Nothing feels merrier than waking up to the sounds of chirping birds in your backyard.
If you’re here, then it's probably because you want to enjoy the presence of these feathered beings.
In this comprehensive guide, I will share with you all that you need to know about designing, crafting, and placing the best outdoor bird houses to attract the chirping guests to your backyard.
Before we begin though, here are a couple of things that you should know:
- Firstly, not all birdhouses are the same, you have to consider species-specific requirements.
- Secondly, the goal of this comprehensive guide is not to create fancy or retail-level birdhouses, just something to get the job done.
- Lastly, you should always keep in mind the general considerations mentioned in the following sections, they will make all the difference.
Let’s get building!
- General Considerations To Keep In Mind About Birdhouses
- Common Birdhouse Plans That You Can Try Out
- Additional Resources To Consider
- Not All Birds Use Bird Houses
- Should You Buy Fancy Birdhouses?
- How To Avoid Predatory & Pestilent Species?
- Bottom Line
General Considerations To Keep In Mind About Birdhouses
Generic birdhouses don’t work all the time because different bird species have different requirements. For instance, you can’t expect a kestrel to come and nest in a small-sized birdhouse designed for wrens.
The inverse is also true as smaller birds will be constantly harassed by predators in bigger birdhouses. There are several other factors to consider too, I have listed them as follows:
Cavity nesters are the primary target for birdhouses as these birds tend to nest inside hollowed-out chambers in trees. Common examples of cavity nesters include the adorable bluebirds, the teeny tiny wrens, and the full of spirit chickadees.
Other birds also turn towards birdhouses but primarily, the cavity-nesters have a better chance of showing up.
The most important parameter for dealing with cavity nesters is the entry-hole diameter. This is almost species-specific and you’ll have to be careful in this regard depending on the type of birds you want in your backyard.
Not only will precisely measured holes allow your target species to enter and nest inside the birdhouse but also exclude the pestilent and undesirable ones.
Starlings and common sparrows are notorious for taking over birdhouses and denying access to desirable species. While I am not against these species, I have to stress that if you want a dedicated finch bird house, you’ll have to make the entry hole only large enough for a finch, and no more.
Even in the case of a single species, the requirements will vary among varieties and subpopulations. For instance, you'll have to look into specific details for Mountain Bluebirds, Western Bluebirds, and Eastern Bluebirds even though they are of similar stock.
The following table summarizes the entrance diameter, entrance height, and mounting height requirements for the birdhouses dedicated to attracting some common cavity nesters.
|Species||Entrance Diameter||Entrance Height||Mounting Height|
|Bluebird||1.5 inches||6 inches||4-6 feet|
|Chickadee||1.25 inches||6 inches||5-15 feet|
|Flicker||2.5 inches||4 inches||6-10 feet|
|Common Finch||2 inches||4 inches||5-10 feet|
|Common Sparrow||1.75 inches||6 inches||10-15 feet|
|Kestrel||3 inches||9 inches||10-20 feet|
|Nuthatches||1.25 inches||6 inches||10-15 feet|
|Owl||6 inches||4 inches||10-15 feet|
|Purple Martin||2.5 inches||1.5 inches||10-15 feet|
|Tree Swallow||1.5 inches||4 inches||5-10 feet|
|Warbler||1.25 inches||4 inches||5-10 feet|
|Woodpecker||1.25 inches||7 inches||10-20 feet|
|Wren||1.25 inches||4 inches||6-10 feet|
Note that a bluebird’s entrance hole, which is 1.5 inches across, is slightly smaller than that of the house sparrow. This means that if you use effective craftsmanship skills and stick hard and fast with these measurements, sparrows won’t be bothering your guest bluebirds.
Smaller birds will be deterred from nesting in larger birdhouses as the larger holes will make them vulnerable to attack from predators.
Consider The Habitat Requirements
Like all other beings, birds have defined distributions, and for most of them, they are permanent. These habitat ranges are important to understand because you can’t expect to attract a particular bird species if it’s nowhere to be seen in your area.
This part will require some sleuthing and researching from your end too. You’ll have to find out which bird species you can expect to show up and populate the birdhouses you set up for these feathery visitors.
For instance, in a wooded area, you can expect visits from nuthatches and chickadees. But if you love the sight of swallows and bluebirds (and if they do live nearby), then you will have a better chance of getting their attention in wide-open fields.
The placement is just as important in this regard, after all, you would want to attract the attention of the target species and avoid any pestilence.
Avoid pacing the birdhouse in an area covered by dense foliage as it will complicate the flight path of the parents (who have to go back and forth from their nest).
