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Winter Bird Care: How to Build a Birdhouse? 

 Birdwatching is a great pastime for all. Wild birds amuse us with the daily dose of melodies and brighten our day by delighting our eyes with their colorful wings, sparkling eyes, and cute beaks! Installing a birdhouse can be an effective way to attract different types of birds to your yard. What’s more, the protective shelter provided by the birdhouse can be a timely lifesaver, a welcome respite for cavity nesters in winter. Nearly every animal seeks protection from cold nights, snow storms and hungry predators. The birdhouse is a safe refuge for them to rest, roost and keep warm, and most importantly, it’s a desirable estate all year round. In spring and summer, the birdhouse will become a summer resort where songbirds can nest, breed and raise their young. 

The Best Time to Put Out Birdhouses

Knowing when to put out birdhouses is essential for bird lovers to attract the specific kind of birds, such as purple martins and cardinals, to their gardens. You can learn when these birds will probably arrive in the region and install your birdhouses only one or two weeks before their expected appearance or the other birds will very much likely take up residence before they do. For birders who are fine with any bird species, you can put your birdhouses out all year round as long as you clean and sanitize them after each brood. There is no bad time to put out birdhouses but it would be a good try if you have them up during the nesting season and host the new feathered families. Some cavity nesters like wrens, bluejays, and chickadees will start looking for shelters as early as January and February, so now is the prime time to put out your birdhouses and welcome new family members. Moreover, the freezing passers-by would also use the available birdhouses as shelters from cold temperatures and predators before the nesting season. 

How to Build a Birdhouse On Your Own?

Building a birdhouse is a simple woodworking project you can do with your children over a weekend! Now, follow the instructions below to start your crafty!

1. Prepare the Materials

Purchase some untreated and unpainted wood, such as cedar, pine or cypress, to ensure that the weather will not tear down or damage the birdhouse easily. And the unpainted wood will also allow you to paint the birdhouse with different colors later on. The dimensions of each wood lumber should be approximately 2cm-5cm thick. Moreover, you also need some tools: a miter saw, a Phillips screwdriver, some exterior wood screws (instead of using nails which loosen over time and tear your birdhouse apart, galvanized screws will lock your birdhouse more tightly), wood glue, C-clamps (used to secure the birdhouse while the glue dries and while drilling the galvanized screws), a zinc-plated hinge, a paintbrush and outdoor paint. 

2. Cut the Pieces

Cut the wood into pieces with the miter saw to the following dimensions: 13 1/2 inches×6 inches for the back; 9 inches×6 inches for the front panel; 7 1/2 inches×6 inches for the roof; 4 inches×6 inches for the floor; (2) 9 inches×6 inches for sideboards). The measurements could vary depending on your intended sizes, and any untreated wood or scrap lumbers will also work if no standard materials are available. And remember to scrub the edges with sandpaper to smooth things over. You can also use a regular saw and a ruler to cut the wood or pay someone at the hardware store to cut the pieces to the exact dimensions for you. At the end of the cutting, you should have six pieces of wood.

3. Drill the Holes

Drill an entrance hole on the front panel (1-1/2″ from the sides and 1-3/4″ from the top) with the help of a compass (used to draw a perfect circle) and a tapping machine (if available) and slightly rub the edges with sandpaper to smooth the cuts as well. Beware that the optimal size of an entrance hole should be precise, something between 1 and 3 inches: too small and no one fits in; too big and visitors you don’t want, like house sparrows and even squirrels will get in. If you accidentally get your hole too large, do worry, you can adjust it by attaching some predator guards. Open a window on either side of the birdhouse to let the natural light in and cover it with a removable, translucent panel to keep the rain out. Considering that an enclosed environment mixed with wastes and water is a perfect breeding ground for deadly fungi and bacteria which will compromise your feathered friends’ health and cause disastrous consequences, it is essential that you open some ventilators at the bottom for air ventilation and water drainage to avoid bacteria breeding and insect infestation. 

