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I'm custom building some bird feeders which will be sold for a charity. They need to be safe for birds, look decent for a while, preferably be environmentally friendly.

1) What are my options for longterm protection that won't turn yellow, peel the paint work in the short-term, but is considered environmentally friendly/safe for birds? Is there anything on the market like this?

If not,

2) What would be my next best option? Paint the feeder but not use any finish?

They'll be hand painted with this paint http://www.lakelandpaints.co.uk/paints-for-wood/gloss/gloss-paint-interior-exterior-1-litre/ with brushes on exterior grade plywood.

  • You can use a two part clear silicone rubber . Silicones won't yellow, cure to a reasonably tough finish, and will not harm wildlife ( think silicone implants safe enough for human implants). These two part silicones ( resin and catalyst) are expensive though. Another option if you can get it is silicone hardcoats like the coatings used to make glasses scratchproof. When fully cured they are practically inert , will not harm wildlife. – William Hird May 6 '17 at 4:21
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The paint you're planning on using is already rated for exterior use. I can't speak to its quality but if used as per the manufacturer's guidelines you should get their expected service life which is often in the region of five to seven years, long enough I'd think for a bird feeder.

Most painting guides suggest that to extend service life in exterior applications it's vital to prime the wood first. This may no longer be as true as it once was because of modern paint formulation, but it is generally sound advice and usually you won't regret priming before painting.

If you want to maximise the time these will look their best there's something else you can do before the paint goes on, and that is to seal all end-grain surfaces to prevent moisture ingress. Epoxy is ideal for this purpose. You can use standard epoxy glue, no need for anything specialised (and more expensive) than this. Rub the thoroughly mixed epoxy on to all end-grain surfaces and once fully hardened lightly sand and then paint as normal.

but is considered environmentally friendly/safe for birds

All finishes you might use are bird-friendly once cured.

Almost all finishes these days aren't inherently toxic (no lead pigments and so forth) and a cured film of the binder is quite inert by definition.

So there's no need to go with any green or 'green' paints for this. Standard paints of various types are used for beehives and insects are far more sensitive to chemicals than even birds are.

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