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How to DIY a Dripper for birds

Are you running out of home projects to keep busy during the quarantine? Here’s one my hubby made for me that you can try: a DYI Dripper. I’ve long wanted a bird dripper to complement my yard’s wildlife habitat, and with spring migrants on the way, I was keen to provide a drip that will attract new birds that don’t visit feeders.

I had a problem though. There is no water line or power source near my feeders. The idea of stringing a hose or wire across the driveway just isn’t practical. Enter the engineer. My husband thought about the location and the limitations for a bit, and came up with the concept of sourcing water for a dripper off the sprinkler system. By using a toilet tank that fills every time the sprinklers run, water can be constantly available for the drip. I nixed the idea of a toilet tank sitting in my yard though, so he made some aesthetic modifications by installing a toilet tank float inside a 5 gallon bucket hidden inside a custom wooden box with a handsome copper pipe drip line.

Here’s what you'll need:
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid
  • Standard toilet tank float assembly
  • Toilet tank supply valve
  • 16 inch toilet supply line connector hose with (squirrel resistant) braided stainless steel sheath
  • ¼ inch copper tubing 15-20 inches
  • ½” male coupling to ¼ inch compression fitting, with ½” female/female connector 
  • ¼ inch brass compression needle valve
  • Rubber grommet (sized to fit ½” male coupling) Note: This can be a challenge to find!
  • Catch basin such as bird bath or large saucer for flower pot
For the box:
  • 3 6 foot cedar fence slats
  • 1 10 foot exterior grade 2x4
Cut hole in center bottom of bucket and install the standard toilet tank float. Easy peasy.

The drip requires a bit more finesse to attach. Drill a hole in the side of the bucket about 1” from the bottom. Fit a rubber grommet onto the ½” male coupling of the ¼ inch tubing compression fitting, then insert the fitting into the bucket. Secure the fitting in place with the ½” female/female connector from inside the bucket. But since these are tapered pipe threads, your rubber grommet will likely need to be customized (i.e. cut to reduce thickness, or add washers to make thicker). Once this fitting is tightly and securely in place, it will be a simple matter to attach the ¼” tubing later.

Put the bucket inside the wooden box such that the standard toilet tank float fitting extends below the box. Screw the supply valve into your sprinkler system. We added an underground sprinkler valve box to access the valve, but that is completely optional. Connect the toilet supply line connector hose to the supply valve and fill-up your hole in the ground. Place the wooden box with bucket over the supply line and connect it to the float assembly. Now you have water going to the bucket. All that’s left to do is to attach the ¼” copper drip tubing through a drilled hole in the side of your wooden box. Add the needle valve outside the box, and an additional length of copper tubing.

Adjust drip with needle valve to 1 drop every 3 seconds. Drip into a bird bath basin or other catch system.  Note: all parts are readily available at Home Depot or online except the grommet which we found in a pack of various sizes at Home Depot. Our grommet needed to be cut in half (thickness) to get everything to assemble.

The birds (and I) are very happy with their new drip. Next up, I want to start a mealworm farm—anyone have an old empty aquarium I can use?

By Vaughn Phillips, 
Houston Audubon Natives Nursery Volunteer
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Learn more about how you can be bird-friendly at birdfriendlyhouston.org.

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