Build a Backyard Birdhouse

A fun-to-build project made with simple tools

Build this neat looking birdhouse that the birds will like too. You can do it in about a half day for less than $20, following our step-by-step instructions.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine


One day




Under $20

Birdhouse overview: Materials, tools and design

This is a fun Project—so fun that it's hard to say who benefits more from it: the bird or the builder. You can let your imagination run and experiment with a variety of materials, shapes and designs. You only need to follow a few parameters (see chart below) that are specific to the bird species you're trying to attract. Follow the clear how-to photos and study the drawing and the cutting list to build our project exactly, or personalize it with the details you want: a stone chimney, some shutters or cedar shingles.

Most any softwood (pine, cedar, cypress, redwood, fir) will work for your birdhouse. We used pine for the walls and base, exterior fir plywood for the roof, and birch square dowels (available at home centers or hobby shops) as well as birch dowel pins for porch balusters.

We used simple tools to build this project. You'll notice the 1x8 pine boards are actually 7-1/4 in. wide but need to be 7 in. wide for this project. If you don't have a table saw to rip them to this narrower width, have the lumberyard rip them for you and then cut the lengths at home with the simple tools shown.

Sizing for certain birds
Just as with people, one house doesn't fit all. In fact, many bird species don't use houses at all but nest on branches or groundcover. Birds that use hollowed-out cliffs, tree trunks or birdhouses, however, are called cavity dwellers. They come in all sizes.

The size of the entry hole and size of the interior room can make a huge difference in the type of bird your house will attract. (See “Basic Birdhouse Dimensions” below.) We've sized this birdhouse to fit a variety of smaller bird species. To attract very small birds like nuthatches, bluebirds or chickadees, you may want to make the floor area a bit smaller by gluing an extra piece of wood to the front interior wall of the birdhouse and another on one side. A smaller interior is not as hard for a bird to fill with nesting material.

Keep in mind that you'll also need to maintain your birdhouse by cleaning it after the nesting season. To make this as easy as possible, we've included a sliding rear door held in place with small hook-and-eye latches. Just lift the latch and slide the door to the side to remove the nest and wipe out the inside.

Birdhouse Details

A Cutting List and Shopping List are available in Additional Information below.

Figure A: Birdhouse parts
Figure B: Wall details

Step 1: Build the base

Begin by cutting out all the pieces in the Cutting List, available in Additional Information below. Use Fig. A and the Cutting List to identify parts. Then assemble the base (Photo 2). We built our base to fit over a 4x4 post.

Basic Birdhouse Dimensions

Follow these guidelines for sizing your birdhouse.

Basic birdhouse dimensions

Step 2: Assemble the walls and roof

Glue and nail all these pieces together. We made the roof angle 45 degrees to simplify measuring and cutting.

Step 3: Cut and assemble the opening

Make sure you size the birdhouse hole to match the species you hope to attract. (See “Basic Birdhouse Dimensions” above. Birds enter through the dormer on the roof.

Step 4: Add the finishing details

Apply finish details to meet your fancy. We had fun with the railing and decorative brackets.

Step 5: Protect your birdhouse with an oil finish

Birds would just as soon not have a finish on the exterior, but to make it last you'll need a coat of oil finish every few years. You can also paint your birdhouse, but keep in mind that birds are color sensitive and may be repelled by certain colors. Try using colors found in natural surroundings and avoid bright and flashy colors. Never stain or paint the inside of the birdhouse. The odor may keep them from moving in. Let the exterior stain dry thoroughly (two to three weeks) before mounting the birdhouse outside.

Step 6: Mount the birdhouse outdoors

We made a wood flange (Photo 2) to secure the birdhouse to a 4x4 fence post or decorative porch post anchored to a concrete base (see Fig. C). You can also mount your birdhouse in a tree; just eliminate the mounting flange and put screw eyes through the roof into the wall, then attach a chain hung from a tree limb. Keep in mind that some bird species like to nest in houses in the open while others feel more protected near buildings or in a wooded area.

Figure C: Mounting Post Details

Mount the post to angle irons embedded in concrete. Use a treated 4x4 so it won't rot.

Figure C: Post mounting details

Additional Information

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Hammer
  • Clamps
  • Miter saw
  • Drill/driver, cordless
  • Combination square
  • Drill bit, bird hole size
  • Jigsaw
  • Table saw
  • Wood glue

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • See Shopping List in Additional Information at the end of the Step-by-Step section.

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