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The Suburbanite
  • Green Space: Birds care less about fancy places to raise youngsters

  • The first thing I made with my hands was a birdhouse. My great grandfather was the consummate constructor of these “nest boxes.” He showed me all of the tricks one snowy afternoon.

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  • The first thing I made with my hands was a birdhouse. My great grandfather was the consummate constructor of these “nest boxes.” He showed me all of the tricks one snowy afternoon.
    You see a lot of birdhouses for sale. The fancy ones are built for humans and most often fail to attract birds. Creatures could care less about cute. It probably alarms them. You must decide, am I doing this for decoration or to raise birds?
    Always keep in mind what the birds are seeking in a nesting area: Security (hung high in a tree or on a pole), protection from the weather, cleanliness, dryness and the right size to accommodate the family and a nest.
    MATERIALS
    Best for raising bird families are plain, wooden boxes, but there’s some science at work here. Never paint them. Birds have a sense of smell, and they would shun anything with the aroma of a chemical factory. For this reason, don’t use treated lumber and don’t side your house with vinyl. Plain wood, especially poplar, weathers and works best.
    DESIGN
    Your average homemade birdhouse is four sides, a floor and a 14-degree angled roof. Hinge the roof at the top. All birdhouses must have a way for you to clean out the old nests after each season. Otherwise, ants soon will infest the box and drive out the birds.
    CONSTRUCTION
    Don’t go crazy about what humans would consider quality construction. The best birdhouses have loose tolerances that allow air to circulate inside. Don’t fit the roof tightly against the walls. Use little shims to provide space for ventilation. This is crucial in the summer. In cold weather, birds will fill the cracks with nesting materials.
    The roosting peg under the hole is optional. Birds enter the house by fluttering their wings. The peg may get in the way. Make sure all splinters are sanded or removed. These are dangerous to feathered wings.
    On the inside of the front wall, cut grooves across the wood to help the fledglings climb out the entrance hole.
    SITING
    Birds are shy creatures and prefer isolated areas to raise their families. Hanging a house from a limb will cause it to sway in the winds, and birds won’t like that. Turn the entrance side away from the prevailing wind (to the east). This helps keep rain out.
    NO VACANCY
    Be patient. If birds for a season ignore your house, try a new location. Keep away from dead trees as they attract crows, hawks and other predators. It may take a year or more for birds to become accustomed to your house. Then, they will return to it faithfully if you clean it out in late winter.
    Page 2 of 2 - FREE PLANS
    The Internet is loaded with free designs and schematics. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers an excellent PDF on birdhouses. Go to their home page www.dnr.state.oh.us/ and search on “nest boxes.”
    BIRDHOUSE HOLE DIAMETERS
    (in inches)
    Barn Owl: 6
    House Wren: 1.25
    Woodpecker: 1.25
    Bluebird: 1.5
    Flicker: 2.5
    Purple Martin: 2.5
    Swallow: 1.5