Birdhouse Information – Tips For Choosing And Using Birdhouses In Gardens
By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden
While most people give it little thought, we bird lovers know that part of attracting birds to our gardens means providing them a suitable home in addition to feeding them. So what types of birdhouses are available? Let’s find out more.
Types of Birdhouses
There are a number of different birdhouses to choose from. Some are easy to construct yourself and others can simply be purchased from most garden centers. You’ll find birdhouses that swing, some that are decorative, and others that are nothing more than simple nest boxes or gourds. They may be constructed of wood, metal or even plastic depending on the style. Some, such as birdhouse gourds or plastic jugs, are made from everyday household items.
If you’re an avid birdwatcher, then you already know that each bird prefers its own type of birdhouse, including specific locations and sizing of the structures. Small birds like wrens or sparrows, for example, are normally attracted to single-unit enclosures near the protective cover of shrubbery. That said, they will nest nearly anywhere they feel is suitable, including hanging plants or even an old tea kettle left outdoors (as has happened in my garden many times).
Other birds might prefer larger houses in open areas of the garden or those that hang among the cover of trees. It’s best to research the individual preferences of common bird species in your area, though adding a variety of bird nesting structures throughout the landscape will attract any numbers of birds, as they will seek out and move into whichever shelter they feel most comfortable with.
Using Birdhouses in Gardens
Unless your objective is from a decorative standpoint, then any birdhouse structure you intend to use in the garden will need to remain simple. In other words, stay away from lots of paint and other embellishments. The birds don’t really care about all that anyway.
The best type of birdhouse will offer sanctuary for birds and a safe place to raise and feed their young. Those that are placed up high, as well as having baffles or guards, will provide additional protection from predators. Additionally, locating the birdhouse nearby a branch or other suitable perch will allow adult birds to keep watch over their homes and their babies. Your birdhouse will need to offer protection from bad weather too.
Drainage is another factor when using birdhouses in the garden. Water that gets in as a result of wind and rain needs to drain out quickly so the little birds don’t become saturated or drown. Likewise, suitable ventilation is a must so the birds don’t becomes too hot in the heat of summer. Placing garden birdhouses away from winds and near trees or other structures will help with both water and ventilation issues.
Most birdhouse information says that late winter to early spring is the most ideal time for putting a birdhouse for gardens in place. Birds will normally be migrating back to the area and looking for shelter to raise their broods. Once you’ve chosen and positioned the home, offer some loose nesting materials for them. I like to place these in a suet feeder hung nearby. Materials should be less than 6 inches (15 cm.) in length and may consist of anything from pieces of yarn or fabric to short sticks and hair collected from brushes.
It’s also important that the birdhouses be cleaned annually. This can be done during the off season when its occupants have migrated to warmer locations. Hosing them down and washing with bleach will help disinfect the birdhouses and minimize the spread of possible disease. Don’t forget to dispose of any leftover nesting materials.
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25 Different Types of Birdhouses
Attract birds to nest in your garden by building a birdhouse. We'll show you the different types of birdhouses you can build for different types of birds.
Birdhouses existed in North America and Europe for hundreds of years. North Americans used birch barks as birdhouses while Europeans made baskets and clay pottery to shelter birds. It was the Turks, however, who made the first birdhouses sometime in the 15th and 16th century.
The first birdhouses were made of bricks, tiles, wood, stone, and mortar. These houses were integrated into the home or building exterior and were used to shelter sparrows and swallows.
I think you can tell a lot about a gardener’s style by their choice of birdhouse. This gallery has everything from stone to wood, rustic to modern, traditional to eclectic. See which ones are your favorites.
If you love bold colors, also see 12 Colorful Garden Ideas. I’ve got some freshly-painted birdhouses in my garden too!
Attracting Wild Birds to Your Garden
- Avoid the use of any products toxic to birds and their food sources including caterpillars.
- Grow plants, trees and shrubs for habitat and be messy: dead and decaying things nourish life.
- Keep pets out of your garden.
- Choose plants that provide food, nectar, or habitat for other living things.
- Birdhouses: Use as decoration only.
- Nesting Boxes: Choose species-specific designs.
- Bird Feed: Provide nutritious food.
- Bird Feeders: Clean frequently.
TIP: Use a motion-sensitive wildlife camera in your garden to see what goes on when you’re not there.
