How to Guide: Building a Birdhouse
What better way to interest a child in your woodworking hobby than building a birdhouse. Birdhouses come in many shapes and sizes but the best birdhouse is one that was built together by a child with the help of a special adult.
The type of birds residing in your area will determine the design of the birdhouse. Birds like houses just large enough for their nests. They also want the door to be no bigger than their body so predators will not be able to enter.
Drainage, ventilation and the ability to clean the birdhouse are important design factors. The roof should have a 1/4″ opening to allow for air flow. The bottom should fit loosely so any water may easily drain out.
It is very important to have access to the inside of the birdhouse so the old nest may be removed at the end of the nesting season. This may be done by using screws to assemble the birdhouse. I highly recommend constructing it in such a way so the bottom may be removed.
New or Scrap lumber is appropriate for this project. All types of wood may be used including plywood and particle board. DO NOT use pressure-treated lumber. The chemicals from the pressure-treated lumber may hurt the birds. When deciding on the type of wood to use think about the weather in the area. Solid woods would be better to use in humid areas. A small dowel will be needed to use as the perch.
Birds are fickle when it comes to the size houses they desire to live in. Choose from one of the following for your birdhouse dimensions:
Wrens prefer a floor that is 4″x 4″ with an interior that is 7″ to the peak. The entry should be a 1″ hole. The house should be hung 6′ off the ground.
House Finches prefer a floor that is 6″x 6″ with an interior height of 6″. The entry hold should be 2″ and hung 8′ off the ground.
Chickadees prefer a 4″x 4″ floor with an interior peak of 8″. The entry hole should be 1 1/8″ in diameter and hung 5′ off the ground.
Tree Swallows like a 5″x 5″ floor with an interior peak of 6″. The entry hole should be 1 1/2″ and hung 5′ off the ground.
Barn Swallows want a 6″x 6″ floor with an interior peak of 6″. The house should only be three sided. They do not like enclosed areas. The birdhouse should be hung 8′ off the ground.
Purple Martins like a 6″x 6″ floor with an interior peak of 6″. The entry hole should be 2 1/2″ and hung 17′ off the ground.
A Downy Woodpecker likes a 4″x 4″ floor with an interior peak of 10″. The entry hole should be 1 1/4″ and hung 12′ off the ground.
The Hairy Woodpecker likes a 5 1/2″x 5 1/2″ floor with a 14″ peak. The entry hole should be 1 3/4″ in diameter and hung 20′ off the ground.
The Nuthatch likes a 4″x4″ floor with an 8″ peak. The entry hole should be 1 1/4″ in diameter and hung 12′ off the ground.
The Easter Bluebird likes a 5″x 5″ floor with a 9″ peak. The entry hole should be 1 1/2″ in diameter and hung 4′ off the ground.
Cutting the Lumber
Once the desired birdhouse design is decided, it’s now time to cut the lumber. Whether using scrap or new lumber it is appropriate to use either a table saw or miter saw to cut the pieces into the appropriate sizes. The ideal lumber to use is 1″ lumber.
The front and back pieces should be cut to overlap the sides. Take the dimension of the bottom of the birdhouse and add the depth of the side pieces to determine the appropriate size for the front and back pieces. Cut two sides, two for the front and back, one base and the two pieces for the roof.
Example: If you are making a birdhouse for a Wren, base dimensions would be 4″x 4 1/4″. The sides should measure 4 1/4″x 5 1/4″. The front and back should measure 5 1/2″x 5 1/2″ with a 90 degree peak. The roof will have two pieces, one measuring 6 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ and one measuring 6 1/2″x 5 1/4″.
Before assembly, drill a 1″ hole in the front of the birdhouse as the door. The hole should be centered in the middle of the 5 1/2″x 5 1/2″ square front. Do not use the peak as part of the centering process. Use a twist bit and drill a hole for the perch 1/2″ to 3/4″ below the hole.
Assemble the birdhouse by attaching the front and the back to the sides of the house. Nails or screws may be used to do this. Waterproof glue may be used between the pieces if so desired. Attach the bottom using screws so the base may be removed for easy cleaning. Do not use wood glue on the base. Attach the roof making sure to leave a 3/4″ overlap at the top. This will help for the ventilation.
Cut the perch and glue it into the perch hole using waterproof glue.
Once the birdhouse is assembled, sand the entire surface if desired. Stain, paint, decorate and then hang the birdhouse. Be sure to follow the hanging instructions given earlier in this article. For a Wren house, the finished birdhouse should be hung 6′ off the ground. Make sure that the birdhouse is completely dry before hanging to prevent the birds from getting sick from the fumes.