Choose a birdhouse with these best features in mind


So, you’re thinking of buying or building a birdhouse? Watching birds is undoubtedly one of life’s great pleasures, judging by the forty-six million Americans who call themselves birdwatchers. Simply by hanging a birdhouse, you’ll have a front-row seat as birds build a nest and raise a family. It would seem that any birdhouse will do, so long as you meet the dimension and location requirements of the birds you want to attract. But workmanship matters, too.

Issues arise when a birdhouse lacks a measure of quality. Birds suffer when there’s poor ventilation. Or, if there’s a leaky roof and no drainage holes in the bottom, they may not be willing to stay in it again. Birdhouses should be periodically cleaned and sanitized—is there an easy way to do that? Will the quality of the wood stand up season after season? Is it made of safe materials? All the answers are below; use this checklist as a guide for shopping.

    • Cedar or redwood; both will last for years and can go unpainted. (Pine and plywood won’t last nearly as long, so it helps to paint the exterior with water-based exterior paint.)
    • Untreated wood for the health of the birds.
    • Sloped roof for good rainwater runoff.
    • Movable panel for easy inside access.
    • Ventilation holes on two opposite sides for good cross ventilation.
    • Drainage holes in the bottom, in case rain finds its way inside.
    • Rough interior to help fledglings climb out when it’s time to leave the nest.
    • No perch (or remove it)—birds don’t need it, and predators will use it.
    • Built with screws and nails, not staples, so it will last for years.
    • Earth tones are the best colors—bright paint can attract predators.
    • No paint on the inside—flaking paint can be dangerous.
    • Roof extends two inches above the entrance hole to keep out the rain.
    • Easy to hang firmly, so wind won’t blow it around too much (although some birds don’t mind it).

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