1 Red Birdhouse
All of the birdhouses here are appropriate for decoration only. Many are unsafe for wild birds: close off any doors or openings to prevent birds from trying to use them as nesting boxes.
2 Rustic Wood Birdhouses
3 Cowboy Boots
These nesting boxes were made by Empress of Dirt Facebook friend Gaye.
If you do something like this, be sure to clean them out after each mating season.
Want to paint leather or vinyl? Rough up the surface with sandpaper and use patio paints.
Buy Unique Birdhouses
Check local artists, yard sales, and art sales.
Etsy is also a good source for unique garden art and birdhouses.
4 Stone Birdhouse With Funnel Roof
The first birdhouse I ever made for my garden was a stone birdhouse.
I had seen a rather magnificent one for sale on a garden tour and, after seeing the sticker price ($275), I thought it might be a good idea to try making my own instead.
Several of the photos in this series come from the same garden. The artist, Mike, uses all sorts of random bits and bobs to create birdhouses and other garden art.
6 Front Porch
You know how I said decorative birdhouses can be dangerous for wild birds?
This one has a good solution: paint the entry hole rather than making a real one. Problem solved!
7 Turquoise Birdhouse
I’m a big fan of using color as a recurring theme throughout a garden.
Best Outdoor Glue?
I use GE II Silicone Sealant for all of my garden art projects. It forms a permanent bond that lasts forever.
8 Birdhouse Tree
We saw this on the front of a store on the shore of Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada.
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9 St. Toad’s Cathedral
This toad house is next level! I’m not sure if His Majesty was at home when I took the photo.
10 Birdhouse Chair
This idea became popular years ago when country style furnishings were ruling the crafting world.
Just create picket tops, add faux roof pieces and drill holes.
11 Martin House
This one is in my garden. I bought the martin house at a yard sale. I blocked off all of the doors except one. The wrens use it each spring.
11 Tree Stump Birdhouses
This multi-branch tree stump makes an excellent birdhouse apartment complex.
12 Black Birdhouse
Black can be a bold color choice in a garden. This design could be used as a bird feeder too.
You can see more examples of black paint in the garden shown here with black fence and arbor.
Not quite a birdhouse but more of an entertaining area for birds!
14 Clay Nesting Box
This one is used as a nesting box. Again, always be sure you can open and clean anything that birds may nest in.
15 Rustic Blue
A lovely, scrappy piece made from old barnboard and sheet metal scraps.
16 Red and Yellow Birdhouse
This one has a modern art vibe. I quite like the addition of the tree branch on the porch.
17 Chicken Coop Birdhouses
You’ll notice in several of these photos where the gardener has grouped a bunch of birdhouses together.
Creating collections is a great tip for displaying garden art.
18 Bedazzled Birdhouse
Go glitzy or go home! This birdhouse is bedazzling.
19 Flower Power
I love old wood patina paired with masses of flowering plants.
20 Green Tin Roof
Check out the junk boxes at thrift shops and Habitat for Humanity stores to find odd pieces for your birdhouse.
Locks, keys, gears, doorknobs, and more all work.
21 Quirky Topsy Turvy Birdhouse
There was a crooked man… What a fun and quirky project. Love the bell tower!
22 Rustic Stone Birdhouse
This one seems to be made from a basic wood birdhouse covered in grout with stones pressed in.
23 Log Cabin Birdhouse
I love this one. Wish it was mine!
24 Miniature Birdhouse
This is a simple idea for a fairy or miniature garden.
Take a small piece of wood, drill a few holes, add a perch, and top it with a tiny piece of scrap metal.
25 Rustic Quirky Birdhouse
If you have old wood scraps, they work nicely for a house like this one.
Don’t worry about creating patina: a year or so of exposure to the elements starts aging wood nicely.
26 Tree Stump Birdhouse
Years ago, it was considered a faux pas to leave tree stumps in place when a tree must be removed.
While some may resprout, the stumps provide valuable food and habitat for all the insects and microbes that keep a garden alive.
27 Seashell Birdhouse
Here’s another option: use seashells instead of stones to decorate a birdhouse.
28 Tool Perch
This is a sweet idea: use an old hand tool to mimic a perch.
29 Hand-Painted Birdhouse
If your birdhouse needs dressing up, consider hand-painting some designs on it. A picket fence with flowers works too.
See How to Hand Paint Flower Pots for recommended craft supplies.
30 Lock Birdhouse
Raid that thrift store and find items like this old lock to use as birdhouse decor.
