Few things are more emblematic of being a good neighbor to wildlife than the birdhouse. While you can find thousands of artistic birdhouses already assembled, building your very own is a fun project that helps you build basic carpentry skills. It’s a great family project you can complete in one weekend with a little careful planning. There are many types of birdhouses to choose from, ranging from naturalistic designs built around the needs of your local birds to fantastical designs strictly meant for decoration. Create a birdhouse that is the highlight of your backyard with this guide.
Choose Between Decorative or Functional Designs
Start by deciding if you want a birdhouse that might actually host a nest or only want to add color and whimsy to your backyard. There’s nothing wrong with only building decorative birdhouses or a mix of the two options. If you build primarily decorative birdhouses, you may want to put a block inside the false entrance so it doesn’t attract wasps. Functional birdhouses rarely have this problem because birds will visit to eat any wasps that try to settle in them.
Consider the Local Birds
If you go down the path of building a functional birdhouse, find out what birds routinely nest in your area. That will help you find the dimensions, opening location, and overall style they prefer. Try to choose a birdhouse style that fits multiple species so you have a higher chance of seeing it occupied year after year. The local birds you are trying to attract with your birdhouse will also inform much of the placement details.
Find a Set of Plans
It’s easiest to build an accurate, durable, and attractive birdhouse if you start with a set of plans. There are free and paid plans for every kind of birdhouse you could want. If you’re a beginner, look for printed or printable plans you can place directly on your wood and trace. More experienced builders can try instructions or plans that just include dimensions and basic lists of materials.
Buy the Right Materials
Decorative birdhouses can be made from practically anything that will last through weather exposure in your backyard. Reclaimed metal roofing, license plates, clay pots, and even coated paper mache are often used to create whimsical designs. However, birdhouses designed to host bird families will need to be made with certain materials for sanitation and good health of the hatchlings. Wood is generally the best choice for all bird species because it’s insulative, naturally easy to disinfect, and familiar to the birds. Use wood at least ¾-inch thick to keep temperatures even in the nest, and avoid wood treated in any way.
Cut and Construct the Birdhouse
Follow the plan instructions to cut and construct the birdhouse. Use untreated plywood, rough-cut slabs, or fine pine, oak, or poplar boards. Measure twice and cut once, using a circular saw or table saw to get clean cuts. Most birdhouse designs will only feature a few angled cuts, but more ornate decorative designs may call for many cuts. Assemble the pieces with galvanized nails so the weather doesn’t weaken the fasteners. If the birdhouse is designed to attract local birds, you should drill ¼-inch holes in the bottom board. That allows for drainage without risking too much airflow that could chill the nest.
Seal and Finish the Piece
Avoid sealing or painting the inside of a birdhouse that’s functional. You can seal the inside of a decorative birdhouse any way you like to help it last longer. Exterior house paint is an easy way to add color and extend the life of a birdhouse made of wood or metal. It may work well on unglazed clay as well. Non-toxic stains and sealants can be applied to the natural wood to preserve its beauty.
Selecting a Spot and Mounting the Birdhouse
Check out mounting recommendations based on the bird species if you’re building a functional birdhouse. If you want the birds to control pests in your garden or backyard, choose to focus on an insect-eating species and place the nest in a sheltered area near the plants. Attach the birdhouse to a tree with long deck screws or straps that wrap around the trunk. It’s also helpful to mount birdhouses under the eave of the house so they’re protected from rain. Place individual boxes at least 50 feet apart or more so you don’t end up with territorial issues. Decorative birdhouses can go anywhere you like, including on your porch, under your mailbox, or inside the home.
Birdhouses can give birds a place to nest that isn’t inside the eaves or attic of your home. Make sure you’re following a plan designed with durability and beauty in mind so your project lasts the test of time despite sun and rain exposure.