Birdhouse Basics

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Spring is just around the corner.  If you would like to invite birds to nest in your yard, now is the time to start thinking about it.  Having a birdhouse up in early spring when they are first starting to nest will increase your chances of attracting a tenant.

You should try making a birdhouse; it’s an easy and satisfying project.  All you need is a plan and a few simple tools. If you already have a birdhouse or if you want to build one, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • As it turns out, birds are as particular as humans about the type of house they prefer.  Design your birdhouse to attract a specific type of bird.  That means the proper dimensions, entrance size, height and location.  Birds can be very particular about the entrance-hole size, so measurements must be fairly exact. As a bonus, properly sized entrance holes will help keep out predators and unwanted species.

  • Some birds, like robins and cardinals prefer an open platform in a sheltered spot with half-width sides, a back and a roof with an open front so they can build their own shelter.
  • Be sure to use nontoxic materials.  Chose a wood that will hold up well outdoors.  The interior should be unfinished.  If you choose to paint the outside, consider light colors to keep it cooler in summer.

  • Like your home, good ventilation and drainage are very important.  Leave a little gap between the walls and roof and have it face north or east to help keep the heat down.  Be sure to drill some holes in the floor to drain any water that gets in.  A roof overhang above the entrance will help also keep the interior dry.

  • Birds don’t do cleaning, so make it easy on yourself – provide a way to open the top or sides so you can clean the interior in the fall.

  • Forget the perch by the door.  Somehow it became a standard feature on birdhouses but it is actually a bad idea; most birds don’t need it and it can provide easier access for predators after the hatchlings.

  • You can hang your house from a branch or make an easy mounting system by attaching a galvanized ¾” flange to the bottom that you can then just screw onto a pipe driven into the ground. As a bonus, a metal pole is tougher for predators to climb.  Be sure the pole is the right height for the birds you want to attract.

  • Birds prefer to dine out so don’t put your birdhouse too close to a feeder and don’t put houses too close together.  If you want to hang two in a tree, be sure it’s a really big tree.

A birdhouse is a simple construction project, perfect for beginning bird-watchers and novice carpenters.  It will provide hours of entertainment and education for your entire family.


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