Birds fly through the trees and hop around on the ground as they gather food and explore their habitat. But when the weather gets cold in the winter and when it’s time to lay eggs in the spring, birds need a place to build a nest that is sheltered from wind, rain, and cold, and is hidden from predators.
They usually build nests on tree branches, but you can easily build a birdhouse near your home so that you can watch birds come and go. You might even get a peek at baby birds waiting for food or trying to fly.
Requirements for your birdhouse:
- Drainage holes or slots ensure that water won’t collect in the house and drown the birds or cause mold. Holes in the top also allow heat to escape and air to flow through.
- Use thick, untreated wood. The thickness insulates against extreme cold and heat. Birds are sensitive to chemicals and anything treated with chemicals. The fumes may build up when it’s hot, and if a bird gnaws on the wood, the chemicals can be toxic.
- Make the house easy to clean by including another entrance. This could be another entrance hole or a hinged roof.
- Never attach perches to the outside of the house. They make it easier for squirrels and predators to get in.
- Check often for other birds, insects, mice, squirrels, or snakes. If you find any unwanted houseguests, have someone help you remove them. Don’t use bug sprays except those that state they are completely safe for birds.
- Make some grooves in the wood so that the surface isn’t completely smooth. Rough surfaces make it easier for birds to get in and out.
Building an easy bluebird house:
- 3- 1"x 6" kiln-dried finished boards 12" long each (the sides and back)
- 1- 1"x 4" kiln-dried finished board 11 ½" long (the door)
- 1- 1" x 4" kiln-dried finished board 4 ½" long (the floor)
- 1- 1" x 8" kiln dried finished board 8" long or longer (the roof)
- 1- Box 1 ¾" nails with normal (not finishing) heads
- 2- Small hinges and screws
- White, brown, or green exterior paint
- 1- 1.5" hole saw for the drill
- 1- Drill (have an adult do the drilling for you)
- 1- Hot glue gun and glue
- Have an adult drill the entry hole in the 1" x 4" x 11 ½" piece of wood with the 1.5" hole saw. The center of the hole should be 2 inches from each side (the board is 4 inches wide, so the center of the hole will be the center of the board) and 2 inches from the top.
- Nail the sides (1"x 6"x 12" boards) to the back, with a nail in each corner and one in the middle on each side. For extra strength, you may want to place hot glue along the edges of the sideboards before you nail them to the back. You can hot glue any of the other boards before attaching them to the birdhouse with nails.
- Nail the floor to the sides on one end. Be sure you leave a 3/8" gap between the edge of the floor and the back of the birdhouse for ventilation and water drainage. The bottom of the floor should be even with the bottom of the birdhouse.
- Nail the door to the house. The bottom of the door should be even with the bottom of the birdhouse, and there should be a ½" gap at the top for ventilation.
- Screw the bottom part of two small hinges onto the inside back board at the top, and the top part of the hinges to the inside bottom of the roof board, so that you can easily open and close the birdhouse for cleaning. The roof should be at an angle to allow water to run off. If you want, you can make the roof even longer so that is extends down over the edge of the birdhouse. This will provide extra protection during rain.
- Paint the birdhouse with white, brown, or green paint. Other bright colors catch the eyes of predators, so stick to natural colors.
- Attach your birdhouse to a pole, at least 10 feet above ground, away from backyard traffic. Don’t attach it to the side of a tree, because squirrels and predators can easily access the house.
Purple martin birdhouse:
- 4-6" x 6" boards (for the floors)
- 2-7 ½" x 27" boards (for the front and back)
- 1-9 ½" x 9 ½" board for the top
- 2-6" x 27" boards for the sides
- 1 ½" finishing nails and/or 1 ½" #6 or #8 flathead wood screws
- White exterior paint
- 10-14 foot long 2" galvanized water pipe
- 3-2" clamps
- Have an adult help you cut the corners and holes in the wood.
- Attach one side to the front, making sure that it lines up evenly along the side edge.
- Attach the bottom board to the front, then nail or screw it to the sideboard to make sure it stays in place. The bottom board should line up evenly with the bottom edges of the front and side boards. Attach the next floorboard so that the bottom side of the board is 6" above the top side of the board below it (each compartment will be 6" tall). Attach the other floorboards the same way.
- Attach the back to the floors and side.
- Attach the other side board to the front and back edges.
- Center the top of the house so that 1" hangs off each side of the house, and attach it to the house.
- Paint the house with at least 2 coats of white exterior paint.
- After the paint has dried, attach the pipe clamps and pipe to the bottom of the house. Or, you can clamp and bolt the pipe to the back of the house. Put the pole into the ground so it doesn’t wobble, about 30 feet away from houses or other buildings.
a) First, cut ¼" off of one corner of each floorboard for drainage.
b) Second, drill four entrance holes in the front board. Each hole should be 2 ½" in diameter and the center of each hole should be 3 ¾" from each side. The center of the first hole should be 2 ¾" from the top, the second 9 ½" from the top, the third 16 ¼" from the top, and the fourth 23" from the top.
c) Third, cut four ¾"ventilation holes in the backboard. The center of each hole should be 3 ¾" from each side. The first hole should be 1" from the top, the second 7 ¾" from the top, the third 14 ½" from the top, and the fourth 21 ¼" from the top.
Happy bird watching!