So I decided to build a birdhouse.
BADGE WORK UPDATE: ARCHITECTURE
A task for the Architecture badge asks scouts to “create a structure” out of small pieces of wood, toothpicks, or twigs, using glue, string, or any other “appropriate” materials.
Never having built a birdhouse, I did a little reading first and thought I’d share a couple of tips I’ve learned for any of you who’ve ever thought about providing a small home for those lovely winged critters who populate our yards. In our case, we see a fair share of cardinals, finches, doves, mockingbirds, grackles, and blue jays. Blue jays aren’t the greatest neighbors, and the grackles poop like made on our car, but I’d rather have ‘em around than not.
Tips for beginner birdhouse builders:
- If summers are hot where you live (and they’re brutal here), face your birdhouse to the north and/or east, shaded from the heat of the afternoon.
- Don’t put your birdhouse near a bird feeder (interesting, huh?)
- Don’t overpopulate your yard with birdhouses — apparently, birds aren’t crazy about living real close to each other.
- Don’t paint or stain the inside of your birdhouse; the chemicals aren’t good for the birds. Keep those lovely efforts limited to the house’s exterior.
- Hang the house a couple of months before mating season begins to eliminate any trace of odors or paint scents that the wood might have absorbed.
- Most birdhouses do well when hung between 4′-6′ off the ground.
I found a difference of opinion around whether a house should be mounted on a pole or attached to a tree. And, to my surprise, bright colors were discouraged — they can end up attracting predators — so my initial idea for bedecking my creation with jewels was out. Oh, well.
How to Build a Birdhouse, Step by Step:
Step One: I chose a piece for the base and three matching pieces for the sides and back. I glued like a madwoman and threw down some little wooden dowels along the inside–the helped keep the walls aligned while the glue dried.
Step two: With that foundation in place, I started layering the front with different shapes. Along one side, I added a longer piece which would later serve as more than decoration…
Step three: Before I got deeper into the front’s design, I drilled two holes in the back and strung heavy-duty picture hanging wire — I’ll use this to secure it to the tree.
Step four: With the holes drilled, I returned to the front and the roof. I decided to add a strong piece of wood perpendicular to the base but not as wide as the other walls to give some extra support to the house’s front while creating a space around which I’d build the entrance.
Step five: You can see I’ve secured a slanted piece of wood into place for the roof. I didn’t see this design anywhere, but I’m trying it out as a way of helping to keep air circulating through the house — remember, we have BRUTALLY hot summers down here. Plus, when I get to design my own dream home one day, you’ll see a roof like this.
Step six: Finally, I finished my house by adding other design elements to lend a sense of fun and narrow the entryway for the birds. We want that opening to be big enough for them but not big enough for predators.
FYI, this isn’t held together only with glue — I’ve secured the structural elements with small nails as well.
Step seven: I let the glue really set overnight and started the next day with one coat of a dark stain to give it a weathered look.
Step eight: Then I pulled out some old water-based latex paint and chose three “early Americana-ish” shades, painting select elements on the house with one light coat.
The red may seem a little vivid — it was, but applying two more coats of stain not only muted the colors but really sealed the seams.
So here it is, all stained and dried and ready to go. We have an early spring, so it should probably go up at the end of December to air out. And I’ll certainly keep my eyes on it. I’d love to see it serve as a trusted little home for a feathered family. They can live rent free.
And now, because you know you’re all humming it, enjoy: