Introduction: Building the $2 Birdhouse

Picture of Building the $2 Birdhouse

I have built many of these $2 birdhouses as gifts. The basis of the $2 birdhouse is a 6" wide Dog Eared Cedar Picket, which comes in 5 and 6 foot lengths. The cheaper 5 foot picket will be enough to build one birdhouse and typically sells for less than $2. Please make sure your picket has not been stained or treated, just the natural Cedar. Also, keep in mind that any 1"x6" stock will work; I have transformed quite a bit of scrap wood into birdhouses. I have been told to avoid pallet wood as some has been treated with arsenic, but do not know this to be a fact in all cases, just be aware of the possibility.

Step 1: Materials Needed... Tools Needed...

Picture of Materials Needed...  Tools Needed...

Some good 1x6 stock, at least 5 feet per house. If using Cedar Pickets, try to find some that are not badly warped and have a uniform thickness. Remember to look for wood that you can recycle!

Indoor/Outdoor wood glue, such as Elmers, nothing fancy is needed.

1&1/4 inch brads, if you plan to use a nail gun, similar sized 16-18 gauge will work very nicely.

Perch is a 1/4 inch twig or other interesting device, such as a Golf Tee, rusty screw, basically anything a small bird would be comfortable perching on.

As basic as a miter box and saw, all the way to a chop saw and table saw if you have them.

Hammer and drill for pre-drilling holes or an air powered nailer (16-18 gauge is all you need).

Eventually, you will need a hole saw, probably 1&1/4 inch, but go to 1&3/8 inch if you have Bluebirds.

Step 2: Some Plans... (I Use the Term Loosley)

Picture of Some Plans... (I Use the Term Loosley)

It might help some folks to print the following two diagrams, but it isn't necessary. I do recommend using a tape measure and marking your cuts before the actual cutting begins. Also, take a look at your boards and plan around any defects.

Step 3: Getting Started & Saw Work...

Picture of Getting Started & Saw Work...

Before getting started, consider where you want to put the birdhouse. Choose the hanging or flush mount Instructable. This Instructable is for the hanging birdhouse is the basis for the flush mount birdhouse, so you will benefit from reading on.

Saw Work: Cut four 9" pieces for the gable ends and roof pieces. Cut two 6" side pieces. Save the scrap for the floor. If you started with a 6' picket, you will have enough scrap to build a tool box - I will be working on the toolbox Instructable soon.

Optional saw work, trim one edge of one roof piece the width of the material. This will result in a symmetrical roof, but the birds won't notice!


Step 4: Optional Saw Work - Trimming the Roof...

Picture of Optional Saw Work - Trimming the Roof...

For a perfectly symmetrical roof, you will need to drag out the table saw and trim off one edge of one roof by an amount equal to the thickness of the board. The Pictures will explain why...

Step 5: Assembly - the Fun Part!

Picture of Assembly - the Fun Part!

All points of attachment are glued with Elmer's indoor/outdoor Wood Glue, or equivalent, then nailed into place. VIEW ALL PICTURES AS THEY ARE THE INSTRUCTIONS...

Step 6: A Front Door and a Perch...

Picture of A Front Door and a Perch...

For most urban birdhouses, an entrance of 1&1/4 inch will be good. Nuthatches, Chickadees, and Sparrows will be your most likely tenants. If you are lucky enough to have Bluebirds, you'll need to increase the hole size to 1&1/2 inches. A hole saw makes a nice smooth hole, but check for splinters inside the home.

A twig, slightly larger than the hole works great. Strip the bark off with a knife and glue in place. Usually, the perch is placed 2 inches below the centerline of the entrance.

The pictures are the instructions, so view them all...

Step 7: A Floor (clean Out Hatch) and a Wire for Hanging...

Picture of A Floor (clean Out Hatch) and a Wire for Hanging...

Although it is not completely necessary a clean out hatch is a good idea. Many birds will clean out a house themselves, but an occasional problem might render the nest unused. I have found dead birds, wasp nests, and so much nesting material that I needed access to clean.

When installing the floor, it is easiest to place the house on top of the floor and nail in from the sides. Remember to leave a gap for the action of the hinge, which consists of a nail driven in each side towards one end of the floor.

