Dave Fisher began his business for the same reason so many small enterprises start. “I wanted my work to be at home with the family. I was missing a lot of opportunities with the children, and I wanted to change that.”
So in 2011, Dave and his family launched The Woodpecker Family, which makes one-of-a-kind wooden birdfeeders and houses, designed to looks like gold finches, woodpeckers, cardinals, hummingbirds, and other feathered favorites. (Lately their selection even includes a cow-shaped feeder).
The feeders and houses are their only products, and they are handmade in a woodshop on the family’s property in Narvon. They are made from Eastern White Pine and painted with weatherproof paint.
“When we started this, we wanted this to honor and glorify God. We didn’t want to put a cheap product out there that would only last a year,” explains Dave.
It was Dave’s wife, Feenie, who came up with the idea to make bird feeders and bird houses with unique shapes. “We were trying to find a product that we thought would sell, but we didn’t want to copy someone else. We were just watching and checking, and one day my wife found a magazine and it had a picture of a cardinal feeder, and she said ‘we’re making this!’
“It was a bird feeder, but it was totally different from what we are making now.
“I said, ‘I don’t think so. It’s going to be too many components I can’t make, and we’d have to buy them.’”
But Feenie kept encouraging Dave, and “I kept trying. If it won’t be for my wife, we won’t have this. We kept on going, kept making mistakes, tried to improve it, and here we are!”
The Woodpecker Family makes thousands of feeders and houses each year. There are fifteen different feeders and thirteen different birdhouses. “We use thirteen different colors,” Dave tells us.
“Right now, there’s three full-time, and four part-time workers. It’s mostly family, but the four part-timers are neighbor boys hired for this summer.”
How long does it take to complete a bird house? “30 minutes”
The Woodpecker Family feeders and houses are rather large. “I was asked to make them smaller. But I said I don’t think so. We felt that this was the pattern God gave us, and right now, we’re swamped. We don’t have time to do anything smaller. Smaller would be finer and take more labor, so it won’t be cheaper.”
How has COVID-19 affected your business? “It just went crazy. The first three weeks of March 2020, when COVID hit, we were basically doing nothing. It was just me and one or two of the boys, kind of plugging along. The fourth week it started getting busy and it hasn’t let up since. Most of this year, our lead time was twelve to fourteen weeks. Never before did we have that in the ten years we’ve been going. We could always keep it to around two to four weeks.”
Have they had supply issues? “Yes, but nothing crazy. Where I could usually figure on getting things in a week or two, I now have to figure a month or two. It gets a little frustrating, but you just have to keep going.”
Any tips for attracting birds? “Just put the feeders out and keep feed in them.” Dave assures us there’s no special tricks. “Black oil sunflower seed works the best. Just about every bird likes it.”
“Including squirrels and chipmunks,” adds Dave’s son, David Eldon.
“These aren’t squirrel and chipmunk-proof,” agrees his father. “But a squirrel can’t sit on there and just feast on it. They can get what’s on the tray, but not what’s inside.”
The Fishers have four birdhouses in their yard and in the wintertime they have four to six feeders up. They fill them every week or two. “And most of our birdhouses are occupied too. They might be occupied by sparrows, but they are occupied," the father and son explain.
“We tried putting in a trail mix for birds— corn and whatnot, but birds didn’t eat it. It started rotting. We just make out real good with black oil sunflower seed. All kinds of birds come. We’ve had goldfinch, chickadees, cardinals, and bluejays. Some people say 'those birds don’t eat black oil sunflower seeds.' They do for us,” Dave says with smile.
Birds that the Fishers enjoy include cardinals, red-headed woodpeckers, and pileated woodpeckers. “I like the orioles in the summertime,” says David Eldon.
“We just enjoy watching the birds,” says Dave. “They’re all interesting. Some can’t eat out of the feeder. The next one comes along and he’s a sloppy eater, and spills seed all over the place, and then the one that can’t eat out the feeder comes along and he picks up the crumbs.
“It’s just amazing how God created all the birds.”
Making the birdfeeders & houses
All the products begin with a stack of lumber.
First, the pieces are cut to size.
The next step is tracing the shape of the bird's head:
Next, Dave cuts the pieces with a band saw:
David Eldon sands the edges:
The next step is painting:
Another son, Daniel, adds more details:
The pieces are left to dry:
Now the pieces are ready for final assembly:
Finally, Daniel wraps up the birdfeeder for shipping:
Below, the bird feeders grace the family's deck:
All photos taken by Dorcas Lichtenberger.