How To Make a Bird Seed Catcher for Your Bird Feeder

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Bird feeders can attract the prettiest birds, but the problem is all the mess and weeds that you get from the bird seed! See how we made a birdseed catcher tray to keep the ground under our bird feeder weed and mess-free.

diy Bird Seed Catcher

How To Make a Bird Seed Catcher for Your Bird Feeder

Didn’t winter this year seem like it was never going to end? (We even lost a significant amount of our new landscape/plants due to a very late deep freeze – ugh!)

But end, it did, and then it seems like we skipped spring altogether!

We moved to our new house in February and have spent the last couple of months getting settled into the house. Once we got most of the boxes unpacked, we began to focus on all the landscape projects.

We’ve gotten several large mulch beds done, and next week we have 30 yards of river rock getting delivered for the areas where there is a lot of water runoff. (Thankfully, hubby has a strong back and likes working outdoors, lol.)

We want all the birds!

A “secret project” we’ve been working on is that we are on a mission to lure some of the colorful birds from our neighbor’s bird feeders over to ours! (Shhh… don’t tell.)

To help attract the birds, we’re planning to add a small butterfly/bird garden, a new bubbling water fountain, and a couple of bird feeders to the area just outside my bedroom window.  The bird feeders are already up, and hubby will be working on my fountain this weekend. (similar to this one, but 3 tiered.) Hopefully, we will get the bed and bird/butterfly-attracting plants in the ground soon.

How to Keep the Bird Feeder Area Weed Free

We absolutely love bird watching in our backyard (I just gifted myself the most amazing binoculars), but the only downside to bird feeders is the mess the birds make and the weeds that germinate from the seed.

We got so tired of pulling the weeds from under the bird feeder my hubby got creative at our last house and came up with a fantastic solution to the bird seed/weed/mess under the feeder.

In our case, we have two feeders for two different types of seeds.

In the larger feeder, we use black oil sunflower seeds (which don’t seem to germinate) for the cardinals and lesser goldfinch (yes, these tiny little birds prefer the sunflower seed), and a smaller feeder for white millet for the other colorful songbirds. (We have stopped buying the wild bird blend because, over time, we have realized the birds pick out and throw on the ground almost everything but the sunflower seeds. And the same with the millet blend – we buy the pure millet now)

All the birds love this millet, but it’s the messy one, and these seeds do germinate and grow like crazy. To keep the area under the feeder with the white seed clean, Hubby used a large water heater pan, painted it to match the ground cover, and placed it under the messy feeder to catch all the spilled seed.

You can see the bird seed catcher in action in the background at our old house in this photo full of discarded seeds and, most importantly…  NO WEEDS growing in our flower bed!

These photos were taken with my phone through the window, so the quality is not the best, but you can see some of the birds we get. (The yellow birds LOVE the bubbling fountain we made.) 


This is the baffle we use. It works great for keeping the squirrels from climbing up the pole and cleaning out the feeders.

How to Make a Bird Seed Catcher Tray:

Materials needed 

  • Large pan (water heater pan works great, the bigger, the better.)
  • Spray paint to match your ground cover
  • Shepherds hook/bird feeder holder
  • Drill
  • Bird feeders/seed
materials needed for bird seed catcher

Bird Seed Catcher Instructions

Paint the top and sides of the pan.  Let dry completely.

Use the bottom prongs of the bird feeder as a guide, and mark the spot where the prongs need to penetrate the pan.

Drill holes through the marked spots.

How to Make a Bird Seed Catcher:

Put the pan in place and push the bird feeder stand into the ground. (BTW, isn’t that grass gorgeous? We had it installed last month. It’s a new Bermuda product that comes pre-seeded with Winter Rye.)

mess free bird feeder

Backfill the pan with ground material.

how to keep the bird feeder area mess free

Set up your feeders, and you’re done!


How does the water drain from the birdseed catcher tray?

Through the holes you drilled. Also, some pans come with a drain on the side already installed.

How do you Clean up the discarded seeds?

You can use a whisk and broom or shop vac to clean up the discarded seeds, but you might find that the larger birds, squirrels, field mice, and raccoons will scavenge the dropped seeds.

Do you have to paint the tray?

No, you can leave it as is, or I saw a comment over on Pinterest where someone said they sell water heater pans in black now.

Now it’s your turn! Do you have any tips to share on keeping the area under your bird feeder weed free? Sound off in the comments below!

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Yield: 1 bird seed catcher

How to make a bird seed catcheer tray

bird seed catcher
Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • Large pan (water heater pan works great, the bigger, the better.)
  • Spray paint to match your ground cover
  • Shepherds hook/bird feeder holder
  • Bird feeders/seed


  • Drill


  1. Paint the top and sides of the pan.  Let dry completely.
  2. Use the bottom prongs of the bird feeder as a guide, and mark the spot where the prongs need to penetrate the pan.
  3. Drill holes through the marked spots.
  4. Put the pan in place and push the bird feeder stand into the ground.
  5. Backfill the pan with ground material.
  6. Set up your feeders, and you’re done!