The house will need some type of hardware to hang it from. An old wire hanger, a scrap of wire, a small chain, etc... I have found that installing the hanger on alternate sides of the roof results in a stable house. (You'll understand when you see the pictures.)


Step 8: Final Thoughts...

Picture of Final Thoughts...

Locating a birdhouse; a few tips...

Try to locate the birdhouse in a shaded area that is free from hazards. About eye level is high enough to keep cats away, but not so high to cause a hazard to chicks, who might make a crash landing during their first flight. Trees are a good place to hang a house, but keep an eye out for squirrels. I hope you enjoyed this Instructable. I will try to keep an eye on comments, in case you have a question. Check out my birdhouse maintenance Instructable Enjoy!


LPS_Lover101 (author)2016-08-02

Thank You! This was very useful! We have finches around the neighbor hood and they need a home! Thank You Again!

jdbirch (author)2009-02-08

I hate to be picky, but the Eastern Bluebird should have a 1 1/2 inch hole, our fatter mountain / Western guys go for a 1 9/16. The bird box should also NOT have a perch - that helps predators! When I get around to it, I'll put my instructable on here. (currently working on bluebird box #53 for this year) Check out the 'nabs' site (North American Bluebird Society) for verification of these directions. All the rest of these directions for this nesting box will work fine - my design uses only straight cuts for speed, has a mesh for swallows, a hole guard for protection, and a double floor to help the cleanout. Stay tuned....

cheapchuck (author)jdbirch2009-02-08

I made that change for the Bluebird hole size. I do recommend removing the perch if there is a problem with predators. Otherwise, a perch is a nice thing to have for the birds and the folks who watch them. I know a man who attaches a small branch to the base of his birdhouses. This becomes a gathering place for the inhabitants.

hoihoi151 (author)cheapchuck2010-02-19

 i used to live in north QLD australia. we would get snakes getting into the bird boxes and eating the birds. so we added another hole to the back of the box. one in front one in back. we had a perch at both holes. after we did that snakes would still get into the box but they couldnt eat the birds because the birds would fly out the other hole.
just a suggestion

Frog_N_Faerie (author)hoihoi1512016-05-07

Thanks for the good idea. Here in Texas we have a problem with bull or king snakes doing the same thing. Perhaps a higher up escape for would help. We've had some luck attaching hardware cloth under the bottom.

doo da do (author)hoihoi1512014-03-05

Grand idea, (thinking out side the box) no pun intended

SandyR25 (author)2016-01-17

Why put a perch? All I ever learned is to not put a perch it offers a place for a predator to get eggs/babies or chew holes larger to use for squire netsing.

NikkoT1 (author)2016-01-12

Fun☆tastic!…‥....My elves will appreciate the easy assembly!…‥....Hohohoho!!

gary.craig.940 (author)2014-12-06

Hi Chuck, I just made the top and walls of my first birdhouse. Thanks for the instructions. I made all the cuts per the measurements. I used a 6" wide redwood fence board. I have not created the bottom yet as I am thinking about extending the bottom to make a landing platform for the birds. I will post the pictures once I decide on the floor size. I will read up on what others have to say about making different landing spots for the birds. - Gary

FryzeBaby (author)gary.craig.9402015-08-30

Hi Gary, If you have squirrels in your area I would reconsider an extended landing as it will give them a perch to sit on while shewing a bigger hole, unless you surround the hole with something like metal flashing. Becky

Old car/truck tags can be used for birdhouse roofs we have a bunch of them friends collect them and give us them to us or anybody you know can give you the old one

Loreelle made it! (author)2015-05-10

Yes, HE made this with a little guidance! He is three-year-old Evan, his mommy is my daughter. We thank you for sharing this FUN and easy project! Our little carpenter-for-a-day is so proud! Thank you! ❤️

snm1202 (author)2015-03-10

This birdhouse looks really cute and I'm hoping that it will work for my school project! Thanks!

GeorgeGill (author)2014-09-07

Just finished my first one, two more to go for the Grand kids. I just bought the pickets at Home Depot yesterday for $1.33 each on sale.

