Buy or Make Birdhouses?
Many songbirds commonly found in suburban areas--chickadees, house wrens, sparrows, downy woodpeckers, and nuthatches--will live in man-made birdhouses if they are the correct size and height above the ground. Manufactured birdhouses can be purchased at the garden center or through mail order. Or, if you are handy with tools, a birdhouse is relatively easy and inexpensive to build. If you do not want to bother cutting your own wood, buy a birdhouse kit and assemble it yourself.
Birdhouses are available commercially in all kinds of materials, but ones made of wood are best. Metal is too hot. Marine or exterior plywood is acceptable, but the gas vapors from the glue may keep birds away for a year or two. Some birds will live in houses made of gourds, ceramic, and tile. In the end, the wooden house is probably the best bet.
For more information see Building Bird Houses.
Features of Good Birdhouses
Fancy colors and designs are for people, not for birds - The most attractive bird house from the bird’s point of view is one that is unpainted inside and outside. However, birds will occupy houses that are painted on the outside with woodsy colors such as dark green, browns and tans. If they have a choice they avoid bright colored houses. Never buy a house that is painted on the inside.
The entrance hole - The size of the entrance hole is very important. If the hole is too big, predator can get inside to eat the eggs or kill the babies. See the chart for the size hole favored by many of the Do-It Dozen.
Perch or no perch? - Most of the smaller song birds do not need a perch in front of the entrance hole to get into their house. The bigger birds who may be predators, do prefer perches. The solution is to eliminate perches on houses for the little birds such as chickadees, wrens, and bluebirds.
The mounting is important - The way you mount a birdhouse often determines which bird will use the house. Plan how you will mount your house before you buy it so you are sure that the particular design you choose can be mounted in the manner you have chosen.
Cleaning Options - The best birdhouses are those that allow interior access for fall cleaning. A hinged roof is a good option. Screws rather than nails help too.