Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.
Birdhouse Plans: They're for the Birds!
Bluebirds, wrens, woodpeckers, owls, wood ducks, chickadees, and sparrows belong to a group of birds that are generally referred to as cavity nesters. These birds search out the protection of holes and crevices within the trunks of trees to build their nests and raise their young. Many of these birds will eagerly move into wooden birdhouses that are designed to meet their unique requirements. Birds can be fussy when searching for a nesting site, and they will only choose a nest box that meets their needs. They require an adequate nesting area, a large enough diameter of the entrance hole, and a safe placement of the birdhouse in the landscape.
Bird Box Ideas
Over time, I've written several short articles featuring an assortment of handcrafted birdhouses I've built and scattered around my yard. At last count, there are over 30 birdhouses of different styles made for different species of birds hanging in the gardens and woodlands around my property. Some of the designs are basic and utilitarian, while others boast a little style to add a bit of whimsey to the landscape. All of my birdhouses are built with the birds in mind.
Many families of bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, owls, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, wrens, and other small birds raise their broods in my birdhouses year after year. During the winter months, birds that stay in the area often use the birdhouses and nesting shelves as roosts for protection against the wind and snow. Even families of flying squirrels have taken up residence in a few of the birdhouses.
16 Ideas for Birdhouses, Feeders, and Nesting Houses
- A Rustic Cottage Birdhouse
- License Plate Birdhouses
- A Simple Dovecote Bluebird House
- Rustic Platform Bird Feeder
- A Nesting Shelf Made from Salvaged Wood
- Lighthouse for the Birds!
- The Basic Bluebird Birdhouse
- Bluebird Feeder
- Screech Owl Nesting Box
- Build A Driftwood Birdhouse
- Wood Duck Nesting Box
- American Kestrel Nesting Box
- The Birdhouse Condo: A Trio of Birdhouses
- A Small Hanging Birdhouse
- A Birdhouse With A View
- Bat Houses
Each of my DIY birdhouse plans includes a cutting list and diagram with step-by-step instructions on how to build the birdhouse. This page highlights some of my favorites that I've made so far, and I plan to keep adding more birdhouse projects. For step-by-step instructions and more photos of how I built each of these birdhouses, I've included a link to the birdhouse's featured page. Have fun, and build your birdhouses for the birds!
1. Build a Rustic Cottage Birdhouse
Add a little extra style to the basic nest box design with some paint, stain, and a few re-purposed bits. A bit of creativity adds whimsy and interest, such as a rusty twist of barbed wire or an old horseshoe, creating a unique rustic cottage birdhouse.
These birdhouses are fully functional and made to fit the bird's requirements. Only the exterior is stained and painted, leaving the natural wood on the interior of the nest box for the safety of the baby birds. Learning how to build a rustic bluebird birdhouse is not as difficult as it may appear at first. These birdhouses will look great in your yard.
2. License Plate Birdhouses
The little Country Cottage in this photo was built following the same basic steps as the Rustic birdhouses pictured above, though the dimensions are down-sized slightly to appeal to smaller chickadees and wrens.
A folded license plate can replace the wood roof, or it can be added as an accent. Other variations include wrapping the metal plate around the base or cutting the plate to cover the front of the birdhouse.
License plates are cheap and easy to find at swap meets, flea markets, and yard sales. Each one is unique, making each license plate birdhouse a one-of-a-kind piece of yard art. If you take the time to learn how to build license plate birdhouses, you will not be disappointed.
3. How to Build a Simple Dovecote Bluebird House
Simple to make, this hexagon birdhouse looks great in the garden, and it is designed to attract bluebirds.
Traditional dovecote birdhouses are beautifully crafted, with multi-angled rooflines. If you are an intermediate weekend woodworker like me, you might find the compound angles intimidating. My version of the dovecote eliminates the complex angles, yet the stepped-up roof design mimics the look of an expensive dovecote. Learning how to build a simple dovecote-style bluebird birdhouse will attract many beautiful birds to your backyard.
4. Rustic Platform Bird Feeder
The Country Store Bird Feeder resembles a rustic building from the Old West, and its design adds a bit of whimsy to a basic platform feeder without sacrificing functionality. The platform feeder features a fly-through design that allows birds to approach the feeder from every direction, and the covered bin protects the seed from rain and snow. The porch roof helps to keep the seed dry on the feeding platform, and the feeder tray has drainage holes in the corners. The feeder is finished with a few simple trim pieces and colored stains to add character to the design.
5. A Nesting Shelf Made From Salvaged Wood
This attractive birdhouse—or, more accurately, this nesting shelf—was made from pieces of salvaged wood. The ends and bottom pieces of the birdhouse were cut from a cedar corner board removed during a remodeling job, and I salvaged the milled side pieces from the railings of a cedar play set. A few slats from an old pallet provide the roof pieces and door trim, and the metal stars tacked to each of the ends are re-purposed Christmas ornaments.
Resembling an old barn or rustic farm stable, the aged wood has a nice weathered patina from years spent outdoors. The shelf nesting box is designed to attract robins. In the winter, small birds will take refuge in the birdhouse from snow and chilling winds.
