Have I mentioned that I am obsessed with birds? I am. I want them to come live in my garden. Lots of them.
So, in true DIY fashion, I decided to make some houses for them to come and live in. It’s actually super simple. To make a birdhouse you need five pieces: front and back, sides, and floor. If your house has a flat roof, the roof is number six. If you decide to do something different with the roof, there will be more pieces for that.
You’ll need a power drill, screws (my favorite are Fin trim), a regular drill bit and a really big one to drill the hole for the birds to come in and out. Oh, and a chop saw. You could probably do it with a hand saw but it would take a long time and be hard. With a chop saw it’s a breeze.
You know how the first time you make a new recipe you follow the recipe exactly, and then after that you start messing with it and adding your own twist – lemon zest, or a pinch of chili flakes, or a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg? That’s what I did with birdhouses. The first time, I found a plan and followed it exactly. I made a small, square birdhouse for blue birds (also attractive to chickadees and finches). Steve did the same thing with his first birdhouse but he used painted wood and made a little Western style facade so it’s cuter than my first one:
The more I read about birdhouses, the more confident I got. Birds apparently really care about the size of the hole – too small and they can’t get in; too big and predators can follow them. A red bellied woodpecker, for example, wants a hole that’s 2 1/2″ in diameter, whereas a bluebird or swallow box should have a 1 1/2″ hole. They also care about how far from the floor the hole is. And of course, the bigger the bird, the bigger the house: according to my bird house building bible, an eastern bluebird house should have a floor that’s 4″ square while western and mountain bluebirds need 5″ because they have more babies (or, in birder terms, “bigger clutches”). But beyond that, no one seems sure what matters.
So my second time around, I decided to have a little fun.
The secret to the five basic pieces is to cut them out of one board if you can so they’re all the same width. This was a 5″ wide board, so a 5″ piece made a square floor. The front and back are the same length and width – they go on first.
The sides fit between the front and back. They are the same width, but a bit shorter since they will hang in between the front and back and sit on top of the floor. However thick your floor is, that’s how much shorter the sides should be than the front and back. Attach one side at the top and bottom. Attach the other just at the top, so that it will swing on those top screws like a hinge and you can open it to clean out the house.
The roof can be out of anything, allegedly, but it shouldn’t be too thin as you don’t want it to heat up too much and fry your baby birds. I used old wine barrel staves for this one. Then you need some drainage holes in the bottom – use a 1/4 inch drill bit for these – and depending on how snugly your roof fits, some air holes along the roof line. Then take that big spade drill bit and drill the hole in the front an inch below the roof. I also added a perch, just for fun, although I still don’t know if it’s a good idea – some birds like them and some don’t. And a piece of driftwood for the roofline.
Then I really got crazy. Last summer I stripped some log pieces and I’d been saving the bark ever since and one piece just really spoke to me.
I think they are super cute but it really doesn’t matter what I think – it’s all about whether the birds think so too.