Broken crockery makes a pretty bird table
Since I made it, I’ve been moving my completed bird table around the garden trying to find the best place for both my dinner guests and for me to watch the party from the house. During that time (nearly a week), not a single bird came near my handmade piece of functional garden art. I was really beginning to get worried. Then today I spotted not one but two robins picking up grain from its slightly concave centre. Success at last! It wasn’t long before one of them chased the other off but I’m pleased that my table seems to have met with avian approval.
Bird tables are flat surfaces, covered or uncovered, that are used for offering grain, seeds, bread, and other treats to birds. Though feeding birds in winter helps to keep the little guys going until spring, I have to admit that I just fancied luring birds in so that I can see them closer up.
My bird table is made out of hand-mixed concrete, poured into a bin lid (garbage can lid), formed slightly, and then embedded withpieces of broken plates to create an attractive mosaic surface. I quite like the symbolism of using broken pieces of dinner plates to make a feasting table for birds but I think it’s a pretty design as well.
Costs less than £10 to make
The finished piece is a disc that can be set on an existing structure, in my case an old birdbath, or set up on an old stump, a rockery, or even left sitting on the pavement, thought I imagine that could endanger birds if you have cats in the neighbourhood. The project takes about three hours to complete but after it’s finished you’ll need to allow the piece to dry for at least twenty-four hours. I left mine to dry in a warm place for three days just to be sure. It’s also an inexpensive project since it requires just a few materials and cost less than £10 to make.
Materials needed for this Project
- Bag of cement
- Bag of Coarse Aggregate (basically a mixture of sand and gravel)
- Or get both of these together pre-mixed: Quikrete Concrete Mix Bag 10 Lbs
- Crockery, plates, old china, that can be broken up into pieces. Please check to make sure that the pieces aren’t collectibles first!
- A bin (trash can) lid that has a relatively flat inner surface.
- A piece of chicken wire that will fit inside the lid without touching the sides
- A bucket for mixing the cement in
1. Prep your bin lid if required
The lid I chose had a relatively flat top which would translate into a bird table with a flat bottom – perfect for setting on flat surfaces. It did however have two little hollow holes where the lid handle was mounted but I just plugged them up with shreds of old fabric to make sure cement wouldn’t get inside.
2. Break up your crockery and plates
I initially started by dropping and throwing them against the cement outside but I can’t recommend you do this. Though entirely pleasurable and a great way to let off a bit of stress, the shards went everywhere. I was wearing protective goggles but could imagine pieces still flying off and embedding into innocent bystanders. Placing the plates into plastic bags, twisting the tops closed, then using a hammer (or stone/brick) to break the plates through the plastic was FAR easier, safer, and less messy.
3. Mix your concrete
Instructions should be provided on the bag of cement but I used one part cement to three parts aggregate. The measurement I used was a large yogurt container that probably held about three cups. Using a wooden stick as a stirrer I gradually added water until I had a slushy mixture that I could easily pour into the bin lid. And don’t worry about those rather largish lumps of gravel you see in the mix. They won’t be visible in the end product and are necessary to helping create strength inside your bird table. You don’t want it breaking in half when you pull it out of the mould.
4. Pour the concrete
I poured about half an inch of concrete into the lid then laid the piece of chicken wire on top before pouring the rest of the concrete over it. Since the aggregate I used is ‘Coarse’ I think the wire can be optional but I put it in anyway for additional support.
5. Create an indented center
This step is purely optional but I did it because I wanted the table to have a dip in the middle where bird feed could collect without being easily blown or kicked off. Some could say that a dip would create a place for rain water to collect but I think having it is more beneficial than not.
Make your indent by allowing the concrete to set about an hour before applying the pieces of broken crockery. Put on a pair of rubber gloves and gently pull the concrete from the centre to the outsides, mounding it against the side of the bin lid. It will settle again after you’re finished with the next step so try to go for a more extreme dip than you’re hoping to get in the finished piece.
6. Apply the broken crockery design
I spent about forty-five minutes arranging and pressing pieces of china into the damp concrete. I found it helped to arrange a handful of pieces on top then press it all in once the right design was created. This helped minimise the gaps between pieces.
7. Allow the bird table to dry
Because the lid will have a handle you might find it difficult to find a flat space to set it. I propped mine up on a heavy duty plastic box with a bendy metal rod underneath for support. I recommend you do the same and to allow it to dry over a weekend. It might be ready after only twenty-four hours but better to be safe than sorry when you tap it out of the mould.
8. Place in the garden
Take the table out of the mould and install it in the garden – to take it out of the mould gently tip the lid over and onto a fairly soft surface like a lawn. Use your hand for support as you tip it over and if it doesn’t slide out easily, shake the lid by the handle a few times and it should pop out without too much hassle.
The bird table itself doesn’t have a base but I imagined setting mine on a sawn off piece of log that I use for a stool in my allotment. Instead I decided to set mine atop an old bird bath just outside the conservatory. It’s in an ideal place for watching birds and is made out of cement as well so blends in with the design.
You can start setting out bird feed immediately and watch out in anticipation for the local bird life to find the feast! What beauty there is in both art and nature, especially when they’re combined into a stunning and handcrafted piece in your own garden.