A Quick Guide to Building a Birdhouse

Birdhouse construction is a timeless DIY project that’s fun to do at any age. In fact, this fun pastime has been around for hundreds of years. Commonly known as nest boxes, birdhouses were historically constructed from clay, wood, lightweight aluminum, or other natural materials and were used to protect and provide shelter from the outdoor elements for the cute little creatures. Here are some tips and things for you to keep in mind when building a birdhouse, as well as ideas for building one with your family.

Anatomy of a Birdhouse

These mini houses for our feathered friends really haven’t changed much over the years. The anatomy of a birdhouse more or less always stays the same. Whether you make it out of a plastic milk jug with your kids or build it yourself out of hand-crafted wood, its form and function are the same. Every birdhouse is essentially a cavity for birds to build nests in and a shelter from weather and predators. Birdhouses typically have a small entrance hole and a place for the little guys to perch. A slanted roof is ideal to keep the nest dry.

The Anatomy of a Birdhouse

Crafting a Birdhouse with Young Children

For young children aged four to ten, making a birdhouse is a great way to get them to use their imagination, learn fine motor skills, and work with their hands. For an inexpensive activity, you can construct a birdhouse out of recycled materials found around the house. Consider repurposing and upcycling items like milk cartons, coffee cans, tin cans, or even soda bottles. Another option is to purchase a pre-made birdhouse from a local craft store and paint and decorate it. Small unfinished wood houses can be purchased for as little as one dollar.

A recycled milk carton is ideal because the top of the carton that will serve as a roof is sloped. To make a milk carton birdhouse, make sure it is clean and dry. Draw the entrance hole on the front of the carton approximately two inches from the bottom. Use a sharp craft knife to cut out the hole. Let your children paint the birdhouse in the color of their choice, and give them the freedom to paint it however they want with polka dots, stripes, or other fun patterns. You can embellish the birdhouse with sticks collected from the yard for the roof. Glue another stick below the hole to create a perch, or punch two holes in the tab where your roof begins and tie a string there to hang it from a tree. You can also fill your birdhouse with bird seed and use it as a bird feeder.

Building a Milk Carton Birdhouse

Making a Birdhouse with Tweens and Teens

For tweens and teens, I find that pre-made birdhouses work well. You can purchase two or three made from unfinished wood to make a multi-house bird condo. Teens can get more elaborate with their creativity by decorating a birdhouse with pebbles or polished stones, wine corks, or sticks. An industrial -strength adhesive works well for this type of project. They can also use stencils to paint the sides and roof for more intricate detail.

To make a birdhouse condo with your teen, purchase three pre-made birdhouses at the craft store. They range in price anywhere from $1 to $10 apiece depending on the size. Make sure the birdhouses differ in height and style to add more flair to your project. Use wood glue to attach the houses together – be sure to arrange them so that the entrance holes are facing out. Once the glue is dry, your teen can get creative with painting each house in different vibrant colors. To stencil the front or sides, choose a small graphic to fit your project. Less is more when applying the paint to your spouncer: be sure to blot out any excess paint onto a paper plate or newspaper. Use the spouncer in an up-and-down motion to apply the paint, while holding the stencil steady and in place to avoid bleeding. Once your bird condo is dry, you can hang it or mount it on a pole.

Building a Birdhouse Condominium

Building a Birdhouse for Adults

Birdhouse construction isn’t only for kids; it’s a great DIY project for adults as well. The advanced DIYer can make them from scratch, while those with other skill sets and crafty folk can make them from repurposed junk items, which is fun and trendy these days. You can use license plates for roofs; spoons for perches; and wine bottles, teapots, or clay pots as houses. The possibilities are endless when creating one that fits your personal style. I've even seen one made out of an old boot!

For adults, there are a few things to keep in mind when constructing a birdhouse that will attract our little feathered friends. You want to make one that is functional and will last a few years. Consider elements such as an overhang above the entrance hole or drainage holes for rain. Research the appropriate size of the hole as well: the size of the entrance hole and size of the actual house will attract different types of birds. This will, of course, depend on your locale and personal preferences. Placement is important as well. Mount or hang your birdhouse away from direct sunlight and where there is shelter from the rain. You can also mount it on a pole, which will allow you to control the desired height. Lastly, be sure to clean your birdhouse once a year. When building one of your own, you may want to have a hinged opening on top to make cleaning easy.

As you can see, making birdhouses comes in all shapes, sizes, materials, and skill sets. Though diverse and full of unique possibilities, birdhouses all provide the same functionality and purpose. Depending on what you want to accomplish, I hope these tips for building your ultimate birdhouse will come in handy.

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