4. Paint the Wood

Before you start, just remember: “Don’t pick the wrong colors!”. A birdhouse painted with camouflage colors such as gray, brown or green provides birds with excellent camouflage against predators. Bright colors may look amusing but they will scare off the birds. Pick up some natural-looking, outdoor paints and apply them with a paintbrush and let them dry for as long as necessary. If you want rich colors with little maintenance and easy application, go with oil-based paints. They are more resistant to low temperatures and can be easily applied on a wooden surface. And please note that the interiors should not be painted. The paint inside the birdhouse can peel off over time as hatchlings start scratching the paint inside. Lastly, seal the exteriors with non-toxic linseed oil so the colors can last longer. 

5. Assemble the Birdhouse

Using wood glue would be the easiest way to assemble the birdhouse, but it is way better to put all the pieces together with the galvanized screws after the glue sets. Nails are acceptable but not suggested for they may loosen gradually in long-time use. Use a wooden stick to spread the wood glue to the edges of the floorboard and attach one of the sideboards, the front and the back panels to it. If possible, use a clamp to line up the wood pieces during the assembly and leave the glue to dry up for 30 minutes. Then secure these pieces with the long screws. To make a removable side panel, you will need to slide in the remaining sideboard and keep it in the frame. Then place the roof on the top and attach it to the other three sides (front/back/left side) with the wood screws, and no screws are needed on the right side where you just slid in the sideboard. Next, use the zinc-plated hinge to put the roof and the right side board together, so you’ll have a removable panel on the side. After that, check if the panel moves smoothly and make sure the other parts are a hundred percent secure.

6. Install the Birdhouse

Finding the right place for your birdhouse is as important as how it’s constructed. Hanging your birdhouse from a branch is not recommended as it can easily fall down. You should mount it to a metal pole to keep it from swaying, wobbling or moving when the birds come in and out. Trees and spaces under eaves can work well but a free-standing pole with a baffle can offer protection from many predators, like squirrels, cats and snakes. Avoid places where pesticides are used. Not only are they bad for wild birds’ health in general, but the chemicals can also eliminate the birds’ prime food source, insects. Use supporting materials like PVC pipes or wooden strips for further reinforcement. Face your birdhouse east so it can receive natural sunlight in the morning. Since different birds dwell at different heights, try to figure out the best mounting level to attract the birds you want to observe. But you need to keep the birdhouse at least 5 feet off the ground, which makes it easy for you to clean it out and keeps it away from most predators. 

Pre-Assembled Birdhouse Ready to GO!!

For someone who doesn’t have the time to build a birdhouse on their own, we also have a Natural Cedar Birdhouse for sale. Hand-crafted from high-quality cedarwood, this birdhouse is made of non-toxic and responsibly sourced material, which makes it naturally waterproof and resistant to rot, decay, and insect infestation. The hinged rooftop and the front panel are removable so you can easily clean the nest box at the end of the season and get it ready for the next brood. On one side of the birdhouse is a window covered with a removable, clear plastic panel, letting enough light in and keeping the rain out. And the front board is also decorated with grooved interiors to help the fledglings climb out of the nest box. The base of the box is four ventilation holes and a mesh floor, to maximize air circulation and water drainage. And the best part of this birdhouse is that it’s specially designed to work with our range of bird box cameras to allow you to see all the happenings inside. 

Final Thoughts

Maintaining your birdhouse is just as important. Do not add perches to your birdhouse since they are unnecessary for nesting birds and will only help large predators gain access. Birds will have one to three broods each nesting season so it’s important to remove the debris and clean up the interiors with soap and water to prevent diseases. Moreover, for some dedicated bird watchers who are curious about all the tweety comings and goings inside the nest box, we also have written a tutorial on how to install a bird box camera into the birdhouse. For information, please continue to read Tips for Bird Box Camera Installation

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