Birdhouse Building

Insider Info

In North America, birdhouse building has become a growing hobby. Why? Well, as the popularity of nature crafts and bird watching soars, so does the attraction to building birdhouses.

So who will be moving in if you build a birdhouse? According to an U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pamphlet entitled Homes for Birds, more than two dozen types of North American birds will nest in birdhouses. It's simple. Just find out which of these birds are in your area.

If you are living in a large city or an area with little trees, you can actively help the local bird population by building a birdhouse. There are many books on the subject and most include detailed building plans. Ask a bird lover that you know or visit your local library or bookstore.

Sometimes hardware or garden stores offer books on birdhouse building as well. "We sell birdhouse building kits complete with directions, wood and hardware. They are very popular," says Wendy Bolduc. She works in a large garden store that dedicates a room to birdhouses and feeders.

If you want to start from scratch, birdhouse plans can be very simple. Perhaps the most basic is the nesting shelf. This structure is meant to replace the natural nesting space in a tree or rock cliff. Often, nesting shelves are made of wood or dried twigs and vines. They are perfect for birds that will not nest in a birdhouse cavity, such as robins and doves.

During the summer, some birds eat countless amounts of insects, including mosquitoes. If you are looking to attract birds to your backyard to cut down on your insect population, purple martins or swallows might be your target. Of course, the insect-loving bird varieties differ from place to place.

Either way, birdhouses are a great way to attract and preserve wildlife. "There is a loss of habitat in our area," explains Bolduc, "but bluebirds are now making a comeback. We find that birdhouses are very helpful. They replace the trees and natural nesting areas that are often destroyed during development."

Getting Started

Birdhouses are often designed to draw specific birds. Birds can be fussy. As a birdhouse builder, you need to know what certain birds need to feel comfortable in their home.

For example, bluebirds like their home to look natural. Try using thick pieces of bark to build a bluebird nest box.

Owls, on the other hand, aren't particular about the box's exterior. But they like their homes to be filled with an inch of wood shavings or sawdust. An owl house should be located 10 to 20 feet above ground.

Check out the Web sites at the end of this article for some tips from the experts. They know exactly what birds like. Their advice can improve your chances of luring local birds to your nesting box. You will notice that the size of the entrance hole is perhaps the most important element.

But if you're not too concerned about birds moving in, go crazy. Do it for the decorative value. Use old barn wood, an old iron handle as a perch, a doorknob, dried flowers, vines, seashells -- the possibilities are endless.

Just be careful that, in case a bird does decide to use the home, you haven't used anything that is treated with toxic chemicals.

"Our ornamental garden birdhouses are up to six feet high. They're made of aged barn wood and decorated with a variety of odds and ends. These are not built for nesting birds. But when placed outdoors, I have heard that the odd wren may move in," notes Bolduc.

"Balconies and deck awnings are great places to hang birdhouses," says Lara Wittels. She and her husband Tom are avid creators of decorative and unusual nest containers.

Inside the home, birdhouses are now popular as an interior design accessory. On the mantle or a desktop, birdhouses can give a room that country charm. You can even start by buying a pre-made but unfinished wood birdhouse at your local craft store. This allows you to get straight to the painting and decoration.

Those who start building birdhouses as a hobby often end up selling their nesting structures. Flower shops, garden stores, craft shops and farmer's markets often advertise birdhouses made by someone in your area.

"Most of the birdhouses that we sell are made specifically for the local bird population," says Bolduc. "They make the perfect springtime gift."

People of all ages and abilities can enjoy bird watching, but it takes a bit of hand dexterity to make a birdhouse.

The Internet is also a great place to market birdhouses. It's also a great place to get some design ideas, since most sites have dozens of full-color pictures.

Whether decorative or functional, birdhouses have certainly reached a high standard of construction. From a replica of a general store to a medieval castle or lighthouse, you will be amazed at the shapes, sizes and realistic details.

Take a look at Denis Roy's purple martin birdhouse featured in the interview section of this article. It is awesome and quite challenging to build. "Plans for small birdhouses are common in books and magazines. Plans for this elaborate birdhouse are impossible to find," says Roy. So, he designed it himself.


Build a Birdhouse
Advice on building birdhouses

Wild Bird Watching
Learn how to make a birdhouse

Birdhouse Basics
Step-by-step instructions

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support
  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900
  • North Dakota Career Resource Network | (701) 328-9733