Make your own birdhouse: give birds a warm home in winter

Torben Schröder

When the weather gets colder outside and it even starts snowing, we retreat inside our cozy homes and enjoy inviting friends and family to share food and drink. What a lovely feeling! Then why not treat our feathered friends in the garden to a similar experience? A birdhouse will give them shelter and food and help them get through the frosty months more easily. Here you will find instructions on how to make your own birdhouse.

Close-up of a homemade birdhouse.
© Sabine Bielmeier

In this article

Why make a birdhouse?

Birds normally find their food outdoors and in gardens. They eat things like seeds, cereals, insects and snails, for example. The colder it gets, the less fruit plants bear and the more their prey hides itself away. Searching for food becomes more difficult.

Moderate rainfall doesn’t generally bother birds. But if there are storms, gales, hail or heavy snow, even birds look for a place to shelter. So by setting up a feeding house you will be helping them out twice. And on top of that, you will even benefit yourself: it’s very rewarding to watch animals accepting your gifts and making themselves comfortable in their feeding house. As well as being good for the soul, you can also learn something about native bird species – this is a particularly interesting experience for children.

Did you know that a bird house is not to be confused with a nesting box [M1] – the latter is primarily intended to make sure chicks can hatch undisturbed.

How to make your own birdhouse

A simple wooden birdhouse basically consists of the main body of the house, the roof and a system for hanging it up. Below you will find instructions on how to build one. You can easily include your children in the process. Allow one to two hours, depending on whether you use a manual or electric saw.

Make your own birdhouse: preparation work

The image shows the tools needed for making a birdhouse: a Japanese saw, sandpaper, set square, ruler, pencil, hammer and drill.

The tools you will need:

  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Japanese saw or circular saw/jigsaw
  • Ruler/set square
  • Sandpaper
The image shows the building material needed for making a birdhouse: string, nails, wood paint, wood glue, clear varnish and a large plywood board.

The building material you will need:

  • Nails
  • Wood paint
  • Wood glue
  • Clear varnish
  • String
  • Plywood (surface area of 1 x 1 meter; thickness of 0.8 centimeters)

Make your own birdhouse in ten steps

Close-up of a person drawing on a plywood board with a pencil and ruler.

Step 1: Start by drawing the parts of the birdhouse directly on the plywood board using a pencil and ruler.

Here are the individual cuts that we recommend:

  • Floor: 22 x 18 centimeters
  • Roof parts: 22 x 22 and 22 x 21.2 centimeters
  • Side parts, closed: twice 22 x 18 centimeters
  • Side panels, open (entrance on both sides): twice 23.6 x 4 centimeters
  • Gable parts: 20 x 20 centimeters, then cut in half diagonally
Close-up of a person cutting a plywood board with a Japanese saw.

Step 2: Next, use the Japanese saw to cut along the outlines you have drawn. If you want to speed things up a little and avoid having to do too much manual work, use a jigsaw or a circular saw. If you don’t own either of these tools, you can rent them from the hardware store.

Close-up of a person sanding down plywood with sandpaper.

Step 3: Use the sandpaper to sand down the corners and edges of all the elements so that they are smooth and free of splinters.

Close-up of wooden parts – one has a coat of glue on the edge.

Step 4: Now glue one side part after the other to the floor or to the adjacent walls with the wood glue. The glue will only take a few minutes to dry.

Close-up of a person hammering a nail into wood with a hammer.

Step 5: You should add extra nails to secure the floor: hammer them in with a hammer.

Close-up of the fitting of a gable section to one wall of the birdhouse.

Step 6: Now it’s time to attach the roof. Use the pencil to draw a 2.5-centimeter mark on the corresponding side parts, seen from above.

Close-up of the birdhouse in progress.

Step 7: Glue one of the gable parts firmly into place...

Close-up of the birdhouse, where only the roof slopes are missing.

Step 8: ... and then do the same with the other. Fix both parts into place with more nails.

Step 9: Now put on the two sloping roof parts and glue them to the gable sections. When everything is dry, drill a hole in the middle of the roof from above with the drill. You can now insert the string through this hole, and knot it from below. The birdhouse is all ready to hang up.

Close-up of a child painting a birdhouse red and blue.

Step 10: Now comes the design part: paint the feeding house with wood paint to suit your own preferences. It is essential to apply clear varnish as a final coat. This will protect the wood from the weather.

Choose the right location for the birdhouse

Your birdhouse is ready – now you can decide where to install it. Here we explain what you should bear in mind when choosing a location:

  • Protection against rain and heat: although the feeding house has a roof, the birds will also appreciate additional shade. A location under a tree in your garden or near a wall is ideal.
  • Reconnoitering position: if you install the birdhouse near bushes and shrubs, they will serve as a kind of observation post for your little visitors. Birds like inspecting their potential home from a safe distance before deciding whether or not to move in. They will also be well protected from birds of prey there.
  • Safe distance from uninvited guests: cats see birds as their next meal. If you own cats yourself or if cats tend to roam the neighborhood, you should position the birdhouse in such a way that it is as difficult as possible for cats to reach.
  • Far from treacherous traps: place the birdhouse as far away from windows or glass doors as possible so that birds don’t accidentally fly into them and get seriously injured.

A shed or summer house is a suitable location, if you have one. Attach the birdhouse to the facade – it will be protected from rain and sun by the projecting roof. Another option is to place it on the patio, for example by hanging it on the roofing framework. This will give you the opportunity to observe the birds coming and going at close quarters.

Feeding the birds: filling the birdhouse

A birdhouse is nothing without food – here are a few more important tips on the best way to feed birds. Because even birds have their own special preferences.

Observe feeding periods

The typical cycle for feeding in a birdhouse is in the winter months, i.e. from November to February. Very important: don’t just offer food once, keep replacing the stock throughout the whole period – the birds will quickly get used to it. You should stop putting out food in the spring, as the natural supply will start to increase again. Providing feeding facilities in summer also increases the risk of infection among birds.

Use the correct feed

Here you will find a list of which food attracts which birds. Find out how to make your whole garden bird friendly in our article: “Eight tips: how to turn your garden into a paradise for birds”.

  • Food
  • Birds
  • Apples
  • Blackbird, green woodpecker
  • Peanuts
  • Blackbird, mountain finch, blue tit, chaffinch, green woodpecker, jay, magpie
  • Fat from tree bark
  • Green woodpecker, nuthatch
  • Oatmeal
  • Blackbird, nuthatch, robin
  • Mealworms
  • Blackbird, green woodpecker, tree sparrow, house sparrow, robin
  • Pieces of nuts
  • Blue tit, tree sparrow, greenfinch, house sparrow, nuthatch, robin, goldfinch
  • Corn grains
  • Jay, magpie
  • Tit dumplings
  • Blue tit
  • Oilseeds
  • Chaffinch, greenfinch, nuthatch, goldfinch
  • Raisins
  • Blackbird, tree sparrow, house sparrow, robin
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Blackbird, blue tit, chaffinch, greenfinch, nuthatch, goldfinch

Conclusion: a good deed in the winter

Building a birdhouse will only cost you a few hours of work, but will provide birds with a welcome shelter for months. And on top of that, the building process is fun – especially for children. If you find the ideal location in the garden and provide suitable food, you will be helping our feathered friends through the hard winter.

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