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How to Build a Birdhouse

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What Attracts a Bird to a House
A bluebird pokes its beak into the opening of a DIY birdhouse

Birdhouses only appeal to certain types of birds.  Birds that make their nests in holes and hollows in trees are the same ones that will use birdhouses. Bluebirds, wrens, chickadees and titmice are some common species you might find in a DIY birdhouse. 

If you follow these instructions for how to build a birdhouse, the finished product will be a medium birdhouse about 7-inches wide and 14-inches tall. To attract specific species of birds, you can tweak the size of the birdhouse design by adjusting the measurements. Where you hang your finished DIY birdhouse is also important.

Wrens find birdhouses very appealing, but they like small houses. One with a 4- x 4-inch base that’s 8 inches high would work well. It should be hung 5 to 10 feet up on a tree or post.

A small house placed among a group of small trees will attract titmice and chickadees. Both kinds of birds prefer dense natural habitats.

Bluebirds like medium-sized houses that are close to an open field. They find young bugs to feed their babies in these fields. Tree swallows look for a nesting spot or house next to a field and near water. 

Larger houses, with a 10- x 10-inch base that's 24-inches high, near lakes, rivers and streams, are well suited for wood ducks. A screech owl would find the same-sized house attractive if it was on the trunk of an older tree.

Robins are known to build their nests on a ledge or downspout. They will use a three-sided birdhouse if its surroundings include older trees or a lawn where they can find worms.  

Don’t expect to see cardinals using the DIY birdhouse you build. These birds would rather build a nest on the branch of a tree than inside a hole in a tree. Cardinals may use an open-front birdhouse design, also known as a nesting platform or shelf. It has a roof and sides, but is open on the front. 

Cut the Wood Pieces
A person cuts a board with a circular saw while building a birdhouse.

The birdhouse is made from seven pieces of wood cut from a single 1- x 12-inch pine board, 6-feet long.

  • Measure, mark and cut a 5- x 7-inch piece of framing lumber for the bottom of the birdhouse.
  • Measure, mark and cut two 5- x 5 1/2-inch pieces for the birdhouse side walls.
  • Measure, mark and cut two 7 1/4- x 11 1/2-inch pieces for the front and back panels.

The roof is made from two pieces, each with a 31-degree cut on one end. When placed together, these beveled edges will make the 62-degree roof peak.

  • From a square end of the board, measure and mark 9 1/2-inches.
  • Adjust the bevel gauge on a circular saw to 31-degrees and make the cut.
  • From the other square end of the board, measure and mark 8 3/4-inches.
  • Make the cut with the saw blade set at 31-degrees.
  • Return the bevel setting on the saw to zero.
  • Measure, mark and cut both roof pieces so they are 8 1/2-inches wide.
  • Cut the 1 1/2-inch perch from a 5/16-inch wood dowel.
Trim the Front and Back Panels
A person picks up a piece of newly cut lumber needed to build a birdhouse.

The five-sided front and back panels each begin with a 7 1/4-inch  x 11 1/2-inch piece of wood.

Measure & Mark Wide Point
A person uses a pencil to mark a measurement on a board made with a tape measure

On both edges of the panel, measure and mark 5-inches from the bottom.

Measure & Mark Narrow Base
A person uses an orange pencil to mark a board with a measurement while building a birdhouse
  • Make two marks on the bottom edge that are 1 1/8-inch in from each side. 
  • This makes a 5-inch space centered on the bottom.
Make Bottom Cut Lines
A person uses a pencil and a ruler to mark a cut line on a piece of wood needed to build a birdhouse
  • Use a straight edge to draw a line between the two points on the bottom edge and the marks at 5-inches on the sides. These are the cut lines. 
  • Once trimmed, this should provide a bottom edge of 5-inches and two 5-inch sides coming up at an angle.
Make Top Cut Lines
A person uses a pencil and a ruler to mark the bottom cut lines for a DIY birdhouse
  • Find the center of the top edge. 
  • Draw a straight line from that point to the 5-inch marks on the right and left sides. These are your cut lines for the top. 
  • Once cut, these roof lines will complete the five-sided panels for the front and back of the birdhouse.
Drill the Entrance
A person uses a drill fitted with a hole saw to make the entrance to a birdhouse
  • Measure and mark the location for the entrance 5-inches from the bottom and centered horizontally on one of the panels. 
  • Use a power drill fitted with a 1 1/2-inch hole saw bit to make the birdhouse entrance.
Assemble the Birdhouse
A person uses a hammer to nail on the front of the birdhouse
  • Dry fit the pieces and place them on a flat work surface for assembly.
  • Use 1 1/2-inch finishing nails to fasten the front and back panels to the side wall pieces.
  • Nail the bottom of the birdhouse to the wall assembly.

Tip: Drill pilot holes for the nails and apply a bead of wood glue to the joints before hammering pieces together. Wipe away any excess glue.

Attach Roof
A person glues the top of a birdhouse onto the main part of the house
  • Squeeze another thin line of wood glue on the top part of the front and back edges. 
  • Nail both roof pieces into position. 
  • Be sure that the beveled edges make a point at the top of the birdhouse roof.
Install Perch
A person drills a hole for a birdhouse perch.
  • For the perch, make a mark centered 1-inch beneath the opening on the front panel. Drill a hole 1/2-inch deep using a 5/16-inch drill bit
  • Place a dot of wood glue onto one end of the perch and insert it into the hole.
Sand and Paint
A person paints the roof of a birdhouse a light blue
  • After assembly and the glue has dried, sand any rough edges and the surface using a sanding sponge or orbital sander and 120-grit sandpaper. 
  • Paint, stain or embellish the birdhouse as desired. If you decide to stain your DIY birdhouse, use an exterior wood stain.

As you figure out how to build a birdhouse, you might want to customize and paint your birdhouse design. Your creative birdhouse ideas aren’t that important to birds, though. They’re looking for a safe plan to build a nest and raise their young. When you pick a spot for your finished birdhouse, consider which birds you might want to attract.

If you don’t have all the tools you need to build a DIY birdhouse, The Home Depot has a tool rental center that has everything you need for this woodworking project.