Creating a Bird Sanctuary: DIY Bluebird House

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Creating a Bird Sanctuary: DIY Bluebird House

Build a DIY bluebird house to attract your favorite songbird and add to thriving habitats known as bluebird trails.

By Paul Meisel

Bird-Friendly Nest Boxes and Feeders (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2012) by Paul Meisel is a treasure trove of insight into creating the perfect backyard bird sanctuary for a variety of species. Featuring 12 simple designs that have been shop- and home-tested to prove their bird drawing abilities, Meisel also offers tips and tricks for keeping out predators and other species. Use the following DIY Bluebird House as a step to creating the most natural bird haven.

Purchase this book from the GRIT store: Bird-Friendly Nest Boxes and Feeders.

Many people consider bluebirds their favorite songbird. Besides their beautiful song, these birds have a disposition that, by their very presence, makes people feel good. They are gentle, inquisitive, and just plain fun to watch. These pleasant creatures with their blue and red plumage are from the thrush family. The bluebird is the state bird of both Missouri and New York, while the mountain bluebird is the state bird of Idaho.

If you haven’t seen any bluebirds recently, it may be the result of an enormous loss of their habitat due to factors like redevelopment and reforestation of farmlands. In addition, many have been killed by pesticides and herbicides. To make matters worse, the proliferation of sparrows and starlings, both non-native species introduced from Europe, compete with bluebirds for available nesting sites. Both sparrows and starlings are known to destroy bluebird eggs and kill both baby and adult bluebirds.

By the 1970s, bluebird populations had declined drastically, up to 70 percent by some estimates. The good news is that counts have been increasing in large part because of a movement by volunteers to establish and maintain multiple bluebird houses, referred to as bluebird trails.

Andrew Troyer of Conneautville, Pennsylvania, developed this birdhouse design. It incorporates all the most desirable features for attracting bluebirds. The horizontal entry hole discourages sparrows from entering the house and killing the bluebirds. The front of the box opens easily to monitor the eggs and nestlings.

The house can be built from standard lumber sizes, and the birdhouse design has been approved by bluebird organizations like the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota.

Through periodic inspections you can record the number of eggs in a brood and monitor the progress of the baby birds, checking for problems like insect infestations. (Bluebirds have a poor sense of smell and so are not bothered by human scent.)

An Internet search of bluebird monitoring provides a great deal of information on monitoring, recording observations, and where to report this information once you have gathered it.


 Qty. Part   Size
 1  Floor  3/4″ x 3 1/8″ x 3 1/2″ (19 x 79 x 89mm)
 1  Ceiling  3/4″ x 3 1/2″ x 5 1/4″ (19 x 79 x 133mm)
 1  Front  3/4″ x 3 7/16″ x 7 3/4″ (19 x 87 x 197mm)
 2  Side  3/4″ x 6 3/4″ x 9 1/4″ (19 x 171 x 235mm)
 1  Roof  3/4″ x 9″ x 10 7/8″ (19 x 229 x 276mm)
 1  Gusset  1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ (38 x 38 x 89mm)
 1  Tray  1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ (38 x 89 x 89mm)
 1  Back  1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ x 14″ (38 x 89 x 356mm)
 3  Nail  2 1/4″ (57mm)
 1  Steel Fence Post  8′ (2438mm)

DIY Bluebird House

How-To Instructions

This bluebird house can be made from a short length of 2×4 (38 x 89mm) and a 1×10 (19 x 235mm) board. The amount of material you will need is shown in the Cutting Diagram.

Hinge the Front at the bottom on two nails. Latch the top of the Front piece with a loose pin, which can be a nail that is bent, as shown on Step 2 of the Assembly Drawing. This pin can be placed on one or both sides.

By pulling the pin(s), the Front of the house can be swung open to examine the inside cavity. The holes for the pins are called out in the drawing of the Side piece as being 1/16″ (2mm). This size varies depending on the diameter of the nail. The holes in the Side pieces should be slightly larger than the diameter of the nails. The nail holes in the bottom of the Front piece should be pre-drilled with a bit smaller than the diameter of the nail. Slip the two nails used to hinge the Front through the lower holes in the Side pieces and then pound them into the Front piece. The loose pin(s) at the top should be easy to pull out and remove. Drill the hole(s) through the outside of the Side piece and into the top of the Front piece. The holes must be slightly larger than the diameter of the nail.

Make saw cuts around all four edges of the bottom surface of the Roof. The purpose of the saw cuts is to prevent rainwater from creeping under the Roof and working its way to the inside of the house.

