Nesting Box with Feeder for Attracting Bluebirds

You’ll be attracting bluebirds like never before when you combine a nesting box with a DIY bird feeder to offer mealworms.

This “bed-and-breakfast” design offers a fun alternative to ordinary bluebird houses. To make it yourself, just buy or build a plain bluebird nest box and dress it up, then add a DIY bird feeder filled with mealworms. Pretty soon, you’ll be singing a little “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” while attracting bluebirds to your own backyard!

House Basics
Whether you buy a basic bluebird house or decide to make your own, there are a few necessities. First, make sure it has ventilation holes at the top, drainage holes in the bottom and a clean-out door for annual maintenance. The house should have a 5-by-5-inch floor, a height of 8 to 12 inches and an entrance hole of 1½ inches placed 6 to 10 inches above the floor. Mount the house 4 to 5 feet above the ground toward an open field on a fence, post, utility pole or tree.

Materials:

  • Bluebird house (or wood or recycled material to make your own)
  • Plant holder with dish to fit
  • Base of your choice
  • Roofing material of your choice
  • Material for clean-out door, including hinge, handle, etc.
  • Paint
  • Clear shellac sealer
  • Assorted screws or nails
  • Cordless drill and bits
  • Jigsaw or coping saw
  • Snips

Step-By-Step Instructions:

Step 1

The box. I have found that old columns cut to size make for easy birdhouse building. All they need is a roof, a bottom, a door and whatever adornments tickle your fancy. I frequently visit our local architectural salvage yard, where I load my wagon up with a column or two, skeleton keys, old door hardware and cabinet knobs, hooks of all shapes and sizes, orphaned light canopies and other assorted castaways. If you don’t have a column lying around, don’t fret. Four pieces of wood cut to size and nailed together will put you in business.

Step 2

The roof. As a fan of Dr. Seuss illustrations, I find that many of my box designs are curvy and whimsical. The roof of this house, which uses tin flashing, is an example. I’ve provided a pattern (available to download at birdsandblooms.com) in case you’d like to duplicate it, but there are much easier ways to build a roof! Any kind of flexible, water-impervious material can be used to cover a wood substrate. Rubber, Sunbrella fabric scraps, tin, copper and aluminum flashing are all possibilities. If you have something that will work but you don’t like the look of it, paint it with glue and press sheet moss over it. Not only does it provide a gorgeous green roof, the birds love pulling out bits of moss for their nests!

Step 3

The clean-out door. I like to cut out my doors before I put the bottom on the house. I use a jigsaw, but you can also do it with an old-fashioned coping saw. You can hinge the door with a little strip of rubber or fabric, or a little metal hinge, as I’ve done here.

Step 4

The base. Before I attach my base to the house, I prefer to attach “feet” or a pedestal to the base. Even though I’ll be mounting the house on a post, I can never resist adding them anyway. I just like the way they look. If you do, too, you can use anything from old coat hooks (which remind me of bird feet) to sticks from the yard, antique ceiling light canopies, tub faucet handles, candlestick bases or even small discarded lamp bases. Start wandering around your garage or rifle through your junk drawers. You never know what you might find that will work perfectly! I used an old piano leg for my house here, with the idea that the house could be mounted on the post from the base or the back.

Step 5

Perches and predator guards. Perches right in front of the entrance hole can pose a real threat to baby birdies and eggs. Squirrels and other predators use them to extend their reach into the house. It’s much better to have perches on the side of the house. Here, I attached a wrought-iron plant holder to double as a side perch and a convenient place to leave food. A predator guard can be anything applied to the entrance hole to add depth. I’ve used radiator and plumbing supply escutcheons, porcelain light sockets and even just a block of wood with the same diameter hole drilled in it and nailed over the existing hole. Anything that makes it harder for a squirrel or raccoon paw to reach inside the house will do.

Step 6

Finishing touches. This is the fun part! Paint and adornments of all kinds can make your house one of a kind. (Whether you paint or not, remember to use a top coat of clear shellac sealer.) The wrought-iron plant holder on the side of my house, for instance, presents several options. You can use it for a live plant, or turn it into a DIY bird feeder and fill it with mealworms. Use your imagination, and you’ll have a B&B perfect for attracting bluebirds!

  1. Gail says

    Although this may look like a great idea, it is highly detrimental to attach a feeder to any type of birdhouse. As a serious bluebirder and NABS member, it is difficult enough for cavity nesting birds to successfully raise a brood to fledge when competition is so fierce for cavity nesting birds. Adding a feeder to a nest box creates undue stress for the nesting pair when other birds inspect the food plot. I highly discourage this set-up.

  2. Nancy says

    I agree with Gail. If you have mockingbirds around they will keep the bluebirds out of the nest. The first year I fed bluebirds, I fed them close to the nest and the mockingbirds were constantly going after them. I invested in a bluebird feeder and moved it farther from the nest.

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