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How to Build a One-Board Birdhouse

It’s fun, educational – even magical – to build a birdhouse for the cabin with your kids or grandkids and then keep an eye on the feathered friends who move in

By Carrol L. Henderson
Published: June 1, 2012
HOME SWEET HOME – Using simple tools and just one cedar board and a small piece of quarter-round molding, you and the kids can build a nest box fit for bluebirds, tree swallows, chickadees and wrens.
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Building, placing, and checking songbird nest boxes can be a very rewarding project that you and your children or grandchildren can do together. I still recall helping my grandfather build and paint a wren house in his workshop when I was 10 years old. To our delight and amazement, house wrens magically appeared and began nesting and raising a family by the garage on our Iowa farm.
    One of the best ways to get children interested in nature is to build simple one-board birdhouses that attract songbirds. The 1⅜ x 2¼-inch oval entrance hole on this design can fit bluebirds, tree swallows, chickadees and wrens.  
    This one-board birdhouse [scroll down for plans and step-by-step instructions] is a good design for a family using simple woodworking tools. A child can help with all steps of the construction and assembly. You just need one cedar board and a piece of quarter-round molding. I like to use cedar, because it’s weatherproof, long-lasting, easy to cut and needs no painting.
    I do not recommend using nails to assemble cedar birdhouses, because the houses loosen up with time. Instead, I use deck screws and predrill the screw holes. This makes screwing the bird house together much simpler for a child and avoids splitting the wood near edges.
    To allow the nest box to open easily so you can see what the birds are up to, one side of the birdhouse swings open when you remove a strategically placed nail.

Materials & supplies
    • 1x6-inch by 6-foot cedar board, straight and relatively free of knots
         (Tip: A 1x6 board actually measures ¾ x 5½ inches.)

    • 5½-inch piece of quarter-round molding
    • Carpenter’s square
    • Drill, ½-inch bit, 7/64-inch bit
    • Jigsaw
    • 1⅝-inch deck screws, wood screws, or ring-shank nails
    • Table saw or radial-arm saw (optional)
    • Weatherproof caulk
    • Finishing nails
    • Sidecutter pliers
Step-by-Step Instructions
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Photo by Carrol L. Henderson
Step 1 - Select a Board
Select a board that is straight, with few or no knots, and without split ends. Cedar is best. Cedar will have one smooth side and one rough side. Assemble the house so the rough side faces outward.
CBN-B0612_W4W cover
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Carrol Henderson has been the supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Nongame Wildlife Program since 1977. This project is an excerpt from his book "Woodworking for Wildlife: Homes for Birds and Animals." You can find this book along with several others he has authored and co-authored at Minnesota’s Bookstore.
Place nest boxes in the woods, on the edge of the woods, in open lawn areas, or near water. Each nest box might be used by a different species. To protect native songbirds from invasive house sparrows, who will harass or kill native nesting songbirds, it’s important that you check on the next boxes, ideally once a week. If house sparrows take over, remove their nest; the birds are not protected by law.
    To check a nest box, approach it speaking calmly (a predator would try to approach quietly). You can help the chicks by removing any blowfly larvae (maggots about ¼ inch long) attached to the chicks. The parents won’t abandon the chicks if you handle them. If a nest becomes wet or infested with blowflies, fashion a new nest from dry grass. Place the chicks in the new nest and remove the old nest. Do not bring the chicks food; their parents will.
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