At the Love Shack, we have a perfect tree in front of the cottage. It soon became called The Tree of Life because of the many different types of birds nesting to raise their young and living in harmony.
It all started with one little birdhouse and over time it’s grown to become a birdhouse village for our Seasonal Feathered Friends.
I sit many mornings watching the mommy birds fly in and out, first to build their nest and then to find food and come back to feed their young. It’s very exciting when the eggs hatch and even more exciting when you get to see the young take their first flight.
Along the journey of hanging birdhouses, we had some vacant houses that didn’t get new tenants and wondered why they were left without an invited guest, and we saw some uninvited ones moved in.
So like everything else that doesn’t work at the Love shack, we needed to fix it. And so the journey began to be good landlords for our feathered friends and so did the journey to build the perfect birdhouse.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to build your birdhouse from. The materials are endless, but the principles remain the same.
I bought some prefab wooden birdhouses because I prefer wood.
The first thing you need to do is build access. If you can’t open the house to clean it, no one will move in the second year. Few birds are lazy like the Robin who will move into other empty nests. Most prefer to start from scratch building to their own needs. If the nest is left behind, so is the dirt from old feathers, un-potty trained babies and other types of dropping.
There are different theories on where to make the access, the top, the bottom or the back. If it’s possible, I prefer the back. I opened my backs in two ways. The first is with a 10 cm by 10 cm square. The reason, it’s easy to put my hand in to clean. The second way is with a circle cut.
Cutting the backs of wooden birdhouses is not easy. If you are building from scratch, you can design it with your plans. If using prefabs birdhouses, expect to spend some time doing this. I use a series of small cutting knives for crafts for the squares and a circle cutting bit for the rounds.
The advatage of the square cut is, its a perfect fit to put back on but harder to cut. The circle cut takes less time to cut but requires a second cut from another piece of wood to cover the opening. It needs to be cut larger then the first hole to have enough coverage.
Once you have your door open, you need to sand it on the inside and outside of the edges and where it will be getting re-attached with a fine grain sandpaper.
Make sure to not leave any ruff areas as little birds have very thin skin and very little blood. A small injury could cause a quick death from bleeding out or infection.
The next step is to measure your entrance hole sizes. This is very important because you want your hole size to fit the size of the bird you are trying to attract. You also don’t want it much bigger to avoid access to larger birds who can reach in and make quick lunch out of the babies. Make sure to sand down your hole for the same reason as your door, to avoid injuries.
If there is a perch on the outside of the house, remove it and sand down where it was. Perch’s give standing areas for preditors.
The house needs ventilation. The entrance hole is not enough air to keep the house cool on hot days. If you choose a house that has windows that are open you won’t need more. If not with a very small drill bit or carving knife, put a couple little holes under the roofline. Remember not to make them large so the water can’t get in, you only want air.
Next you need to sand down the whole house. The paints will absorb better and you will get a nicer finish if you sand. After sanding, take a large paintbrush and brush down the house, inside and out to get rid of the sawdust created.
Now you are ready to paint.
You will need acrylic paints. Water-based paints even sealed will wash away with a heavy rainstorm. For me, the painting process takes a few days. There is no right way to start. I prefer to paint the upside of the house let it dry, do the base of the house, both coats and them come back to the upside. But that is what I find works for me.
Take your time and enjoy it, half the fun is painting it and remember Micheal Angelo didn’t do the Sistine Chapel in a day. Here’s a hint: The more colors you use, the more touch ups you will have to do.
Once your house is dry the next step is putting the door back on. You will need two small hinges and screws and a latch for the square cut. These are hard to find, but the dollar store has lots of little boxes that you can purchase to remove and reuse them or you can purchase a box of them on the internet. If you used a circle cut, a simple screw works to attach the cover back.
I prefer to hang the door so it hangs down and opens up. This creates less area for water to enter the house.
On the top, you will need something to hang the house from. Picture hanging gadgets work perfectly for this.
The next step is to spray paint it with a clear coat of weatherproof water sealant.
Before you hang it in the tree or place it on a stand, take a thin coat of vaseline and wipe the top of the inside of the house with it. A paint brush works perfect for this task. This will keep out the unwanted guest including spiders and wasp from moving in.
Where you hang your birdhouse is important. If its easily reached from the ground most birds won’t move in. If it’s too high up you won’t be able to access it to clean it. Watch the birds that you are trying to attract and they will show you what level they prefer to build in.
In the North, Birdhouses should be hung in early Spring when the birds are nesting and should be taken down in late Fall. They last longer that way.
When you take them down, open them up and get rid of the old nest and rinse them out. Wear gloves. You can buy animal-friendly cleaners or Dawn Dish Soap works great. Dawn is animal and environmentally friendly.
Once they are dry, store them where they won’t get damp over the Winter. Birds will not live in a house that has mold in it.
A well-done birdhouse is an investment of your time and money. It will provide years of pleasure and a home for many generations of our feather friends.
Our feather friends have very important jobs. Two of my favorite things they do is eat bugs and replant many wildflowers in their droppings. My favorite thing they do is sing.
Now sit back and enjoy bird watching.