Building Bird Houses
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Handmade Bird Houses

Multi-unit Barn Bird HouseMulti-Unit Barn Bird House

Whether you build decorative houses or plainly functional, all will serve a purpose and I have seen a wide variety of bird homes used by our feathered friends over the years.

Even ones some people adamantly stated that would remain empty and never attract a dweller.

So enjoy, because there is a very good possibility the birds will.

There are no guarantees that wild birds will take up residence when building bird houses... but there are things you can do to help.

Erecting bird houses outdoors for your backyard friends can add a distinctive flavor to your garden.

And provide you many hours of pleasure and satisfaction, both while building and watching your backyard birds enjoy the homes you provide for them.

But just because you build it, does not mean they will use it. There are however a number of things you can do to attract birds and bring success to your wild bird housing plans.

Bird Houses & Building Bird Houses
Book Recommendations

Two modifications I would suggest to any bird house plans you make or purchase:

1. Omit installing the perches, as perches only assist predators to get in easier!

2. Make a modification to the birdhouse instructions to make it easy to open your bird house so you can clean it out every year in the autumn.

And answer this question before you start your search:

"Do you want a hanging bird home or do you want a bird house on a pole, in which case you will need to erect a bird house pole?

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How To Build A
Bird House Books

Building Bird Houses for Easier Cleaning

Bird houses need to be easy to open for cleaning.

Nesting birds will not build a new nest in a house that contains last year’s nest. Knowing wild bird nesting habits is important.

It must be cleaned out after every nesting season.

An un-hatched egg or dead chick could be left in the house from the previous season and will need to be removed before the same family or another will take up residence.

handmade bird housesHandmade Bird Houses

Usually this means one side can be opened or the roof can lift up.

This can be done by means of a pin that allows a pivotal action or with a hinge.

A raccoon and squirrel proof lock must be attached, to keep them from eating the eggs or young birds.

A method of easy access to the bird house for cleaning, also is a nice feature that allows the bird watcher a quick peak.

What an exciting way to further enjoy your backyard birds!

This must be done with some care and caution though.

It is crucial to only do this when the parent birds are away and only very briefly.

A quick look can alert a diligent landlord to problems which may be averted; for example improper drainage or lice problems.


Never sneak a peek when the young are near the end of their fledge stage.

(Fledge is the stage of growing feathers to ready for flying.)

It may cause them to leave the bird nest just before they are actually ready to fly and they will likely not survive.

Entrance Holes for Bird House Plans 

The entrance to a bird house must be cut to the proper diameter to ensure that the appropriate bird will be attracted to it when building bird houses.

Cutting the holes too large will enable larger birds or other predators access to the baby birds.

diy bird houseDIY Chickadee House

Therefore it is important that you know the correct size of the entrance required to attract the birds that are suited to a bird house. The correct measurements are given in the following chart.

Bird House Plans ~ Entrance Hole Chart

Nuthatch (1-1.25 inches)

Chickadee (1.125 inches)

Titmouse (1.25 inches)

Beswick’s Wren (1.25 inches)

Downy Woodpecker (1.25 inches)

Bluebird (1.5 inches)

Carolina Wren (1.5 inches)

Swallow (1.5 inches)

Hairy Woodpecker (1.5 inches)

Crested Flycatcher (2 inches)

Red-Headed Woodpecker (2 inches)

Purple Martin (crescent shape)

Flicker (2.5 inches)

Mourning Dove (half side of gourd open)

Barn Swallow (half side of gourd open)

Phoebe (half side of gourd open)

Robin (half side of gourd open)

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Ventilation Is Essential

When building bird houses they must be designed to allow free flowing air for good ventilation.

There should be small openings in the top of the bird house, under the overhang of the roof. This allows hot air to escape to prevent over heating and create the flow of fresh air through the bird house.

When building bird houses the ventilation opening should be small enough as to not allow predators to reach inside.

Choose Paint Carefully

If you choose to paint your bird house, only use approved oil paints that are classified as safe for bird houses, or use exterior latex paint. Lead-based paints or creosote should be avoided.

Never paint the inside of a bird house. Fumes from painting the inside, or using the wrong kind of paint on the outside of the bird house, as just mentioned, can cause sickness or death to wild birds.