You should also bring into account food availability, protection, and an ample water supply. All of which you can provide via well-placed bird feeders and bird baths.
Moreover, avoid putting a perch on the box as that will give free access to cats, raccoons, and other threatening species, hence jeopardizing the survival of your guests.
In general, you should ascertain that:
- The birdhouse should be off the ground by several feet, keeping ground-dwelling creatures away.
- It should not face the spring winds and instead be placed in the other direction.
- It’s front should not be straight and instead be angled to prevent any raindrops from entering the hole.
- You keep it close enough to your home that you don't need a pair of birding binoculars to enjoy it.
The Box Should Be Cleanable
At least one side of the box should be hinged so that you can open it up. Birds, like all other animals, will create quite a mess during their stay and you will have to deal with it.
Once your guests have gone, you’ll have to open up the birdhouse and remove all contaminants. You should also make drainage holes in the bottom.
Common Birdhouse Plans That You Can Try Out
Let's take a quick look at this YouTube video to better acquaint yourself with the process:
Target Species #1: Bluebirds
Bluebirds are fairly small and hence their bird house should be designed as such. Since their populations have faced a steep decline in the past due to anthropogenic activities, it is only fair that we help them rebound to their previous growth curves.
These feathery guests like houses with small holes, around 1.5 inches in general, although the specifics vary among subpopulations. You can expect other visitors like sparrows, wrens, swallows, and chickadees in these houses too.
Place the house around 6 feet off the ground, in plain sight, on a pole – preferably. You should use a baffle to deter raccoons from climbing up and doing them any harm.
The birdhouse should not have a perch on it.
Need motivation? Take a look at how bluebirds will use your birdhouse, it will surely put a smile on your face:
You can easily make a birdhouse for bluebirds out of a 1" x 6" x 4.5' (four and a half feet long, six inches wide, and one inch thick) wooden board.
You will have to cut the following sections:
- A front piece, 6 x 9 inches, with a 1.5-inch wide hole, placed 6 inches above the base of the board (use a compass and pencil to draw the hole first).
- Two side pieces, 6 x 9 inches, just like the front, except for the hole.
- A roof, 7.5 x 6 inches
- A floor, slightly smaller, 4 x 6 inches
- Lastly, the back portion, 13.5 x 6 inches
Assemble them, add drainage holes in the floor, make one side hinged, and voila.
Resources To Check Out
The specific needs can vary from variety to variety. You can brush through the following free plans to explore more options:
- Eastern-Western Bluebird Nestbox Plans
- Dandr Bluebird Nestbox Plans
- Gilbertson Bluebird Nest Box
- Peterson Bluebird House
- Mountain Bluebird Nest Box
- The Carl Little Bluebird Box
I highly recommend that you check out the North American Bluebird Society website for in-depth birdhouse plans and assorted information.
Before we continue, here’s a comprehensive video about making birdhouses for bluebirds:
Don’t feel like sawing and laboring for a birdhouse? Check out these impressive pre-made birdhouses available online:
- Nature's Way Bird Products CWH3 Cedar Bluebird Box House
- Wild Wings WWCH3 Cedar Blue Bird Box House
- Woodlink NABB Audubon Cedar Bluebird House
- AmazonBasics Wooden Birdhouse
- Woodlink Wooden Bluebird House - Model BB1
Target Species #2: Wrens & Chickadees
As with bluebirds, avoid birdhouses with perch for wrens. These small feathery creatures inhabit wooded areas and are best housed in birdhouses with small entrance holes, small enough to keep sparrows away.
Just place the birdhouse 5 to 10 feet off the ground, preferably hanging off the branch of a tree. In the case of Carolina Wrens, keep it slightly hidden behind foliage, but don't do so otherwise.
Attract the birds using their favorite foods like worm meal, and hence increase the prospects of them using your birdhouse.
Chickadees can also inhabit birdhouses made for wrens, you can increase the chances of this happening by placing the box deeper inside the woods (wrens will more likely come in marginal areas).
The space requirements for wrens are very much similar to that of bluebirds, hence you can use a similar layout, but just adjust the hole size.
Normally, a 1.125 inches wide entrance hole is enough for some varieties like winter wrens, house wrens, and Bewick’s wrens. However, for bigger variants like the Carolina Wrens, the hole size should be around 1.25 inches.
Check out these cool Wren house plans on YouTube:
Resources To Check Out
You can also take a look at the following free designs and explore new approaches:
This video shows how you can build a wren birdhouse on your own:
You can also check out these amazing premade options from Amazon:
- Nature's Way Bird Products CWH1 Cedar Wren House
- Perky-Pet 50301 Wren Home
- Woodlink Audubon Traditional Wren House Model NAWREN
- HomePro Garden Hanging Wren Bird House Handmade (Eco Friendly)
- Woodlink Going Green Wren House Model GGWREN
Target Species #3: Purple Martins
Purple Martins differ from the previous entries because they won’t live in solitude.