Building a birdhouse requires only basic woodworking skills and hand tools, and using salvaged wood keeps useable lumber out of the landfill. And because I salvaged all of the wood for this project, the cost of the lumber is $0.
6. Lighthouse for the Birds!
The turret and railing details at the top of the tower say "lighthouse," and though the design may look complex, the Lighthouse nesting box is easy to make. The construction process is broken down into three separate sub-assemblies: the main Lighthouse Tower nest box, the Turret assembly at the top, and the smaller Angled Shed nesting box. The three separate components are then assembled to form the lighthouse. Some trim and a little paint bring the lighthouse to life.
The tower is the primary nesting box, and it is designed to meet the requirements of many different cavity-nesting birds, such as bluebirds, wrens, and chickadees. The smaller shed nesting box is suitable for wrens, though a family of bluebirds chose to nest in the shed rather than the larger tower. Learn how to build a lighthouse birdhouse and enjoy nature from the comfort of your home.
7. The Basic Bluebird Birdhouse
Bluebirds prefer open fields, but as farmland gives way to urban sprawl, and with competition from starlings and sparrows, bluebirds have an increasingly difficult time finding suitable natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes for raising their young.
Fortunately, bluebirds can be attracted to backyards where they will nest in birdhouses built to proper specifications.
These bluebird birdhouses are simple and inexpensive projects to build and can be made from pine, cedar, or redwood boards which are commonly available at home centers and lumber yards. Use these DIY Birdhouse Plans to make several bluebird nesting boxes and create a Bluebird Trail of birdhouses, or give a bluebird house to a friend.
In northern areas of their range, bluebirds begin to nest but the in early spring, so it is important to place your bluebird houses by late winter. Enjoy the glory of bluebirds from your backyard and learn how to build a bluebird birdhouse.
Bluebird Birdhouse: The Peterson Nesting Box
This version of the Peterson bluebird house is a bit more challenging to build than the basic nest box. Based on the nest box designed by Dick Peterson, the nest box shares the downward slanted front section to deter predators with an oversized roof, which provides protection against rain.
The original Peterson design features an oval entrance to the birdhouse, and if preferred, you can easily modify the design to incorporate an oval opening. Some bluebirds prefer the oval entrance, claiming that it encourages more bluebirds to take up residence. This birdhouse design with the round 1-1/2" diameter entrance hole has successfully fledged several broods of bluebirds, and I added the entrance guard for increased security. Whether you prefer a round or oval entrance, the size of the hole is important (1 1/2" for eastern bluebirds, 1 9/16" for the western bluebird).
The slant front bluebird birdhouse is a fun project to build and adds a bit of variety to the bluebird trail that I've created in the garden and fields near my home. Make a few of each bluebird house, and give the bluebirds the chance to select their favorite nesting site. Learning how to build a Peterson Bluebird House is a fun process, and the end result looks great.
8. Bluebird Feeder: Attracting Bluebirds With a Specialty Feeder
This specially designed bluebird feeder is easy to make, and the birds learn quickly to enter the feeder to feast on live or freeze-dried mealworms inside. Bluebirds feed primarily on insects, fruits, and berries rather than seeds, and they are especially fond of mealworms. If you want to attract bluebirds to your feeders, try offering them a feeder filled with mealworms or specialty bluebird nuggets.
Protected Against Intruders
Lots of birds like to eat mealworms, and this feeder is designed to keep larger birds like starlings, sparrows, and jays from devouring all of the tasty little worms intended for the bluebirds. The key is the size of the entrance holes: a 1-½" diameter hole drilled through the sides of the feeder lets the bluebirds and other little birds in but keep the larger birds out. Learning how to build a specialty Bluebird Feeder is a fun process.
9. Screech Owl Nesting Box
The screech owl is a year-round resident in nearly every state across the county. They primarily inhabit woodlands but are also commonly found in suburban and urban areas.
Like many birds which rely on tree cavities for nesting sites, loss of habitat makes it harder for screech owls to find suitable nesting sites.
Fortunately, screech owls will readily move into a nest box to raise their young, and this screech owl nesting box is an easy project to make from a single 1" x 10" x 8' pine or cedar board.
Mount the nesting box between 10' to 30' above the ground. Screech owls are tolerant of human activity but are known to defend their nests, so it's best to place the nesting box in a tree or pole where it can be seen yet is set back from paths and walkways. Learning how to build a screech owl box will be a lot of fun.
10. Build a Driftwood Birdhouse
Building a birdhouse from a pile of driftwood is a lot of fun. Besides all of the little bits and pieces of driftwood that I found on the beach, the rest of the materials list is short and came from my scrap bin.
The exact size of the birdhouse is not critical, especially if you plan to make a decorative piece for display, and you can adjust the diameter of circular pieces and the length of the posts. I designed my birdhouse for use outdoors and hope to attract a pair of birds looking for a place to nest. Birds can be fussy when searching for nesting sites, so I used dimensions that appeal to small cavity-nesting birds, such as chickadees.
