideways. But even with this extra blade on the bottom, I find these poles are more likely to lean than than the other two types. They also tend to be more challenging to straighten up if they tilt.
Now, my yard is not perfectly flat, which may be a factor in getting an H-shaped base into the ground just right so that it stays straight over time. (I don’t currently have a picture of the H-shaped base, but you can check them out on Erva’s website’s Premium Shepherds Staffs page.)
Ground Stake Pole Base
The two poles with the platform feeder mounted on top do not have the augur type base. They instead have a simple narrow “ground stake” anchor piece to hold the larger hollow feeder pole in place and straight (see above). My husband pounded them deep into the ground for me. The pole itself then slides up and over the ground stake. We have found that the deeper you can get a pole anchored into the ground, the more stable and straight it is likely to stay. (Note: With any of these pole designs, it is obviously important to get the anchor itself into the ground straight so that the pole it holds will be straight.)
But pole design only goes so far in real life. Even a good design can hit up against where you are putting it and what you are hanging or mounting on it.
Weight of Bird Feeders on the Pole Can Make Pole Lean
Shepherd’s Staff Pole
If you purchase a shepherd’s hook pole, plunge it into the ground and then hang a single heavy feeder on its arm, the feeder is likely to over-balance the pole and there is a decent chance it will develop a tilt. My shepherd’s hook poles are dual-top poles (with two curved arms at the top.) When hanging feeders from these hooks, I try to keep the weight fairly even to discourage pole tilting.
So for example, the pole might hold two similarly-sized tube feeders evenly spaced, or it might hold two identical upside-down suet feeders. (Note: As you can see in the above photo, I added an extra optional arm to the dual shepherds hook pole above to let me hang three upside-down suet feeders from it.)
This particular type of Erva shepherd’s staff pole has top arms that come off and can be adjusted to point in various directions. (This also makes adding a barrel pole baffle down over the top of the pole possible.) Sometimes arranging the hooks directly opposite each other can be helpful in distributing the weight more evenly.
I also have the Erva pole with four arms that extend out from the center (photo above). I hang a variety of feeder types from this pole, so I need to be careful to get the weight right. You need to consider the weight of the feeders plus the weight of the seed in each one. Obviously, a bigger feeder holding a lot of seed tends to be heavier than a lighter feeder holding something light-weight like mealworms for example. I try to distribute the weight around the arms of the pole as much as possible to discourage pole tilt.
Keep in mind that rain and snow can add weight to a feeder, especially open platform type feeders. This is yet one more incentive (beyond not leaving wet seed to mold) to clear snow and/or wet seed out of feeders after a storm.
Simple Birdbath Pole
In my front yard, I have a small inexpensive birdbath at the end of a garden bed. This birdbath has a single thin support pole with two little curved feet (see photo above) and a metal circle on top to hold a plastic dish for the water. The dish is light-weight and shallow, so it doesn’t hold a ton of water, but the weight of the full dish still makes the birdbath a bit top-heavy in my sandy soil. A large bird landing on it hard can make the birdbath lean. But this one had a very simple solution. A pair of large stones nestled up to either side of the pole’s base keeps this pole upright (photo below.)
Note: While we might like to think that only birds will use our feeders and birdbaths, the reality is that sometimes other, sometimes much heavier, creatures will also partake of what we offer. The weight of these critters on a feeder can also knock a pole askew, especially if they have jumped hard to land on it. This is where a really good pole baffle, correctly positioned, can help keep uninvited guests off a feeder.
The Ground Around the Pole Can Allow It to Lean
If you have a good quality sturdy metal pole and are not putting more weight on it than it can handle, then the pole itself should not bend. It is instead the ground around the pole that yields. In my yard, this is the biggest factor in whether a pole leans.
My yard’s soil mix leans strongly toward sand, so keeping feeder poles straight is a challenge. Interestingly (to me anyway), anything in my yard that leans tends to do it in the same direction (east). Even weight-balanced poles want to lean that way. Trees tend to fall in that direction too. A decent proportion of the yard slopes down that way to some degree, so it is also the way water flows when there is a heavy rain.
When the weather is dry and the soil is dry, my poles tend to stay put. They also stay in place when the ground is frozen and/or snow-covered. It is when the ground is saturated with water and the soil loosens up that trees and poles tend to shift and want to lean.
Compacting the Soil Around the Pole’s Base
I used to try and deal with arrant poles by holding the feeder pole straight and banging on the pole’s foot to press it more firmly into the ground. I did find that if the horizontal top of a shepherd’s staff’s H-shaped base is sunk at least a bit into the ground (and so is surrounded on three sides by soil) it tends to keep straighter than a pole whose horizontal piece is just laying across the soil surface.
But several years ago, I was talking with one of the folks at my local bird store (Mother Natures) and learned that the trick with poles is not to keep pounding on the base of the pole when it tilts. Instead, you need to work on firming up the ground AROUND the base of the pole. So use your foot or a mallet or a stone or whatever to compact the soil around the pole’s foot support. This approach can actually make a surprising difference. (In the photo above, I am using a bit of scrap wood and a mallet to compact the soil around the pole.)
Force the Bird Feeder Pole Deep in the Ground
Another option is to extend the pole deeper into the ground. My husband Jim did this with one of my shepherd’s staff poles. He took an old length of copper pipe and used a mallet to force one vertical leg of the H (the part that goes in the ground) into the pipe. He then pounded this long pipe/pole deep into the ground. It took a lot of physical energy and a mallet to get it there, but the longer support did keep the pole upright.
The downside is that it is a pain to get out of the ground again, so you really want to be sure of your location before you hack a pole’s foot in this way. (I don’t seem to have a picture of this pipe hack and, with apologies, even for you, I’m not going to dig it out of the ground now to take one! LOL)
Cement The Pole in Place to Stop Tilt
Yet another obvious option to keep your feeder pole straight might be to cement the pole in place. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I tend to move things around. So cement wouldn’t be an attractive option for me. But if you are absolutely sure of where you want your pole, it might work for you. (You can google directions for this type of project if you are interested.)
How Do You Keep Your Feeder Poles Straight?
So these are the tricks I use to keep my feeder poles and birdbaths from leaning. Do you have problems with poles tilting in your yard? What type of poles and/or pole bases are you using? Do you have a challenging soil mix? What has worked for you to keep your poles feeder straight? Please feel welcome to share your comment below.
More Posts About Bird Feeder and Birdbath Poles
Bird’s Choice Fly-Through Platform Feeders (post about mounting them on poles)
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