These birds live as a community, meaning that you’ll have to accommodate a lot of them. This is why Purple Martin birdhouses look more like dollhouses, with the rooms and all.
The one thing you’ll have to make sure of is that the entrance holes are starling-resistant. Starlings will often inhabit birdhouses meant for Purple Martins unless you ensure that the design is meant to exclude them.
You can explore further tips and tricks to attract your guests from the Ontario Purple Martins Association website.
Wondering how to install your Purple Martin House? Check out this video to find out:
The overall building process is a bit complex, but luckily, there is an interesting and easily comprehensible YouTube video to help you out:
Resources To Check Out
Here are some free designs for Purple Martin birdhouses that you should take a look at:
Building a birdhouse of Purple Martins is comparatively much harder and I can understand if you’re intimidated. Here are some premade products that you can buy online:
- Birds Choice 2-Floor-8 Room Purple Martin House
- 16 Family Purple Martin Barn
- Heath Outdoor Products AH-12D 12 Room Aluminum Purple Martin House
- Heath Outdoor Products 297194 M-12Dp Deluxe Wood Martin House
Additional Resources To Consider
You can also check out these additional birdhouse plans (generic) and make some minor tweaks so that they work perfectly in your case:
- Simple Birdhouse
- License Plate Birdhouse
- Decorative Birdhouses
- Solar Birdhouse
- One-Board DIY Birdhouse
- Owl Nesting Boxes
Want to explore even further? There are dozens of free and for-sale plans on the Woodworker’s Workshop website.
The United States Department of Agriculture website is also worth a visit, their plans are impressive too.
Not All Birds Use Bird Houses
As mentioned earlier, birdhouses are meant for cavity nesters even if some other species can take over. But in most cases, the distinction stands, for instance, Mourning Doves only make nests, they won't use birdhouses.
Similarly, other birds use unconventional forms of birdhouses. Purple Martins live in groups and hence their houses should have several compartments to house several couples at once.
The point is that you should consider the species-specific needs of the birds in your area to enjoy the company of these adorable creatures. Not only for providing them with housing, but also to make sure you put out the absolute best bird seed for their needs.
Should You Buy Fancy Birdhouses?
You will be tempted to let go of your hacksaw and instead go online to buy some fancy premade birdhouses. Generally, people tend to go for simpler options because they are easier to make and can be bought at economic rates.
However, if aesthetics are important for you, who am I to judge? There is no rule in this area, the heart wants what it wants. If you feel like it, you can explore some fancy options online:
- Hand-made Nantucket Cottage Birdhouse
- Malibu Creations Gone Fishin' Birdhouse
- Glitzhome Hanging Green Two-Tiered Distressed Wooden Garden Birdhouse
- Retro Arts and Crafts Country Cottages Birdhouse
How To Avoid Predatory & Pestilent Species?
You want to hear your guests chirp with joy and not scream in distress, trying to evade predators. For this purpose, you will need some protection and luckily it isn’t all that hard to find.
You can find several home-made and pre-prepared predator-protection devices. These include cone baffles, raccoon guards, baffle blocks, bird feeder poles, and so on. You can find the most suitable option and then include that in the ensemble to deter any abuse from predators.
- Woodlink NABAF18 Audubon Wrap Around Squirrel Baffle
- Woodlink Post Mount Squirrel Baffle
- Achla Designs Squirrel Deflector
Be sure to use such deterrents based on the type of threat at hand. For instance, if you want to keep squirrels away, you’ll have to make sure that they can’t chew around the hole to make it larger. You can further protect your flock by installing a few of the best squirrel-proof feeders nearby as well.
For this, you should use an entrance restrictor or simply add a metallic ring over the hole.
Building birdhouses is much beyond a hobby or practice for woodwork, it is a social and environmental service. Over the years, deforestation and human incursion into the wilderness have left millions, perhaps even billions of animals homeless.
Natural populations of birds have seen unprecedented declines. The adorable bluebirds for instance have lost as many as 90% of their individuals! These birdhouses are an excellent way for us to play our part in the conservation of these species.
Though the damage we have caused cannot be compensated for but we can do at least this much to pay our part in creating a better future. Hopefully, you’ll have made up your mind to help the bird populations of your region.
Do it right, and soon you will enjoy waking up to the pleasant sounds of the once-rulers of this planet, the descendants of the dinosaurs – only cute and feathery this time around.