To the casual passerby, a birdhouse may just look like a wooden box with a hole in it. While that’s an accurate description, a lot more thought goes into building a home for your feathered friends than nailing together six pieces of wood and making a circular front door.
No one wants to build a birdhouse that doesn’t get used.
How you construct your pied-à-terre can impact which type of birds will use or it or if it gets utilized at all. Here are several details to consider about positioning and construction to ensure that the building you make works for the bird you want to attract. (Also keep in mind that some birds, like American robins, won’t live in houses.)
First, figure out what type of bird you want to attract to your neighborhood. Of course you’ll need to research the birds that live in your neck of the woods. Downy woodpeckers will want their homes positioned about 12 feet above the ground or floor. Finches prefer their entrances at about half that height. If you want a detailed list of birdhouse heights, you can see a list here.
Depending on your plans for the birds, you may also want to locate the birdhouse closer to your flower beds or crops. Some gardeners depend on nearby birds to help keep the insect population in check, or to eat the seeds of weeds. Consider the appropriate type of bird for the desired impact.
Finally, where you place the birdhouse can keep the birds safer. If a birdhouse is close to other trees or bushes, squirrels may be able to jump onto the structure, sit on top and reach in to grab recently hatched chicks. Other predators, like snakes or foxes, can crawl up and grab birds while they’re sleeping. You may need to install a predator guard baffle to help deflect them.
Birds are not only particular about where you place the house, but also the size of the structure. A house finch is fine with a six-inch home whereas a Northern Flicker will need at least sixteen inches to putter around.
In the above video, Gardner Scott explains how he builds his bird houses out of repurposed wood. Although its permissible to use half-inch plywood, he prefers the aged planks for the vintage look as well as the textured grain that can help young birds who need edges to hold onto as they make their way up to opening.
Scott structures his birdhouses as vertical rectangles that look almost like small mailboxes. The backs are longer to help with mounting. His roofs angle down to let water roll off as well keep potential predators from loitering on the top. Although the “front door” looks like its nailed in place, Scott installs a hinge at the bottom so it can be folded down to clean out a previous nest before time comes for a new tenant. This moveable section of the house is held in place with a screw on the side.
If you think any hole will do on the front of birdhouse, you have a lot to learn. A feathered creature is very particular about the size of his or her front door. A bird that likes a 1.5 inch opening may steer clear of a 1.25-inch size hole. You’ll need to do a little research for the exact proportions of your house’s gateway.
While it’s possible to build one of Scott’s houses with a handsaw, the project will be a lot smoother and quicker with circular or other power saw. He pre-drills holes for all of the nails to ensure the wood won’t split. To make a clean opening, you’ll almost definitely need a hole saw in the desired dimension.
Now that you have the house together, you may want to take a few additional steps to make it a little more habitable for your new guests. Many birdhouse makers attach a metal lining or plate around the hole. This added layer makes it hard for squirrels and noseybodies to gnaw away away at the hole and move in. These sized plates are available on Etsy and stores that focus on bird building projects. For added protection, you have even add a tube opening, which means few other creatures than birds will be able to squeeze through.
You may also want to soap the interior walls of the house in case any wasps fly and consider building a hive — the slick walls makes it impossible. To prevent the home from getting waterlogged, drill a few holes in the bottom of the house. It also helps with ventilation for anyone living inside.
Feed for Your Birds
You can buy bird feed at your local grocery or pet store, or online. Be sure to get a high-quality bird feed and suet balls that are designed for the type of birds you want to attract. Once you have your bird feed, put it in the birdhouse once it is finished. This will help attract birds to your new home! Enjoy watching the birds come and go from your very own birdhouse!
If you want to build a birdhouse that will impress architecture fans, try a midcentury modern style. It sill works for many bird types and you ensure that only the most stylish birds will fly in.