If you haven’t built a birdhouse before, we have some unique birdhouse projects to build that make attracting songbirds all that more fun! To create a sturdy, effective birdhouse, you’ll want to gather the proper materials before getting started.
The best materials needed to build a birdhouse include 3/4 cedarwood (or other natural waterproof wood), galvanized screws/finishing nails, waterproof wood glue, and a clear non-toxic oil base. You can also use hinges to add a hinged opening to the birdhouse for easy cleaning.
For a more straightforward solution, you may choose to make a birdhouse out of dried gourds and upcycled materials.
If you are thinking about building a birdhouse, keep reading as we discuss what materials you will need and some unique materials you can use to create a birdhouse.
The traditional style of birdhouses uses wooden planks in its construction, and the best wood to use is a naturally weatherproof wood, such as cedarwood or redwood. You can also opt for pinewood or cypress wood, but these will not be as long-lasting as cedarwood or redwood.
If you need guidance when deciding which wood to choose, you can refer to this article, “What Kind of Wood Should I Use to Make a Birdhouse?”
Treated vs. Untreated
When deciding which wood to use, make sure to get as natural wood as possible. Treated wood, such as plywood, can be undesirable to many birds. However, many people still go for these options due to the availability and ease of use.
Some birds may only use a birdhouse made from treated wood after some months or years of weathering because birds are highly sensitive to toxic chemicals.
The standard plank size for a basic, traditional birdhouse is eight inches wide. It should be at least ¾ of an inch thick to provide optimal insulation for nesting birds. As an example, you can cut your planks into the following pieces:
|Section||No of Pieces||Dimensions|
|Sidewalls||2||4 x 3.5 inches|
|Floor||1||5 x 3.25 inches|
|Right Hand Side Roof Slat||1||4.75 x 7 inches|
|Left Hand Side Roof Slat||1||5.5 x 7 inches|
|Front and Back Walls||2||5 x 8 inches|
Remember, before you can start assembling your pieces, make sure that you have drilled a hole in the front panel large enough for the type of bird you want to attract to fit through comfortably.
Along with your wood materials, there are a few tools that you need to help with your construction.
To cut your planks into the desired pieces, you will need either a hand saw or, preferably, a bandsaw. If you don’t own a saw at home or have access to one, you can have your local hardware store cut the wood for you or purchase a handsaw to do the cutting yourself.
Many hardware stores are happy to cut the wood you have purchased from them into your desired dimensions free of charge.
Hand or Electric Drill
You will also need a drill for three things during your birdhouse project: 1) using galvanized screws, 2) drilling drainage holes, and 3) cutting your opening hole.
You will need a drill to drive your galvanized screws in effortlessly and reinforce your birdhouse. You also need to drill at least four drainage holes at the bottom of your birdhouse to prevent moisture build-up inside the house.
You will also need a hole saw an extension to drill a hole in your front panel for birds to enter your birdhouse. Choose the right diameter for your entry hole according to the birds’ size that you hope to attract.
Even though you can use a screwdriver to screw in the galvanized screws during assembly, you won’t be able to create the hole for birds to enter your birdhouse without a drill. If you don’t have access to a drill, you can take the panel to your local hardware store and ask them to help you drill the hole.
A screwdriver can come in handy to tighten your screws once they are in or to loosen them again if needed.
Once you have gathered your wood and tools, you need to choose the right fasteners to put all your pieces together.
Wood Glue & Clamps
To join your wood pieces together, you will need a strong, reliable wood glue. The glue acts as an initial join to form your birdhouse before you reinforce it with galvanized screws.
When choosing your glue, opt for outdoor, water-resistant wood glue. Using the glue nozzle or a paintbrush, apply wood glue to the edges of your wood pieces and carefully join them together.
You want to assemble your four walls first and wait for them to dry before gluing on the roof and attaching the floor.
Use clamps to hold your birdhouse pieces together to give the wood glue enough time to dry in the right position. If you do not have clamps, purchasing at least two large clamps is a must for birdhouse construction.
