Birdhouses are considered simple and loveable wood projects to make. However, there are some special things you need to keep in mind while building birdhouses. While this is true for every woodworking project, Bird houses are different because they are not about you, they are all about the birds.
So while usually as a woodworker you are always encouraged to make every project your own, when it comes to building birdhouses any unwarranted change in design would probably mean that your small your furry friends do not end up making a home as intended.
So here are a few things to keep in mind if you are serious about your birdhouse actually want the birds to come and build a nest in it.
Make It Natural
The idea behind building a birdhouse is that it should be as natural as possible. It should be replicate the natural environment in which the birds build nests which, in most cases, is trees.
Use as natural a wood as possible. Little bit of seasoning and decay is not altogether a bad thing. Old scraps of wood can be ideal for building a birdhouse.
Try to keep the finishing as natural as possible. Avoid using paint, polish or even adhesive to join the sides. I know that you see many brightly and beautifully bird houses in pictures. They look pretty but the birds prefer a natural environment.
You can use a natural wood with a good grain pattern so that your bird house has its own natural beauty.
Subtle colors on the outside are alright. They get worn out and get a more natural look after a season or two of being out in the elements.
Make A Functional Design Not A Fancy One
A functional birdhouse is actually simple in design. The birds are looking for something as close to a tree as they can find. A birdhouse is not made with tightly sealed sides. The elements of nature like the wind and rain should be able to enter the birdhouse a little bit. So some gap is left between the roof and the sides of the birdhouse, specially at the front and back. Also, cutting the corners of the bottom to create small openings is a good and recommended practice.
Use stainless screws screws and nails or any other kind meant for outdoors wood projects, to join the sides together. They will not rust like regular screws meant for indoor furniture. While screws are preferred to join the sides of the birdhouse, you will have to use nails for the smaller birdhouses to avoid tearing the wood.
Add A Feeder
You can consider building a feeder into the birdhouse. But this is not usually done because it changes the function of the birdhouse. The purpose of a feeder is to attract birds to come and have a drink of water and eat some seeds, while you enjoy viewing the activity. Whereas, the purpose of a birdhouse really is to provide the birds with a secure place to build a nest, without too much disturbance from humans as well as other birds.
So if you have an active feeder where birds come on a regular basis to eat and drink, don’t expect one of them to make a nest there. The birds like as much seclusion as they can get when it comes to building a home for their hatchlings.
But having a place where you can put the bird food and water will probably let you attract the birds when it’s not nesting time for the local birds in your area. For most birds time to nest and lay eggs is usually spring. So in winters, when the food is anyway scarce, you can help your little friends out.
Dimensions That Work
The shape of all birdhouses is pretty consistent and boxlike. At least it should be. But other design elements should be decided while keeping the kind of birds you are hoping to attract. For example, small birds like blue birds and sparrows want a small five by five bird house. The height is usually kept at about 8 inches.
Bigger birds like an owl or a hawk require building a bigger 8 x 10 birdhouse that is up to 12 inches in height.
The ingress or opening that you make in the front should at least be 6 inches above the base for the smaller birdhouse to give the bird enough space inside to build the best. The size of the opening is also made accordingly.
While it cannot be helped with birdhouses meant for larger birds, the opening should be kept as small as possible so that while the bird can go in and out easily, larger predatory birds and also squirrels cannot enter.
Height Of Installation For The Birdhouse
This is an important one as well. Now that you have built the right birdhouse for the right bird, you need to install it at the right height to attract the bird. Birdhouses for bigger birds like an owl or an Eagle should be put at the height of at least 10 to 30 feet. For small birds it should be installed at 6 to 10 feet.
Give Yourself Easy Access
Make the front of the birdhouse on a hinge so that it can easily be opened. Opening the birdhouse is a necessity. For example, when one bird leaves, you should clean it out and along with it all the existing bacteria to make it hospitable for the next bird. You may also want to open it when the nest is bustling with activity to check on things.
Busting A Common Myth
Contrary to popular belief you can touch, pick up the young hatchlings. They will not be abandoned by their parents. In fact, most birds have a very poor sense of smell and cannot tell if their hatchlings have been touched by a human hand. And even if they do smell the touch of human, they will not abandon their babies because of it. Check with any birding expert and he will confirm what I have just written about this myth. In fact this information comes from a renowned birder and conservationist who hosts dozens of bird houses on his reserve and sanctuary.
Build That Trapdoor
Anyway, the simplest way to make the birdhouse easily accessible is to put a hinge door or, rather, make the front wall on a hinge. The simplest way to make a hinge is to put in to nails or screws into the front side about an inch from the top. The screws will go in from the side panels and the tips will enter the front panel from the side. The front portion can then be swung open like a door.
However, it is extremely important to secure the door so that it cannot be opened easily. You can put a secure latch or another screw at the bottom.
A bird house is a truly wonderful and rewarding would project that can be made with a few and only hand tools. Just get the above simple pointers right and you will take great pleasure in providing a home to your small furry friends.
If you are someone who makes and sells birdhouses do some research into bird behaviour. You can inform and educate your buyers about things like cleaning the birdhouse and the right height to install it at. You can also consider including a small manual with the birdhouses containing interesting trivia on bird behaviour and the common birds in your area. It will give a nice branding touch to your wood craft.
All the best. Do share your knowledge and tips on building great birdhouses in the comment section below.