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How to build a cheap bird house

Some birds are cavity nesters and will use a house that you build. Some birds need bushes and trees (native to your state), others nest on the ground. All do not tolerate weeds. Yes, leave the weeds and you'll have less birds, more rodents. You can build all sorts of fancy birdhouses, or nest boxes, but the birds really do not care for fancy, they prefer simple, natural, and rough nests. They nest in holes in trees remember? Wild birds do not hire a wild land Realtor. When you start looking around there's all sorts of junk wood laying about. 1X6 cedar or redwood are probably best, but we've used 1/2 or thicker exterior plywood, OBS and pine before. The wood needs to be old and rough. Smooth particle board, metal, or plastic are not good. No paint, natural. The dimensions do not have to be perfect. Close is usually good enough. So if you do not have anything but a screw driver and hand saw look for wood that is close to the right thickness and width to start. A box that is an inch too big or small will still probably be used, if the hole is the right size and the right distance from the bottom. Placement of the boxes matter, put the boxes where birds want to be. Put the bird house along the edge of the the woods, on a fence, house or tree facing an open area with the hole pointing away from spring winds. This is usually south.
bird house with side door and its screw handle - grid24_12
A picture showing the dimensions.
Junk wood - grid24_12
Junk wood that you 'found' laying around your yard or a vacant lot works fine. 1x6 cedar or redwood is preffered, but plywood or pine also work fine
completed bird house - grid24_12
A completed bird house. The roof slope can be forward or backward according to the box size. The hole over the side that opens is to hold the door closed. It doesn't have to be screwed in all the way, just enough to hold the birds in, varmints out.
the bottom of the birdhouse with a side off and another open - grid24_12
The hinged side of incomplete bird house open, this is why bottom, is not bottom
bird house measurements - grid24_12
Inside bottom, a on dimensions list. The bottom has a couple of tricks. Notch the corners so there is some ventilation. The bottom is actually not at the 'bottom' but up about 1/2 inch so that the side can hinge. I found it is easier to put the sides on first, then put the bottom on.
How to bird house - grid24_12
A side view with the bottom exposed, notice gaps for ventilation.
bird house bottom with air holes - grid24_12
Remember the vent notches, no cooked bird please.
pre-drilling and counter sinking the screw holes - grid24_12
The counter sink bit for a drill in action. Counter sink the holes! The wood will split easily, you will have nothing but little bitty twigs. unless you counter sink and predrill the holes.
bird house plans - grid24_12
Basic birdhouse plan. Keep it simple. The wood should be at least 1/2 inch thick, 9/6-1 inch would be better, larger wood is hard to work with, but might be used where the temperatures are below 0F or above 120F when the birds are nesting.
top of bird house showing keeper of hinged side - grid24_12
Sometimes the hinge screws can be difficult, so play attention to those and do not screw them all the way in. Leave the hinge screws a little loose or besides splitting the wood, you'll not be able to open the door.
top fit of bird house - grid24_12
Do not get fancy with your bird house roof. It needs a little breathing roof. Do not try to jet it really close and tight.

Here are the basic sizes for nest boxes. Much of this information came from "Wildlife Management Techniques Manual", but other books and our experience are also included. A board sticking up is to attach it to the tree or post. Sometimes one of the sides is extended high and that is attached to the tree. My concerns are spring showers running into the box. attaching the board on separately keeps the house dry.

Bird Species

A

inches

B

inches

C

inches

D

inches

F

above ground in feet

Bluebird

5x5

8

6

1 1/2

5-10

Robin

6x6

8

one open side

6-15

Chickadee

4x4

8-10

6-8

1 1/8

6-15

Titmouse

4x4

8-10

6-8

1 1/4

6-15

Nuthatch

4x4

8-10

6-8

1 1/4

12-20

House wren

4x4

6-8

1-6

1-1 1/4

6-10

Bewick's wren

4x4

6-8

1-6

1-1 1/4

6-10

Violet-green swallow

5x5

6

1-5

1 1/2

10-15

Tree swallow

5x5

5

1-5

1 1/2

10-15

Barn swallow

6x6

6

one open side

8-12

Purple martin

6x6

6

1

2 1/2

8-12

Phoebe

6x6

6

one open side

8-12

Flycatcher

6x6

8

8

6

2

Flicker

7x7

16-18

14-16

2 1/2

6-20

Downy woodpecker

4x4

9-12

6-8

1 1/4

6-20

Hairy woodpecker

6x6

12-15

9-12

1 1/2

12-20

Screech owl

8x8

12-15

9-12

3

10-30

Sparrow hawk

8x8

12-15

9-12

3

10-30

Wood duck

10x18

10-24

12-16

4

10-20


This bird house was used by the Western Blue Birds one year, a Ash Throated Flycatcher the next. - grid24_12
This bird house has been up for about 10 years and used every year.