Few can deny the relaxing charm of watching a family of birds start, grow and eventually fledge from a backyard birdhouse.
But did you know bird houses (and especially handmade ones) come with a host of real-world benefits? It’s true, and you’re just one DIY bird house away from enjoying them for yourself.
Bird House Benefits
Your friendly neighborhood fowl are more than just pretty faces (and beaks): By inviting them to live and nest near your home, you’ll gain access to a slew of unexpected perks.
If there’s one thing most birds have in common, it’s that their favorite food is bugs, bugs and more bugs.
Think we’re kidding? Scientists estimate that around the world, birds eat up to 500 million tons of insects every year—that’s a lot of creepy crawlies.
So if you’ve got a bug problem (or you’d just prefer to have fewer mosquito bites), you’ll appreciate birds’ penchant for pests.
Bees aren’t the only star pollinators of the natural world: Birds like the Americas’ hummingbirds, Hawaii’s honeycreepers and Africa’s sunbirds provide key pollination services to their respective parts of the world.
In other words, if you’re a fan of gorgeous wildflowers then you have pollinating birds to thank. And if you invite those birds into your garden, you can receive better pollination in return.
Want to go one step further? Consider planting a pollinator garden to support your local bees, birds and butterflies.
Birds are a crucial part of the ecosystem and food chain, so any effort to help them thrive is also an effort to preserve the natural world.
And with bird populations on the decline around the globe, our feathered friends need all the help they can get.
Good news if you’re interested in sustainable gardening: Birds are veritable fertilizer factories with wings, and their nutrient-rich droppings can measurably improve soil health. Seabird guano was even an important driver of early American agriculture.
For even better results, add the droppings to your compost bin before spreading them—if you have a bird house, you’re sure to have a steady supply.
You may have experienced for yourself how calming birdwatching can be, but what you might not know is that its mental and emotional benefits have been proven in numerous studies.
One European study, for instance, found that the more species of birds people are exposed to in their living environment, the happier they are. Similarly, another study found that both vegetation cover and “afternoon bird abundance” produce a marked reduction in anxiety, depression and stress.
Translation? If you could do with a little less stress and a little more tranquility, building and installing a bird house might help. And if you don’t have many birds living near your home but would like to attract some, try planting a bird garden.
Opportunities for Education
If you have children in your household—or you’re curious about the biology of birds yourself— then grab a bird book, make a bird house and get ready to learn.
Who knows, you or your family members might just discover a new passion for nature, wildlife and science.
The plentiful benefits of bird houses are clear, but why bother making one yourself instead of purchasing a pre-built one from the store?
Part of the answer has to do with bird health, and part of it has to do with creative customization options.
Bird Health and Safety
Birds are delicate creatures, which means some of the components used in mass-manufactured bird houses can be disastrous to their health.
- Pressure-treated wood like plywood and medium density fiberboard (MDF) contain chemicals such as formaldehyde which are toxic to birds.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) contained in certain paints can be extremely harmful to birds.
- Plastic can expose birds to dangerous chemicals if inadvertently consumed.
But when you build your own bird house, you have complete control over the materials and can ensure your local birds will be happy and healthy in their new home.
Fun and Creativity
Making a DIY bird house doesn’t just benefit birds—it can also be a fun and rewarding activity for you too.
And with the endless customization options that building your own bird house offers, you can create one that perfectly suits your home’s style.
DIY Bird House Ideas
Beginning crafters and advanced woodworkers alike have several DIY bird house options to choose from.
Popsicle Stick Bird House
A classic for a reason, the popsicle stick bird house is easy to make, budget-friendly and doesn’t require any sawing or drilling. Just note that if you live in an area with lots of rain or wind, this option might not provide birds with adequate protection from the elements.
Note that you don’t actually have to eat dozens of popsicles to get the wooden sticks you need (although you certainly can). Instead, you can simply buy them from a craft store. If you do choose to go the popsicle route, just be sure to boil the sticks beforehand to remove any sticky or sugary residue.
Tip: When gluing your popsicle sticks together, use non-toxic glue such as Elmer’s.
Gourd Bird House
It doesn’t get much more eco-friendly and natural than this: Just drill a bird-sized hole in a dried, hard-shelled gourd (bottle gourds are a popular choice), clean out the inside and attach a cord or wire to hang it.
The Missouri Botanical Garden has a helpful tutorial on gourd birdhouse building, and the Indiana Gourd Society has a detailed chart to help you determine what size gourd to use and how high to hang it.
Tip: Be sure to wear a dust mask, as drilling, sawing and otherwise crafting with gourds releases respiratory irritants.
Wooden Bird House
Attractive, durable, safe and endlessly customizable, wooden bird houses offer something for everyone (and every bird).
Best of all, it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice woodworker or a master carpenter: With just some simple joinery techniques, a small amount of wood and basic tools, you can create a beautiful bird house that will last for years.
Tip: Remember to use untreated, bird-safe wood such as pine, birch, maple or poplar.
How to Build a Bird House
Depending on the bird house plans you’re using, you’ll probably follow a few key steps when building a standard wooden bird house.
- Cut the wood pieces using a hand or electric saw.
- Drill a main entrance hole, as well as a few small ventilation and drainage holes.
- Attach the wood pieces using a combination of nails and non-toxic glue.
- Attach a hanger, if you’re making a hanging bird house (if you’re making a wall-, tree- or post-mounted bird house then no hanger is needed).
Note that creating the right-sized hole will be crucial for attracting birds to your bird house, so do your research before getting out the drill.
Once it’s assembled, you can even paint your bird house (with non-toxic paint, of course) to make it truly one-of-a-kind.
After all the paint and glue is thoroughly dried, you’re ready to place your bird house in its permanent spot. Be sure to choose a somewhat shady location rather than one in direct sun, as this will ensure a more comfortable environment for your feathered residents.
Create an Avian Arcadia with a DIY Bird House
Bird houses aren’t just valuable for birds—with their aesthetic appeal, potential environmental benefits and unlimited creative possibilities, bird houses (and their feathered inhabitants) have plenty to offer us humans too.
So next time you feel like trying out a new craft or practicing your woodworking skills, why not build a bird house? Come spring, you and a nearby family of birds will certainly be glad you did.