Barn Wood Birdhouse: How to Build a Rustic Handcrafted Birdhouse
The Barn Wood Wren House
A worn and weathered board was leaning in the corner of a neighbor's shed. Years of exposure to the elements gave the old pine plank a warm patina and inspired me to make this rustic birdhouse. The board is 8" wide, and this influenced the dimensions and design of the birdhouse. We have lots of little wrens who visit the feeders in our yard, so I decided to make a nest box that would appeal to these smaller cavity nesting birds.
The birdhouse was designed with the entrance hole on its right side when mounted to a post, tree, or similar structure (mine is attached to the side of our shed). The front pivots opens on weather-resistant screws for easy cleaning of the nesting box. Another screw keeps the door securely closed. There are gaps under the roofline for air flow and ventilation, and the corners of the floor are notched for good drainage. The entrance hole is 1-1/4 inches in diameter, and it will make a great home for the local chickadees and wrens.
Step 1: The Cutting List
Birdhouses are great projects for reusing old wood, bits of salvaged materials, and leftovers from my scrap bin. I'm always on the lookout for useable pieces of wood that I can convert into birdhouses and other rustic projects. The wood from choice finds such as this barn wood plank are featured prominently in my designs while other less desirable pieces are relegated to less visible areas. For this birdhouse, I cut the front, roof, and side sections from the old barn wood plank. The back and floor sections won't show, and these were cut from a piece of salvaged shiplap pine.
Cut pieces of lumber into the following dimensions. The top of the slanted side pieces are cut at a 45-degree angle.
- Front = 6-1/2" H x 4-3/4" W
- Back = 12" H x 5" W
- Sides (2) = 12" H x 5-1/4" W
- Roof = 10" L x 8" W
- Floor = 4-3/4" L x 3-1/4" W
- Entrance Guard = 3" x 3"
Step 2: Make an Entrance
The diameter of the entrance hole is important for attracting cavity nesting birds to your birdhouse. Different species prefer different size openings. Too small, and the birds can't get in. Too big, then the larger non-native and more aggressive European starlings and house sparrows can drive away the locals.
Wrens and chickadees will move into a birdhouse with a 1-1/4" hole while eastern bluebirds prefer 1-1/2" diameter entrances. The western and mountain bluebirds require a slightly larger 1-9/16" opening.
I used a 1-1/4" Forstner bit to drill the entrance holes through the right side section and through the entrance guard. Wrens and chickadees can easily fit through the small opening while the larger starlings and sparrows are too big to enter.
Layout the location for the entrance hole on the right side piece, with the best side of the barn wood facing outward. Measure up 5-1/2" from the bottom edge, then center the hole in the middle of the side section.
The entrance guard is a 3" square block with another 1-1/4" hole drilled through the center. To find the center of the square quickly, line up a ruler on the diagonal across two opposite corners and draw a line near the center. Then, place the straight edge across the opposite corners and draw another line near the center. The resulting "X" marks the exact center of the square.
Step 3: Bevel the Edges
The top edge of the back section is beveled at a 45-degree angle to match the slope of the side pieces. The front and rear edges of the roof are also beveled at the same 45-degree angle. When fitted together, the angles line up smoothly for a clean look and makes it easier to attach the pieces together.
To cut the angles, I tilted the table saw blade to 45-degrees. The miter gauge helps to support the roof sections safely and securely while cutting the bevels.
Step 4: Some Assembly Required
The birdhouse is built using simple joinery and held together with weather-resistant nails and glue. Start by attaching one side piece to the back section, lining up the bottom edges. If the angles don't line up correctly at the top, mark and cut one of the bottom edges as needed.
When satisfied with the fit, add a bead of glue and secure the pieces together with a few nails. Repeat with the other side.
Position the roof on top of the subassembly, and slightly off-center. The right side of the roof overhangs the right side of the birdhouse to protect the entrance hole from the sun and rain. The angled edge of the back, sides and roof should all line up together as shown in the photo (below).
When satisfied with the positioning of the overhang, attach the roof to the side and back sections with more glue and nails.
Step 5: Lay Out the Pivoting Door
The front of the birdhouse is attached to the subassembly with two screws that form a pivot point: One screw is carefully positioned on each side, directly opposite each other and driven into the edge of the front piece. This creates a pivot point for the hinged front door that opens easily for cleaning out the interior.
Line up the bottom edge of the front piece with the bottom edges of the subassembly. Then on the sides, measure down 1-1/2" from the point where the angled top edge meets the side edge.
Please note: The top of the front section does not meet flush with the angled roofline of the side pieces. This is intentional and when the birdhouse is fully assembled, leaves a small gap under the roofline for air circulation.
Step 6: Secure the Door
Drill and countersink a hole through the side and into the front door section, and then attach the pieces together with a weather-resistant screw. Using a square or straight edge, transfer the location of the screw across the front piece to the opposite side. Drill and countersink another hole, and attach the side to the door with another screw.
The door should swing open easily. Next, we'll add the floor and then finish attaching the door by driving another screw through the bottom of the front section and into the edge of the floor.
Step 7: Add the Floor
Now that the back, sides and front are in place, it's time to install the floor. The floor needs drainage holes to allow any rainwater to drain away. The openings in the floor also increase the air flow by drawing cooler air in through the floor, then up and out through the opening under the roof. Drilling a few 1/4" diameter holes through the floor will work, though I prefer to clip off the corners.
Fit the floor in place inside the subassembly and close the door. Trim as needed for good fit, then attach the floor through the sides and back sections with more glue and nails.
To secure the door, drill and countersink a hole through the bottom of the front section and into the front edge of the floor. Install another screw to hold the door closed. Removing the screw allows the door to swing open for cleaning out the nest box.
Step 8: Guard the Entrance
The entrance guard helps to protect the nest from predators reaching inside, and it adds a bit of detail to the side of the birdhouse. Positioning the guard on a bias replicates a diamond shape and aligns the guard with the angled roofline. Attach the guard to the side with a dab of glue and a few short brads.
I covered the edges of the guard with a veneer of thin strips cut from a scrap of barn wood. After cutting and fitting the thin strips, I attached the pieces to the guard with glue and brads.
The Finishing Touches
The barn wood birdhouse is almost ready for occupancy, but before placing it in the garden, I softened a few of the edges with a bit of sandpaper. I also stained the cut edges outside of the back and floor sections, the beveled cut edges of the roof, and the bottom edges of the door, back, and side.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Anthony Altorenna