Birdhouses 101

If you love birds and care about their welfare as much as I do, I think you’ll find this article very useful and informative.

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of birdhouses. They add such a charming element to your garden while also providing a very useful purpose for our feathered friends — a safe haven from predators as well as a place to care for their off-spring. It’s always been very satisfying to me to walk around in my garden and observe the wild birds and new ‘tenants’ my houses have attracted.

There are almost limitless types and interesting designs available today. There are even birdhouses for specific types of birds such as Sparrows and Martins. Many different types of materials are used in their construction. One of the best is durable, natural wood about three-quarter-inch in thickness, but any type of wood will work as long as it has not been treated with preservatives.

Other than adding charm and fun to your garden, the outside of your birdhouses don’t really need to be painted. While it is true that some types of birds seem to prefer natural and weathered wood, I’ve seen birds living in every type of house — even a bird hotel a friend has on a lake! So it’s fine to have both types in your landscape for variety and usefulness. If you make or purchase painted birdhouses, just be sure the paint used is water-based. It’s not necessary to ever paint the inside of the house.

The main purpose of birdhouses is really a safe sanctuary and a place to keep our feathered friends dry and comfortable in severe weather of any type. Good air-flow is important to help maintain an even temperature in your birdhouse in any weather and keep the birds healthy. Be sure the house also has some vent holes near the tops of the walls as well.

The best and most useful design for the roofs of your houses are slanted ones that have an over-hang of three inches or more over the entrance hole. Even that won’t completely eliminate water getting into the house, so make sure to drill some small holes in the floor of the house near the edges for drainage. It is best not to use birdhouses with metal roofs unless the houses are shaded — especially in the hotter climates — to avoid overheating.

Cleanliness of your birdhouse is also extremely important. Parasites such as

red mites and blowfly larvae can get in and breed in a house that isn’t properly cleaned and ventilated. The blowfly larvae is a blood-sucking parasite that can cause death for the little nestlings. A well-designed birdhouse will have either a removable roof or panel on the side or back for easy cleaning.

You’ll have a better chance for full occupancy in your houses if they are clean, well-maintained and ready by the early stages of spring when birds are looking for lodging and suitable nesting sites.

To attract the types of birds you want, choose a nest box and entrance hole size appropriate to the bird. Birds like a cozy, snug fit so they’ll feel safe from predators and have an easier time keeping their eggs and chicks warm. The placement of the house will also have an effect on which birds use it. Place nest boxes in areas that are sheltered and out of all-day sun. It’s also a good idea to keep them away from your feeders.

You should place only one birdhouse per tree, and not too many total houses on your lot. You might want to keep it down to about five maximum for each acre of land and use that for a guideline on smaller lots as well. Tall posts are fine, as long as they meet the guidelines mentioned for the use of houses in trees.

I will be adding much more information to my website about birds and the multitude of garden elements available for your pleasure, great landscape designs using these elements, and most importantly, for the comfort and health of these fun and beautiful creatures.