We pick up wood at dumpsters or behind a Sears store all we pay for are nails maybe 1.00 we use a air gun for staples which we have or nails never had to buy wood always free look around your area homes stores etc good luck

bassoml (author)2015-01-02

My son takes Taekwondo. We have a pile of 'Boards' from his board braking exercises. Is this wood safe to use? It doesn't seem to be treated. It is quite thin though but I thought it would be fun to make something out of it with my son rather than throw them away.

OneDisciple (author)2014-01-17

Please tell me where you get this $2 picket! No can find anywhere near this cheap:(

Working with a group of 30 youth. Need cheap!



Here's a pack of 8 for 19 bucks. that's just over $2.35 a piece. Remember, this 'ible is over 5 years old.

Maise (author)2014-03-20

You mention not using treated wood. Is it OK to seal or finish the birdhouse with spar urethane?

msw100 (author)2009-05-28

Nice job I will be making one for my daughter as she wanted a bird house but will adjust the hole for Northern Ireland birds how about inserting a plastic tuperware type container in the bottom to aid cleaning something of a similar size, just a thought ? Great job

gdelisle (author)msw1002009-06-22

Just make sure that the box is really watertight, otherwise your plastic container will collect rainwater. Either that, or make water drainage holes in the bottom of the container that will let water out.

AZApple (author)gdelisle2013-10-06

No, no!
I love your -ible and plan to use it, thank you very much! But on the floor issue I must interject that in my experience the birds, themselves, generate enough humidity within the home to cause problems. I'd advise against a water tight floor. Maybe you'd like to achieve the same goal (almost) using a molded screen "cup" on the floor. Even in the dry climate of Arizona I have to have ventilation holes in the floors. Picture the babies pooping in there... lotsa moisture.
I made this very mistake of a solid floor. (In case you would like to try this, the nest was made out of a canned pumpkin can: use a normal can opener to cut around only half of the lid and simply fold that half down so that the opening is a half circle with the straight edge on the bottom. And make several holes in the bottom.) Anyway, without drainage holes, when cleaning out I found rotten bedding with some sort of stinky, black mildew/mold stuff in the bottom.
Cold air will be held out with bedding and, besides, you'd be surprised how much heat a momma bird and a couple babies can generate, LOL!

cheapchuck (author)msw1002009-05-28

Interesting idea. Maybe even the bottom of an empty plastic milk jug? I don't think the birds mind, afterall, they'll nest in lights and other plastic hardware.

dfernstrom (author)cheapchuck2013-05-25

The issue would be that if there's clear or partly clear plastic exposed to sunlight, it could build heat up inside to lethal levels.

rendermatt (author)2010-12-01

Great instructable. The only pickets I found were treated with "micronized copper azole" so I just got a 1x6x8' cedar board for 9$. Do you think its a good idea to mount to a tree, and put an extra layer of wood around the hole to keep predators out?

cheapchuck (author)rendermatt2010-12-01

Mounting to the tree works great. You can always add the predator guard later if you have a problem. Also consider a metal predator guard such as half of a small juice can. Thanks, cheapchuck

AZApple (author)cheapchuck2013-10-06

I think the tree would prefer if you could mount the home on something already dead.

dfernstrom (author)2013-05-25

I actually wouldn't recommend using cedar for birdhouses - most any other wood would be acceptable, so long as it isn't treated. Cedar emits high levels of toxic phenols. (This is why it repels insects). Birds have very delicate respiratory systems. Just as you shouldn't house small animals on cedar shavings (particularly in closed spaces), I wouldn't expose delicate baby birds to it, either. It may wind up damaging their internal organs, and shortening their lifespan. While no studies have been done on this, the possibility shouldn't be ignored. Better to be safe, and use pine or a hardwood! (Pine also emits phenols, but at lower levels).

Jerry E (author)2013-01-21

Nice instructable. I am doing this project with my daughter as an easy introductory wood project, though I am handling the chopsaw cuts.

AndyGadget (author)2009-02-05

Brilliant Instructable. I'll be making a few of these this spring. You've mentioned it in passing, but the size of the hole will determine what type of bird the box attracts (and woodpeckers will tailor it to their specifications ;¬)
Smaller birds need small holes as they like the security of knowing they're not going to be invaded by larger birds. An alternative is the open fronted birdbox which attracts other types of birds.

mdaugherty9 (author)AndyGadget2012-09-30

I agree! I wrote an article on bird house plans and how to attract the most popular species of birds to your back yard, it can be helpful Thanks

cheapchuck (author)AndyGadget2009-02-05

Thank you Andy!

