For The Birds

For The Birds

Ahh spring, when a birds' attention turns towards mating. Which means nesting and, if you supply an attractive site for them, you'll end up with a backyard brood that provides constant entertainment. There's plenty of room for creativity in the design of a birdhouse, from pseudo-Victorian styles to zestier models that can echo an alien space ship...the birds aren't really that choosy. Before you start building, consult some local naturalists to find out which birds are likely occupants, then check out Specifications for Birdhouses.

For any winged tenants, you'll need to keep some basics in mind:

  • Build the birdhouse out of wood, evoking natural tree nests. Cypress and cedar are prime options, pine a less expensive choice.
  • On the inside walls and floor, make sure to avoid wood treated with stains or chemicals that could harm hatchlings. Leave those sections unsanded and unpainted, so that nestlings can eventually clamber out and test their wings.
  • Painting the exterior will help the birdhouse last longer and allow for some fun designs.
  • Flat roofs are a no-no and be sure to build a long eave (three inches minimum) so that water doesn't dump onto the entrance hole.
  • Besides the primary entrance hole (that varies depending on the feathered resident), drill several extra smaller (1/4 inch) holes in the floors and walls for ventilation and drainage. Also, position the entrance hole away from the area's prevailing winds, so your birds don't get wiped out during storms.
  • Be sure to protect birds from animals such as squirrels, cats or raccoons who will fight the birds for food, or worse yet, kill them outright. Mess this up and you've build a birdtrap, not a birdhouse.
  • It's best to mount the house on a metal pole that's cemented into the ground. And keep it a solid six feet off the ground, well out of cat-leap range. Smearing the pole with slippery substances like petroleum jelly and hot-pepper spray will foil climbing attacks.
  • Build the house so that the top lifts off or unscrews for easy cleaning. You'll want to check periodically for insect invasions, dampness and other problems.
  • Finally, if you build more than one birdhouse, distance them from each other to avoid the natural turf wars that can break out under cramped conditions.

The shopping list:

  • Wood for the house walls, floor and roof
  • Hand or power saw
  • Sandpaper glue for joints
  • Power drill, with bit large enough to drill main entrance hole
  • Latex exterior paint
  • Primer
  • Iron pole and fittings to attach to the birdhouse
  • Cement mix and gravel for sink base