What’s more exciting than the appearance of a nesting pair to set up housekeeping in a new birdhouse? Once you’ve had the pleasure of creating one successful domicile, you’ll want to develop a whole neighborhood. It’s especially satisfying to help establish a population of beneficial birds, such as swallows, that return the good deed by keeping your yard mosquito free. These simple birdhouses—made from a piece of recycled wood, a few nails, and an old license plate—require no special carpentry skills and can be assembled in less than two hours.
1. Cut wood into 2 pieces, both about 10 inches long. These will be the front and back of the birdhouse. Cut 3 pieces, each about 4 inches long, for the sides and the bottom.
2. Before you cut the arc in the front and back that will be the roofline, determine how high the sides will be. Measure the long side of one of the side pieces and add the thickness of the bottom board. Mark this distance up from the bottom on each edge of the front piece. Using a compass or even the edge of a dinner plate, draw an arch that curves between these two marks. Repeat on the back piece. For the curved roof, cut the curve on the front and back of the house with a jigsaw. For a peaked roof, use a hand saw to make the angled cuts of the roofline.
3. Use a forstner or paddle bit in the appropriate size (see examples at right) to drill the entry hole in the center of the front board.
4. Use screws with large heads or galvanized nails (do not use finish nails) to attach the pieces. Old wood is prone to cracks, so it's important to pre-drill the holes. Start by attaching the bottom to the 2 sides as shown above.
5. Attach the top and back to the U-shaped sides and bottom using 2 screws or nails on each side and 2 at the bottom.
6. For the curved roof, gently bend the license plateinto an arc, then attach it with a nail or screw (pre-drilled again) at the top of the house's curve. Add 2 more nails at intervals down the sloping sides, along both the front and back edge, for a total of 10 nails. For the peaked roof, bend the license over the edge of a table to make a crisp crease. To finish the roof, crimp the edges of the license plate to make a jaunty edge. If needed, drill small holes in the bottom and the sides of the birdhouse for drainage and ventilation.
Hole Dimensions for Bird Species