Build a Birdhouse with Found Materials

Building a rustic birdhouse can be a rewarding weekend adventure for crafters, amateur woodworkers or family fun. Build one for your yard by following the simple steps below.

Choosing salvaged wood


Creative Commons John Arlet, 2013

Old pallets, cedar chests, corner boards and even pieces of old children’s jungle gyms can be used to build a rustic birdhouse to enjoy in your backyard. The first step, in building your own birdhouse with found materials, is to choose the type of salvaged wood you’ll be using. Do not worry too much about the size of your pieces. Pieces can be used in a variety of ways, depending on what you find. Follow these steps to make sure the wood you’re using is safe and reasonably simple to work with:

  1. Look for cedar, cypress, redwood, good quality plywood or pine pieces. Cedar, cypress and redwood will not need treating. Plywood and pine tend to last longer. Do not choose wood that is painted or treated with chemicals for the inside of the nesting box. The chemicals could hurt birds lungs and clog breathing holes in the eggs.
  2. If you’re not using pieces you own, don’t forget to ask for permission before salvaging the wood for your birdhouse. Just because it looks discarded, doesn’t necessarily mean it is.
  3. Pass on any wood which looks like termites or powder post beetles might have been munching on it. It isn’t worth the risk involved of bringing these pests near your home.

Clean and prep salvaged wood

Discarded wood is usually somewhat beat up and dirty. The materials can easily be cleaned with a sturdy bristle brush and a little dish soap. Give the wood a good scrubbing to remove excess dirt, old paint and some stains.

Next, lay out the wood in your garage or workspace for a few days. This allows the wood to dry out and acclimate to your environment. This will make the wood easier to work with and prevent warping or cracking as you work with it.

Finally, thoroughly check your lumber for any metal materials. Look for screws, nails, staples and any other objects that don’t belong. All of these could cause injuries to you or the birds. If the wood pieces are thick, consider giving the piece a once-over with a metal detector before using.

Assembling your rustic birdhouse

Use a handsaw or table saw to cut your lumber. Here’s what you will need:

  1. Two pieces measuring 4.5” by 9.75” for the ends,
  2. Four pieces measuring 14” by 3.75” for the sides,
  3. One piece measuring 12.25” by 4.5” for the base
  4. Four pieces measuring 15.25” long by 3.25” wide by ⅜” thick for the roof pieces.

You’ll want to use nails or screws specifically designed for outdoor use. If they are not weatherproofed, they will rust and cause problems for your birds after a few months outdoors. Use your nails or screws to attach all pieces, beginning by attaching the sides to the base, and ending with the roof slats. If you would like to angle your roof, use your saw to cut a 45-degree angle gable on each of the side pieces.

Cutting a hole in the birdhouse

Use a jigsaw to cut a hole for birds to enter the house. The size of the hole will determine the type of bird most likely to use your house. Take a look at our blog for specific hole dimensions for different types of birds. The hole size is critically important if you’re looking to attract Bluebirds, Wrens or other small songbirds.

Once you’ve cut the hole in your birdhouse, use a piece of rough sandpaper or a file to round over the edges and smooth out any rough places that could harm delicate bird wings.

Adding style to a rustic birdhouse

Here is where you can have a little fun! Use scrap pieces, paint or even small pieces of metal to add trimming to the outside of your birdhouse. The sky’s the limit as to your design, just remember not to treat the inside of the nesting box or the entrance hole.

Once your rustic birdhouse is complete, mount it on a pole in your yard and consider adding a few birdhouse nesting materials near by to help birds prepare their nest.

Don’t forget, if you’d like a rustic-style nesting box in your backyard, but don’t want to make it yourself. We have many to choose from at!

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