The Tray piece holds wood shavings. It is not permanently attached to the inside of the house, so it can be removed easily for cleaning. Use a 2 3/8″ (60mm)-diameter Forstner bit for drilling the hole in the Tray piece.

Begin by cutting each of the parts as described below. Then assemble the project according to the Final Assembly instructions and as shown in the Assembly Drawing.

Floor and Front: Lay out and cut to size from 3/4″ (19mm) stock. Cut the 15-degree bevel.

Ceiling: Lay out and cut to size from 3/4″ (19mm) stock.

Side: Lay out and cut to size from 3/4″ (19mm) stock. Drill the 1/16″ (2mm)-diameter and 1/4″ (6mm)-diameter holes through (Two pieces required).

Roof: Lay out and cut to size from 3/4″ (19mm) stock. Cut the 1/8″-wide-by-1/8″-deep (3 x 3mm) grooves.

Gusset: Lay out and cut to size from 1 1/2″ (38mm) stock. Cut the 45-degree bevel.

Tray: Lay out and cut to size from 1 1/2″ (38mm) stock. Cut the 15-degree bevel. Drill the 2 3/8″ (60mm)-diameter hole 1″ (25mm) deep.

Back: Lay out and cut to size from 1 1/2″ (38mm) stock.

Bluebird House Final Assembly

Step 1: Attach the Sides to the Back. Attach the Gusset to the Ceiling. Attach the Floor and Ceiling to the Sides.

Step 2: Place the Front piece between the Side pieces in the position shown on the drawing of the Side piece. The top of the Front piece should be from 1 3/16″ to 1 1/4″ (30 to 32mm) from the bottom of the Ceiling piece. It is called out at 1 1/4″ (32mm) on the drawing of the Side piece. Drive two 2 1/4″ (57mm) nails through the bottom holes in the Side piece and into the Front piece to act as a hinge. Insert bent 2 1/4″ (57mm) nail(s) in the top to act as a latch. Aluminum pop rivets can be substituted for the bent nails. Nail the Roof to the Ceiling where shown. Place the Tray on the Floor piece. Do not attach the Tray, as it should be removable for cleaning. Fill the Tray with nesting material such as wood shavings.

Bluebird houses should be mounted on a steel post. Choose a length of 1″ (25mm) steel electrical conduit, 3/4″ (19mm) galvanized water pipe (remember, pipe is measured using the inside diameter), or a steel fence post. If using round tubing or pipe, be sure the house is attached securely and does not rotate. U-bolts work well for attaching the birdhouse to a round pipe. If using a steel fence post, attach the house with hanger strap, which is made from steel and should be available at any hardware store. It is sold in a roll, generally about 3/4″ (19mm) wide. Holes are punched about every half-inch (13mm) along the length. Cut two pieces long enough to bend around the post and extend to the width of the 2×4 (38 x 89mm) Back. Secure each end with a wood screw. Two straps are sufficient to secure a house to a fence post.

 You can find hanger straps at most hardware stores.
 Use hanger straps and screws to attach your bluebird house to a steel fence post.

The best post length is 8′ (2438mm). You can bury 2′ (610mm) in the ground and mount the house at approximately eye level, making it easy to inspect. This height also keeps most cats from jumping up from the ground and eating the birds. Attaching a predator guard on the fence post just below the house is strongly recommended. (A source for purchasing predator guards is listed in the Resources section of this book.) This prevents raccoons, snakes, and squirrels from reaching the house. Bluebird houses should be placed in open land with low ground cover. They like the mowed grass around golf courses. Keep bluebird houses at least 100′ (30m) from the tree line to discourage house wrens from competing for the house (house wrens tend not to cross open spaces). If you are setting up a bluebird trail, keep the houses at least 100 yd. (91m) from each other.

Finishing: Although the project can be left unpainted, a coat of exterior primer followed by a top coat of house paint will make the house last longer. Do not paint the inside the house.

TIP: Never install a perch below the entrance hole on the front of any birdhouse. The perch offers starlings, house sparrows, and other predators a convenient place to wait for lunch. Perches do nothing but help predators kill the birds you are trying to protect.

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Bird-Friendly Nest Boxes and Feeders: 12 Easy-to-Build Designs That Attract Birds to Your Yard by Paul Meisel and published by Fox Chapel Publishing, 2012. Purchase this book from our store: Bird-Friendly Nest Boxes and Feeders.