Birdhouses are made to be adorned—at least, that’s my philosophy. I love repurposing old knobs, candlesticks and other odds and ends into accessories for birdhouses. I call the finished products “birdtiques,” and they look fantastic in the garden. Best of all, these birdtiques don’t cost a lot of money. All you need are a simple $10 birdhouse kit, a junk pile and a little imagination. Get ready to have the most stylish DIY birdhouse on the block—that is, if you can bear to put it outside.
I think of each DIY birdhouse as having four elements that make it distinctive: the base, the roof, the perches and the predator guards. You can customize each one -depending on the supplies you have on hand.
Bases. Old coat hooks, ceiling light canopies, tree branches, discarded candleholders, antique sink or shower faucet handles, ashtray stands—these and more make wonderful birdhouse bases.
Roofs. Metal, rubber or fabric – use any kind of flexible, water-impervious material as a roof. Even if all you have is a faded scrap of Sunbrella fabric, you can glue it over the roof, seal it and then add moss for a living roof. The birds will love pulling the moss out for their nests!
Predator guards. Predator-guard candidates come in all shapes and sizes. Just adding an inch can keep squirrel and raccoon paws from scooping out the eggs. And even more will protect bluebirds from crows, cats and snakes. When selecting a guard, keep in mind what size hole you need to attract certain birds. You don’t want it too big, or that will assist predators. Old porcelain light sockets, chrome radiator flanges and big rubber gaskets are a few handy options.
Perches. While sweet in appearance, perches give predators a leg up on stealing eggs and disrupting a nest. It’s always best to remove perches from store-bought birdhouses. Instead, think about using a perch on the side of the house, where it will double as a handle. Discarded cabinet knobs, tin wings, and spigot handles from sinks or hose bibs all make interesting side perches.
- Birdhouse kit
- Roofing material
- Accessories (odds and ends, junk, etc.)
- Needle-nose pliers
- Assorted screws, roofing nails, finishing nails
- Cordless drill
- Coping saw (for clean-out door)
- Tin snips or sharp scissors
- Vegetable peeler or paring knife
Assemble and glue the house, excluding the bottom. (You can also recycle an old birdhouse.) Lightly sand and smooth the inside and outside using medium- to fine-grit sandpaper. Pay special attention to the hole where birds enter and exit.
Drill holes in the bottom panel of the house for drainage and ventilation. Sand both sides of the bottom with a medium- to fine-grit sandpaper. Add the bottom to your house but don’t glue it yet. It will be easier to attach your base if the bottom stays free.
Prime your house with exterior or interior-exterior primer. I like the eco-friendly low-VOC paints. Don’t paint the inside, though: Keep it natural for the birds. After the primer is dry, sand your house lightly with fine-grit paper to prepare the surface for the final coat(s) of paint.
Now attach a base and accessories. Choose your own design, or try one of these for inspiration!
This dainty pink house takes advantage of several workshop castoffs. Coat hooks salvaged from old closets make wonderful birdlike feet, while a piece of orange rubber belting provides a water-impervious cover for the roof. Finally, an old blue spigot handle does double duty as a side perch.
The base of this Hansel and Gretel house was made out of an iron candlestick, which gives it a bit of panache. Before gluing the bagged moss to the roof, I made sure to fill the roof seam with caulk so little birdies would stay dry. The big, round predator guard lends a modern feel to an otherwise woodland cottage style. The tin flowers provide a delicate birds-only perch, keeping predators at bay.
Margaret is a little more tidy and together. A handsome copper roof, elegant copper flowers and a nicely proportioned light canopy for the base lend an air of refinement. I tinted the final coat of shellac to lend an antique quality to the finish. The front perch is a wooden button that’s dainty enough for a bird but not too much to help a squirrel.
It’s time to go for a walk in the woods! The legs of this fun house are sticks from the backyard. You can leave the bark on or whittle it away with a vegetable peeler, as shown here. Sunny has roof flashing that is thin and bendable enough to form a roof, wings and “feathers.” The result is a very birdlike house, with the wings doubling as a safe resting spot for feathered friends. Some fun painting and tin flowers add whimsy and color.