Judith756 (author)2012-07-20

Great ible, thanks for the measurements. Since being in the hurricane region, we have lots of weathered fence boards laying around and people giving them away on the recycle sites. This could be a nice free project except for the paint to make them "pretty", which if I am using the houses, I don't even need that.

wd4.0 (author)2011-04-04

This sounds like a great project, in fact I plan on constructing one myself this week sometime, however you made mention of a tool box that can be made from remaining material from the picket. Do you plan on posting this instructable any time soon I'm very interested in this idea.

cheapchuck (author)wd4.02011-04-05

I'll work on that, also, I can take a picture of one tomorrow, so I'll try and post it in this thread.

wd4.0 (author)cheapchuck2011-04-07

sounds great!!! thanks

cheapchuck (author)wd4.02011-04-07

multitool: I PM'd you with more info.

THYMETOCHAT (author)2010-04-19

Nice birdhouse!  My homeschooled grandkids are doing a unit on birds and this will be an easy and inexpensive project that each of them...even the 10 year old...can make.  (I'll handle the saw, however!)

cheapchuck (author)THYMETOCHAT2010-04-21

Thanks.  I frequently stack 5 pickets on my chop saw and cut parts for 5 birdhouses at a time.  This reduces time and the cuts are more uniform too.  Good Luck.

RaynoGernsback (author)2010-04-11

If, like me, you have problems with squirrels clawing and gnawing their way through the entrance, try reenforing it with a metal plate. My grandfather showed me with a piece of roofing lead with a hole in the middle, which is great if you have some spare. I used a bit of scrap metal from an old hard-drive case, which seemed alright. I'd like to see the crafty buggers get through that!

mikex (author)2009-08-22

The pictorial diagram has 6" as the measurement for those two pieces, but the descriptive text says to cut 6 & 1/2 " pieces. Which do you mean, 6" or 6 & 1/2"?

cheapchuck (author)mikex2009-08-22

Either is fine. It is difficult to predict exactly how long the side walls need to be prior to cutting the gable ends. Varying widths of pickets, and accuracy of making the 45 degree cut will tend to vary the side wall length. A 6 inch side wall will always fit, but may leave a gap at the top, which will help with ventilation. A 6.5 inch side wall will need to be trimmed to fit and might be better if a tighter bird house is desired. Either way, there is plenty of length on a 5 foot picket. After building many of these birdhouses, I tend to use the gable ends to determine the actual length of the sidewall cuts. Hope this helps.

mikex (author)cheapchuck2009-08-23

Thanks. I'm an anal-retentive engineer, so I wasn't sure if you made a mistake or what. I realize it's a just a backyard project, so things don't have to be perfect. I drew it out on paper and it looks like the 6" dimension is the one I'll use. I'll probably use your idea for a few variations of the birdhouse too. Good project!

arirang777 (author)2009-05-08

What about using OSB board instead of Cedar? What could be your considerations?

cheapchuck (author)arirang7772009-05-10

I have used manufactured wood siding and OSB without any problems. The OSB requires pre-drilling for hand nailed nails, but nails fine with an air gun.

AndyGadget (author)2009-02-28

Two made and another couple to come. The hinged drop-out bottom is a great idea, but I found I had to chamfer the back a bit to allow it to swing. I also added a small screw so I can get a grip if the wood swells. I'll probably use a couple of bands of bike inner-tube to attach to the trees.

cheapchuck (author)AndyGadget2009-02-28

Great Job Andy! Yeah, that trap door takes a little pratice. If you want to surface mount any in the future, just move the roof forward until it is flush in back, or you could trim the rear overhang off on a table saw. Birds on the way...

Culturedropout (author)2009-02-05

Great Instructable! Really good pictures and clear instructions. We'll probably be building some of these. I hope people will consider building these with their kids and putting them up where they can watch the birds come and go.

About This Instructable




Bio: Repairman! Enjoy frugality and helping others. Debt free since 1999. Enjoy nature, especially birds. Like a good storm!
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