You want your clamps to easily fit over your birdhouse to hold it together. Place your clamps over the newly glued pieces and tighten until firmly held in place. Do not over-tighten the clamps, as clamps can damage the wood, leaving dents or cracks with enough pressure.
It is always better to opt for galvanized screws over nails to achieve a sturdier, longer-lasting birdhouse. These screws are weatherproof and require a drill or screwdriver to set them in place.
Galvanized screws will act as additional reinforcement to hold your birdhouse together along with the wood glue that you use.
Purchase a pack or box of 1.25-inch galvanized screws while gathering your supplies. One on each corner should be enough, but you can add one in the middle of each join for extra reinforcement.
Optional Accessories: Hinges
A great addition to any birdhouse for easy cleaning is an accessible wall or floor. You will need two to three hinges and a latch to allow the chosen panel to open and close and latch closed when in use.
If you decide to add a hinged panel, assemble the rest of your birdhouse first while leaving out the chosen panel. Once your birdhouse is assembled and glued into place and reinforced with screws, you can attach your chosen panel.
Begin by screwing in one side of your hinge along the edge of your panel. Then attach the other side of the hinge to the edge of the birdhouse where your panel needs to fit. Add the latch to the opposite side.
Remember, to add a hinged panel to your birdhouse, you may need to make slight adjustments to the chosen piece, allowing it to slot into the open space smoothly. Don’t take too much off the edges, or else your hinged panel will have gaps along those edges, exposing the inside to cold weather.
Once you have finished assembling your birdhouse, you need to decide whether you want to varnish your birdhouse, paint it, or otherwise decorate it.
Deciding whether to varnish your birdhouse is a controversial topic among avid birders. Varnish may have the benefits of protecting the birdhouse against the elements and making it last longer than without it, but birds are sensitive to harsh chemicals.
As yet, there are no conclusive studies that show varnishes are harmful to birds, but there are still risks (source).
Many birds are known to be sensitive to toxins, as the old example of the miner’s canary illustrates. Coal miners used them to test carbon monoxide levels in mines. If the canary died, it was time to evacuate the mine (source).
If you choose to varnish your birdhouse, only coat the outside of the box and leave the inside as natural as possible. If you are still undecided about varnishing your birdhouse, you can read this more in-depth article on the topic: “Can You Varnish A Birdhouse?”
Paint & Decor
There are multiple ways that you can decorate your birdhouse upon completion. Most birds may be more inclined to use a birdhouse with a more natural appearance. However, many birds might still choose to use your decorated box if the placement of the box is to the bird’s liking.
If you choose to paint your box, make sure to only use water-based latex paints or any other eco-friendly paint, as many other paints can be toxic to birds.
Take care when choosing colors, as some colors can have adverse effects. For example, dark colors, like black, may absorb heat. Using bright colors may make the birdhouse more visible to predators.
Opt for more camouflaging paintwork using natural colors like browns, dull greens, and other earthy colors to make birds feel more at home and ward off predators.
Mounting or Hanging Materials
Once you’re set on building a birdhouse, you’ll want to determine how you will present it to the local bird population. You can choose between a mounted, hanging, or free-standing birdhouse. If possible, mount or hang your birdhouse facing the east to catch the morning sunlight.
You can mount your birdhouse to a pole in the ground, a wall, or a nearby tree. Most birds prefer a mounted birdhouse because hanging ones are prone to sway in the wind.
If you don’t have anywhere to mount your birdhouse, choosing to hang it will still work. You can hang your birdhouse from a tree branch or an outdoor railing or ceiling.
You can supply birds with nesting materials to help them along their nest-building journey. Birds will build their nests themselves, so all you need to do is leave out collections of nesting materials for them to access.
Follow these helpful guidelines to help you choose safe materials over potentially harmful ones.
