How to Build a Bird House
Out of Scrap Wood
All the bird houses I've created have been made out
of scrap wood. I don't follow any particular design and just expect
whatever bird that wants it can move in. I've found that ALL the houses
I've made have been occupied. The only exception is when two houses are
too close together. I gather there are territorial reasons for this.
This page is a description of how I go about making the house and the steps
Step 1: Choose your wood
|The sources of wood range from scraps left over from other projects,
firewood and walls from buildings that have come down. I don't worry
about the quality of the wood. It can be as rotten and ugly as
possible. As I see it, the house just gets character from this and
the birds have not complained yet. In fact, the houses with holes
and defects are repaired by the birds!
There are 3 pieces of wood you need to obtain.
Board #1: The front, floor and back - It's important that you use the
same width of wood for these three parts of the house. This GREATLY
aids in the construction. In general you want rather thin
wood. The front of the house opens more easily if it's thin.
The only drawback to this is the back of the house is what nails onto the
tree. You'd like this thicker for more strength. Therefore, if
you have a piece of wood that is the same width, but thicker, use it for
Board #2. The sides - I like this piece of wood to be as wide as
possible. This gives the bird more floor room and the house more depth.
Board #3. The roof - Doesn't matter much as long as it's large enough
to cover the house when it's done. I've used all kinds of ugly and too
large of pieces in the past.
Step 2: Cut the sides
|Measure an arbitrary distance of x from
either side of the board (see diagram). You want the value of y
to be about 1-2 inches greater than x.
This will determine the slope of the roof. Use a pen or nail to mark
the line you will cut. Then cut it!
Step 3: Cut the front
|Measure the same distance of x as you did
for the sides. This will become the front of the house (see
diagram). Once again, use your nail or pen to mark the line, then cut!
Step 3: Cut the floor
|The floor is by far the most tricky measurement in this design. The
distance of z must be smaller than the width
of wood used for the sides. This is so the back and front of the
house are flush (see diagram). Mathematically, you take twice the
thickness of the board used for the front and back and subtract it from
the width of the board used for the sides. It's important to error on the
side of z being smaller rather than
larger. The birds are going to fill the floor with nesting material
Step 4: Cut the back
From your original board used to obtain the front and floor cut off a length
of wood longer than side y. This is so you'll
have an area to nail onto a tree. I like to make this length 4-5 inches
longer than y.
Step 5: Cut the roof
There's not much to say about the roof. Just make sure its length and
width are large enough to cover the top of the house. The roof is the last
to be nailed on, so I don't even think about it until the rest of the house is
Step 6: Nail the sides to the back
|The order in which you nail/screw the house together is important
otherwise things won't fit very well. The first step is to nail each
of your sides to the back of the house. Make sure that your roof
will still be able to sit flush. Don't worry about holes, gaps or
spaces. I've found the birds like these and will plug anything they
don't like with twigs anyway.
Step 7: Nail the floor to the sides
|The next step is to attach the floor to the sides. Fit the floor so it
meets the back of the house. You may want the front end of the floor
to be slightly lower than the back end. This is so any moisture that
accidently gets inside the house can somewhat drain towards the front of
the house. The diagram shows this somewhat exagerated. Also,
put the floor somewhat higher in the sides so it's protected from outside
rain (see diagram).
Step 8: Nail the front to the sides
|Naturally, any good birdhouse must have a way to be opened. This
is so you can clean out the previous years nests and kick out the mice
that have moved in over winter. Therefore, the front of the house is
also a door. The front of the house is only attached by two nails
which act as hinges. See the red dot on the
diagram to see what I mean. The front of the house swings open from
the bottom. When attaching the front to the sides make sure you
leave a small gap at the top. That way when you open the front when
the roof is attached the wood doesn't get stuck on the roof. I can't
count the number of times I've made this mistake. See the diagram for an
exagerated description. The trick is leave as little gap as possible but
yet leave room for the top of the door to not hit the roof. The
thicker your wood for the front the larger this gap must be. Trial
and error will teach you!
Step 9: Nail roof to the sides
|This is a simple step as long as you can get the roof nailed into the
edges of the sides! I sometimes drill these holes a bit before
nailing to prevent cracking the sides of the house. Also, the wood I
use for the roof is usually oversized firewood which makes nailing
hard! Make sure the roof you choose is large enough to cover the
entire top of the house, both the sides and front should have some
Step 10: Drill and insert a locking pin
|As the house is constructed right now the front will swing open by
itself. Therefore, you need to pre-drill a hole and insert a nail that
will act as a locking pin. Make sure to drill the hole larger than
the nail is round. The wood will swell with moisture over time and
the wood will warp. If you don't do this then you'll need a pair of
plyers to get the pin out. Then again, you don't want the nail so loose it
falls out by accident. I have had this happen a number of times as
well. Finally, make sure that you don't drill the hole deeper than the
nail is long. You want a bit of the nail sticking out so you can
grab onto it. You only need a single nail as the locking pin and I
place it where you see the green dot in the
Step 11: Drill the entrance hole
|Now it's time to drill the hole for the birds to enter. I choose
hole sizes from 3/4 inch all the way up to 3 inches depending on the size
of the house. I have no idea what kind of bird is going to take the
house so I just try to make houses with the full range of sizes. You'd be
surprised how many of the holes are actually enlarged over the years by
them pecking and chewing at the entrance. When you drill/cut the
hole make sure to not hit your red hinge
Step 12: Nail the mounting nails
|Last but not least is to put in a few nails which will be used to attach
the house to a tree or post. I like to put these nails in during the
construction of the house so it's easier out in the field to get them
attached. There's no trick here. I typically use 3 nails.
|This is what a typical house looks like. You can bearly see the
locking-nail on the lower-right side of the house.
||When it's time to build houses I very often pre-cut wood to build
several at once. My record number is somewhere around 27 houses at
once. This takes me about 2-3 days to complete.
|The wood I use comes from all sorts of places. I have never had to
purchase wood for any of the 200+ houses I've made so far. The wood
you see here came from a wall we took down in the house. It's crappy
cedar and was a real pain to cut into usable pieces. I expect these
houses to rot and fall out of the trees sooner than most.
||This is my work area for constructing houses during the day. When
work is bothering me or stressing me out I put on the portable phone and
do start building as a means of stress relief or psychological theropy.
That's how I got started. It gives me a chance to do something
essentially stress free since the birds can't talk back and I don't care
what the end result ends up looking like.
|This particlar house came together fairly nicely. It should have
had more of an overhang on the roof and more room for nails in the back
but I don't concern myself with these things. You'll find that
almost all the houses get used anyway. Even the real bad
||Here is a pile of houses that need to be put up yet. They
sometimes sit on the ground for weeks before I find the time to putting