The new driftwood birdhouse was only up for a few short weeks before a family of wrens moved in. If you look closely at the following photo, you might see Mama Bird looking back at you! Learning how to make a driftwood birdhouse is a great way to save money.
11. Wood Duck Nesting Box
As their name implies, wood ducks inhabit ponds and streams in woodland areas. Like other cavity-nesting birds, wood ducks rely on finding natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes to raise their young.
If natural cavities are scarce, wood ducks will readily move into a nesting box to lay their eggs. In many areas, wood duck populations have increased thanks in part to the placement of nesting boxes.
Building a wood duck nesting box is an easy woodworking project. Cedar, redwood, pine, and even plywood are suitable materials for building a nest box. Learn how to make a wood duck nesting box and enjoy watching the birds.
12. American Kestrel Nesting Box
The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon found in North America. Once declining and at risk of extinction, the kestrel population has rebounded thanks in large part to conservation efforts, including the placement of specially designed kestrel nesting boxes.
Kestrels are cavity-nesting birds, but they cannot excavate their own nest site and rely on finding natural cavities in old trees and the abandoned holes of woodpeckers. When natural nesting sites are in short supply, the kestrels will adopt a man-made nesting box to raise their young.
The nesting box for the American Kestrel is an easy woodworking project and can be made of inexpensive pine found at any home center or lumberyard. Cedar is another good choice, though somewhat harder to find, and the cost is a little higher. Left unpainted and untreated, both kinds of wood will weather to a silvery-gray and will last for several seasons.
A small fledgling shelf mounted to the inside of the nesting box allows the baby kestrels to look out of the box while waiting for their parents to arrive with their next meal.
13. The Birdhouse Condo: A Trio of Birdhouses
These little wooden birdhouses are simple six-sided boxes made from pine or cedar and then arranged together to form an interesting condo unit.
Each of the birdhouses is an independent unit, and each unit is a different length. When stacked together, the differently sized birdhouses create a staggered look to the trio of wooden birdhouses.
The birdhouse trio is designed for smaller cavity-nesting birds such as chickadees or wrens. The birdhouse condo can be mounted to a tree, pole, or small building (mine is mounted to the side of our backyard shed) or add an eye hook to suspend the birdhouse from a tree branch or mounting bracket. Learning how to make these three-room birdhouse condos is a little more complicated but is still a great experience.
14. A Small Hanging Birdhouse
An exterior cedar trim board was rescued from a remodeling job and provided enough wood for the birdhouse, and the roof slats were cut from a lightweight shipping pallet.
Finding reclaimed wood is relatively easy, but it can take some time and effort to convert an old board into useable lumber. The old wood must be cleaned, metal screws and nails removed, and any split or damaged sections cut away.
Building this hanging wooden birdhouse requires only basic woodworking skills and hand tools, and re-using old wood helps to reduce the expense and keeps useable lumber out of the landfill. Making a rustic hanging birdhouse made from scrap wood will save you money and time and will still look great.
15. A Birdhouse With a View
This hanging wooden birdhouse is attractive, easy to make, and features a clear plastic back for peeking inside at the nest and baby birds. Hang the birdhouse in a protected area within view from a window and watch as the parent birds build their nest, incubate the eggs and feed the babies.
This simple wooden birdhouse requires only basic woodworking skills and tools and takes only about an hour to build from readily available pine, cedar, redwood, or just about any pieces from the scrap bin. This little birdhouse is a good project for using reclaimed wood to reduce cost and to keep useable wood out of the landfill. Build a wooden birdhouse with a view, and enjoy the view along with the birds.
16. Bat House Plans
Bats are one of the best natural defenses against mosquitoes and other flying pests, with each bat devouring over 1000 flying insects every evening. Bats are interesting to watch as they streak through the twilight skies, swooping and diving to grab their prey on the wing.
Though bats are one of the most beneficial predators in suburban areas, they are also one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated backyard inhabitants. Bats are also declining in many areas across the country, primarily due to the loss of habitat for adequate nesting and roosting sites.
You can help preserve a healthy and diverse wildlife ecosystem by inviting more bats into your backyard habitat with this easy-to-make decorative bat house. Learning how to build a bat house is fun and a hit with the kids.
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna
Tell Us About Your Birdhouses
Steve Alger from Leominster on April 18, 2020:
I built my first bluebird house a month ago. Within 2DAYS I had bluebirds moving in. I’ve now built another house and 3 mealworm feeders. “If you build it they will come”
I’m now addicted.
Mills Tuttle on April 15, 2018:
redtailvision on March 14, 2015:
Love the bird house plans. Thanks for sharing them! Will be adding a screech owl house this year. Have a number of them around, never thought of building a home for them till now.
Anthony Altorenna (author) from Connecticut on November 30, 2012:
@tonybonura: Thanks for stopping by! One side of each birdhouse has a pivot point that acts as a door. It's a simple hinge that's held in the 'closed' position by a screw. I've heard two different views on clearing birdhouse: clean them out after each brood leaves the nest verse leave the boxes alone (no one cleans out a natural nesting cavity). Personally, I like to clean out the nest boxes -- except for the birdhouses that were taken over by families of flying squirrels!