Be careful because sometimes birds choose harmful materials to build their nests. By supplying safe materials for them to use, you reduce the risk of potential injuries (source). You can leave materials such as small piles of twigs, straw, and yard cuttings and clippings.
Some materials may seem appropriate for nestings, like dog fur or dryer lint, but these may have unforeseen dangers.
Dog fur could be dangerous for birds if the dog has recently had flea treatment. Dryer lint is a poor option because it collapses when wet, causing a nest to lose structure and exposing the fledglings to bad weather.
Other dangerous nesting materials include human hair and string, which can wrap around birds’ legs, cut off circulation, and pose a serious threat to growing fledglings. Be careful when leaving out nesting materials and weigh the risks of each.
Unique Materials for Different Birdhouse Designs
Along with traditional wooden birdhouses, there are many other popular birdhouse styles you can make out of materials. Before building your birdhouse, decide which bird you would like to attract the most and cater your design to fit that species’ needs best (source).
Dry Gourd Birdhouses
Another popular birdhouse is a gourd birdhouse made out of dried gourds (source). You can make this type of birdhouse completely from scratch if you have access to fresh gourds, or purchase a dried gourd from a decor store or a craft store.
To make a gourd birdhouse, you will need to gather the following materials:
- A dried or fresh gourd
- Something to dig out seeds, if fresh — spoon or butter knife
- A drill and drill bits: regular and maybe hole saw
- Primer or paint (optional)
Note that if you only have a fresh gourd, it will be a few weeks or months before it is ready for you to use as a birdhouse.
Drying Your Gourd
The best way to dry your gourd is to leave it in the sun for up to a week, either hanging on a close line or lying on a bench or table. After about a week, bring your gourd inside and hang it in a warm area of the house with good air circulation. You can hang your gourd near a heater as well for a better result.
If you spot any mold growth on your drying gourd, spray a diluted bleach and water mixture with a ratio of 1:10. Wipe away any mold and excess water and continue drying the gourd.
After a few weeks, when your gourd is dry and hard, and you can hear seeds rattling inside when you shake it, your gourd is now ready to become a birdhouse.
Creating Your Gourd Birdhouse
The first step to turning your dried gourd into a birdhouse is to drill and cut your holes. You can use a drill, knife, or carver to cut your entry hole into the main bulb to the appropriate diameter. You also need to drill a hanging hole at the top and a drainage hole at the bottom.
Use your spoon, butter knife, or whatever to dig out the dried material from inside the gourd. Once the inside is empty, lightly sand the exterior until smooth enough to paint if desired. You can paint your gourd or merely spray it with a primer to ensure weather protection.
String your gourd up and hang it in a safe place, desirable to birds. You now have a gourd birdhouse!
If you are a trendsetter, you can opt for creating an upcycled birdhouse out of anything you have lying around, even recyclables. The actual process of setting one of these up is very similar to setting up a gourd birdhouse (source).
Upcycled birdhouses can help reduce waste or repurpose old items that you have lying around. You can use items like old teapots, boots, milk bottles, and coffee cans. Follow the basic needs of a functional birdhouse when creating your upcycled version.
Here is a basic structure fou can follow:
- Something to form the main body of the birdhouse — a teapot, a boot, a milk bottle.
- An entrance hole for birds to enter the item.
- Drainage hole and hanging hole.
- A box to place the main item in (optional)
- Wood Glue
Use your imagination to envision how you can turn an item into a birdhouse. Keep safety for the birds in mind and make sure that the item you choose can adequately protect birds from weather and predators.
There are many ideas and instructions available on the web for safe items that you can use for birdhouses, so get creative!
Building a birdhouse is a lot of fun. There are birdhouses fit for beginners, and ones only the pros should dare to attempt. Still, overall, building a birdhouse is a wholesome experience that we highly recommend.
Hopefully, with this article, you are now equipped with the knowledge you need to get started on your dream birdhouse project. Go ahead and start gathering your supplies, and maybe by springtime, you will wake up to the sweet melodies of proud parents and the chirping of their fledglings.