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  1. We have a 4×4 post, I’m thinking of buying 2 snow saucers, cut them in half, cut out the middle area square and then attach the halves around the post.

  2. I just put two of these pans out with my bird feeders which I painted green so the silver doesn’t blind the birds when the sun shines on it.😁 I have also used the plastic trays used for under indoor plants to prevent water seeping. I put the metal one on the ground and tied the plastic tray to the actual feeeder. It’s a little more awkward when you are refilling the feeder but it also deters predators of the feline persuasion 😁.

  3. Do you know what kind of spray paint is safe for birds and other animals? (to paint the water heater pan.) I googled but there’s so many different suggestions, and I’d rather an answer from someone who really knows. Thanks!

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      I am definitely no professional, the only Info I have is form other websites.

      “Oil-based, latex, acrylic, or watercolor paints are safe paints for birds. These paints are non-toxic in nature and will not cause any harm to birds. Paints should also contain low or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which have toxic fumes when freshly painted. All paint must be fully dried before bird usage.”

  4. Michael Jones Dougherty says:

    This was a great post.
    I hav several bird feeders
    And I have used these large black water heaters trays there great
    The large birds clean up the seeds on the tray . I hated the weeds
    I also would use Shepard hooks out in my wild flower and bee and butterfly garden the seeds don’t grow . because of the other
    Plants smother them out .

  5. Why not just feed them Sunflower seeds and then you’ll have Sunflowers growing in that area. That’s what I do !!’

  6. kalamazoo says:

    so when you get the discarded/spilled birdseed in the catch pan underneath, how do you remove it? Seems like it would be difficult to pull up the shepherd’s hook each time. Do you just scrape it up with your hands? What happens when it rains?

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      I just leave it, We have lots of wildlife, so birds, raccoons squirrels eat the seed in the pan. When it rains it gets wet. I guess you could remove the seed with a Whisked broom and dust pan if it bothers you.

  7. This seems like a good idea overall, but doesn’t the tray kill the grass underneath it?

  8. ColleenB. says:

    Great idea; not only for the smaller birds that eat from the hanging feeders but also wonderful for the ground feeder birds.
    We have had rabbits eating out of our homemade ground, platform feeders.

  9. No drain holes for rain water?

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      It will drain through the holes you drilled for the bird feeder stand.

  10. Great idea! Will definitely do this since the birds have been making a mess in my yard.

    I actually have the same feeder as you do on the right – curious how you shortened the string? The existing loop leaves way too much slack between the feeder and the hook.

    Thank you!

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      Hubby used 2 very small zip ties. They hold it great. We had to shorten it because the squirrels were jumping from the ground to the feeder, lol.

  11. Great idea and post but Is there a reason why you didn’t position the bird feeder stand in the center of the pan? One of your feeders hangs outside the catch pan..I’m confused.

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      the one that hangs over contains a seed that doesn’t sprout

  12. Leigh Ann says:

    I’m interested in who makes the Bermuda/Winter Rye combination as that’s what I was wanting for our yard? I’ll definitely be trying the bird seed catcher as I have multi feeder poles and need a bigger catcher?

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      We got ours from a place called the Grass Patch in the Austin Texas area. It is definitely a seasonal product. (got ours in February) We called back in April to order more and it was too late in the year to get it.

  13. How do you empty the eaten seeds from the catcher?

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      you can sweep them out, vacuum them out or just leave them.

    2. Sounds like a good idea but I have no idea where I would get a water heater pan and can’t think of something else that I could use. Do you have any suggestions?

      1. Jamie Sanders says:

        your local hardware store will have them.

  14. Al Searsa says:

    What happens when it rains or you water the lawn?

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      hopefully nothing, we get a few weeds growing through the hole drilled in the bottom of the pan. I (my husband 🙂 ) just pull them up.

  15. Your yard looks beautiful! I too am a lover of our back yard birds, we get so many!! The squirrels are always impossible to keep away, so I’ve given up…now there’s a new issue, recently I’ve spotted a rat near the seed that’s fallen on the ground…I just purchased a few seed catchers that hang underneath the feeders, we’ll see how they work…my question to you, do you have any problems with anything eating the seed that’s fallen into the pan? Like, has it attracted rodents or unwanted critters? Thank you!

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      I haven’t spotted any mice, but the squirrels, cardinals, and doves do a pretty good job eating the fallen seed. But we live in a heavily wooded area, no telling what we get at night, though and it would be impossible to keep them away. Just make sure all access points to your house are caulked or stuffed with that special mesh designed to keep critters out. I am also certain the deer have figured out how to drink from the hummingbird feeder.

  16. such a smart idea, I am constantly pulling weed from around the feeder!