Something to think about: Just because you like bright colors, does not mean the songbirds you want to attract will share your enthusiasm.

Nesting birds actually prefer tans, browns or grays that will blend in with the surroundings and therefore are less obvious to predators.

But they will use brightly painted decorative bird houses as a second choice.

"To Perch or Not to Perch"

If your bird house plan involves a perch, you should ditch it. Most cavity-dwelling birds can cling without the assistance of a perch.

A perch at the entrance of a bird house will only assist predatory birds such as Starlings, Blue Jays and Blackbirds as they are not adept at clinging.

A perch makes it easier for these predatory birds in their quest to invade the bird house to destroy the bird’s nest; eat the eggs or baby birds.

Recycled Hard Hat Bird HouseRecycled Hard Hat Bird House

It is therefore worth considering when building bird houses if a perch is really necessary.

Stave Off Predators

Installing a predator guard to the entrance of the bird house will help to stave off raccoons, squirrels and predatory birds. If you are building bird houses and want to protect the baby birds and eggs, attach blocks of wood that are about 1 ¼ inches thick around the entrance.

add a predator guard to bird houseHouse With Predator Guard

(If this were my house I would cut off the perch attached to the Guard.)

Predator guards can also be purchased and attached to the entrance.

Nice selection here.

Metal predator guards will be more effective than wood or plastic. Metal will prevent paws and beaks from tearing and chewing the guard off.

If yours is mounted on a bird house pole, installing a baffle on the pole, under the bird house, is very effective for stopping squirrels, cats and raccoons from reaching the bird house.

Plans To Make A Bird House? Get a Ladder!

Bird houses will need a “ladder” on the inside. Some types of wood, such as pine, when used in building bird houses, have very smooth hard surfaces that do not allow the young birds toe holds, to climb out of their houses.

A bird ladder can be applied by roughing up or scoring the wall under the entrance, on the inside of the bird house. This will assist the baby birds in crawling out when it is time to fledge.

Houses made with cedar will not need to have a ladder "installed" because the wood is naturally rough providing the baby birds with a surface they can climb to the entrance hole.

Natural cavities used for nesting are rough inside and naturally provide a "ladder" for the baby birds.

Why Is Drainage Important?

Bird houses need to have drainage holes. From time to time driving rain will get in and needs a way to get out. Drainage holes will allow water to drain out of the birdhouse to keep the bird’s nest dry. This will help ensure a healthy bird abode for the nesting parents and their baby birds.

Choose Materials Carefully When Building Bird Houses

The material that is used when building bird houses is an important factor.

The decision will be based on the climate where a bird house is to be erected and the ability to perform maintenance on the bird house.

Metal can get very hot during the summer months so this makes metal

handmade bluebird housesHandmade Bluebird Houses

bird houses not a good choice for certain areas where summer temperatures are hot.

Aluminum is a better choice as it will not hold the heat as other metals do.

Wood has good insulation properties, warmer in cooler temperatures and cooler in hotter weather, comparatively speaking.

When wood is painted a light colour it again increases the ability to stay cooler in the hotter climates.

It is often stated that Purple Martin houses should be made in light colours to prevent over heating of the baby birds during the nesting season. This is good advice for southern regions of the United States for example where the temperatures can reach dangerously high levels for baby birds.

artistically made purple martin houseArtistic Purple Martin House

Therefore a light coloured bird house is better, as it deflects heat rather than dark colours which absorb heat.

In the northern regions of the United States and in Canada where temperatures in May and June can be very cool, a darker Purple Martin house may be preferable.

There have been years when these two months were too cold for many little birds and they succumbed to the elements.

This noticeably depleted the Purple Martin population in these regions.

What Type of Wood to Use?

Cedar and pine are popular types of wood to use when building bird houses.

Pine, although often less expensive to purchase, is heavier than cedar. So it may be more cumbersome to manage when cleaning a larger bird house, like a Purple Martin House.

Cedar will last longer than pine but both will last for many years. Both types of wood will age with a natural patina if left untreated.

Happy bird house building!!

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More info on building bird houses in the right column above & some here too you may find helpful.

  • Wild Bird Shelters for roosting or homes for cavity nesters are a good way to keep birds in your yard for great bird watching.

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