31 Old Man Tree Stump
He’s alive! This old tree stump holds the laundry line and lots of garden art including the birdhouse on top.
32 Rustic Simple Birdhouse
33 Tall Blue Birdhouse
There are a few creative details here: the faucet handle and drawer pull as accessories, the teardrop entry hole, and the addition of a vintage water fountain.
34 Birdhouse Collection
This one was shared by Empress of Dirt Facebook friend Lee who created a lovely birdhouse village on her garden fence.
35 Stone and Wood
Pretty fancy! The turned wood and detailing looks gorgeous with the embedded stones.
Invite Garden Guests With Birdhouses
With digs like these, birds will love to visit your garden.
I love birds. But between our five loud kids and the two semi-homeless neighborhood cats who’ve taken up residence on my lawn chairs, my winged backyard residents seem a little shy about getting up close and personal.
I’ve realized I may have to sweeten the pot to get the robins, wrens, and bluejays to come out and play – and a birdhouse is the perfect answer. Plus, building and decorating a birdhouse is a great family activity that can be as simple as painting a box, or a more complicated project for woodworking enthusiasts.
Check out these clever ideas for inspiration and instructions:
An empty milk carton and a Popsicle stick are the foundations of this super-simple (but super-cute) homemade bird feeder. Just a few more bowls of cereal to go, and the kids and I will be ready to make this project by the weekend.
Even easier? This peanut-butter pine cone bird feeder. The perfect impromptu rainy-afternoon project.
Got scraps left over from a household project? Build this cute, simple birdhouse from repurposed wood.
If you’re more into painting than building, consider this adorable birdhouse fence project. You can purchase pre-built, ready-to-paint wooden birdhouses online or at your local home-improvement or craft store.
Feeling inspired? I know I am. Soon my garden will be bustling with happy birds – now to find a way to keep those cats off my chairs!
Our advice Buying Guide
Do you enjoy watching the birds frolic in the trees near your home? If you do, you may opt to give them a permanent home and listen to their singing to your heart's desire.
An outdoor birdhouse not only provides the birds with a cozy adobe but also offers them protection from their predators. Birdhouses are available in a broad range of designs, from the shapes of animals to the shapes of houses, so choosing one will be extremely difficult. To help you narrow your search down to a single birdhouse, a buying guide is provided below.
What types of birdhouses are there?
It is only typical for you to want a hanging birdhouse. But, have you ever thought about a birdhouse that sits directly on top of a flat surface or post? You may actually find these designs more suitable for your preferences and needs. The greatest benefits of hanging birdhouses are they can be placed just about anywhere and relocated at will.
Birdhouses situated on top of poles are typically left there until they need to be replaced. Since you will not want to disturb your feathery friends once they move into the birdhouse, it will be best to never move them from their original position.
What are the most important features of bird houses?
- The hole. All birdhouses have one thing in common, a hole for entering and exiting. The hole is the perfect size for small birds, such as blue jays, cardinals, blackbirds, and songbirds. Its size prevents predators from gaining access to the birds.
- Perch. Once the birds enter the birdhouse, they will be well out of sight until they decide to join the bird world again. A perch will give the birds a place to sit near the exit hole. This will give you more opportunities to see the birds as you're enjoying the afternoon or morning sun. Since larger birdhouses house more birds, they typically come with more holes.
What is the best construction material for outdoor bird houses?
While the wooden birdhouse appears to be the most popular, metal and ceramic birdhouses are also very popular. Some manufacturers even utilize a mixture of materials to give their birdhouses uniqueness and beauty. There are also birdhouses constructed from recyclable materials. When investing in a wood birdhouse, be sure to only consider models constructed from MDF board. This material is extremely durable and will last for years.
How to clean a birdhouse?
Not everyone feels the need to maintain his or her large outdoor birdhouses. If you are one of those hands-on people, you may want to invest in a birdhouse with a clean-out opening. This will allow you to gain access to the interior compartment, so you can remove any debris left behind by the birds.
Birdhouses are available in a variety of sizes, styles, and designs. Some will come with a single compartment, while others have many separate compartments. Some are mountable and some are not. The option is yours to make, but do not rush your decision. The birds may not care for the design, but you certainly don't want to end up with a bulky eyesore that will ruin your personal sense of aesthetics and make it hard for you to truly relax while attending your exclusive garden concertos.