Fit for a Wren
By Tom Larson
About four years ago, my wife and I decided to try to attract more birds to our backyard. We already had quite a few feeding stations and figured that increasing the number of suitable nesting sites might bring in a few more feathered friends. I wasn’t really interested in putting together typical birdhouses, so I decided to design my own. Knowing that some house-nesting species, when left to their own devices, will use hollow branches and tree trunks to raise a family, I made substitutes for these natural nesting places with material I always seem to have plenty of – short pieces of tree limbs (at least 6 inches in diameter) that are just too nice to burn for fuel. The design is as variable as it is simple and creates artificially hollowed tree branches.
For this project, I used a band saw to open up the cavity in the billets and to create the roof and bottom of the house. Other tools can be used to make the nest box’s top and bottom, but hollowing out the center will be difficult without a band saw. You can use a bow saw to cut out the branch’s insides – it took me about an hour that way and required significantly more assembly (see the handsaw version of this project). Drilling out the middle might seem like a good idea, but it’s virtually impossible to effectively remove all that end-grain wood with a drill bit. If your shop is equipped with a wood-turning lathe, and you have sufficient skill, you can use it to remove the branch centers – but the band saw is still easier. The beauty of this project is that it doesn’t take a trip to the lumberyard for materials and no matter how many of these nest boxes you make, no two will be exactly the same.
My first hollow-branch nest box is still perched on the porch rail where I installed it years ago. It’s a little weathered from exposure to South Dakota’s extremes, but that box serves its purpose well by attracting wrens to the yard every spring. Click here to follow the steps to create your own version.
Tom Larson, a retired school counselor, began woodworking as a boy on long summer afternoons in the shop on the farm where he grew up. Lathe-turned bowls and vases are now his specialty, but he also designs and creates fine furniture as well as a variety of garden and landscape items.
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