How to Build a Bluebird House

Attract bluebirds to your yard and help increase their population by building them a nestbox. This is a great project for a beginner woodworker that can be completed in an afternoon.

February 22, 2022

One of the most welcome signs of spring is the emergence of the cheerful bluebird. Three varieties for this colorful insectivore can be found in North America: the Eastern, the Western and the Mountain. Suffering a population reduction of nearly 90% in the 20th century, bluebirds have been unfortunate victims of deforestation, an increase in competition from starlings introduced to North America in the mid-1800s and a marked increase in the use of insecticides. Although these problems continue, in the last few decades its numbers have stabilized and are now increasing, thanks, in part, to initiatives taken by bird lovers and gardeners through the construction of bluebird houses.

Easy to build, these DIY shelters can be constructed from scrap lumber. Assembled with specific dimensions designed to replace the natural hollows and cavities found in mature trees, a homemade bluebird house will provide a safe location for bluebirds to nest and hatch their eggs. Mounted along the perimeter of open fields, gardens or large lawns, they provide ideal housing for bluebirds that may otherwise struggle to locate natural shelter and easy access to insects on which to feed.

Introducing subsidized housing for these tiny songbirds provides more than just a feather in your conservational cap. Not only are bluebirds a treat for the eyes and ears, but they also do a great job of keeping insects at bay. This is a DIY project that will pay off all summer long.

Tools and Materials

  • tape measure
  • hand or miter saw
  • sandpaper
  • drill with 1-9/16″ and 1/4″ bits
  • bar clamps (optional)
  • 5’ x 5-1/2” x 3/4” plank of untreated wood
  • hammer and galvanized nails
  • paint (optional)

Step 1: Gather Materials

Buy or source a 5’ x 5-1/2” x 3/4” plank of untreated wood. Pine or cedar are excellent choices, but any untreated wood will do.

Step 2: Cut Wood to Size

Measure and cut wood to the following dimensions. Mark and cut each piece before continuing to the next.

Cut List:
(1) 14” x 5-1/2” (back)
(2) 9” x 5-1/2” (sides)
(1) 7” x 5-1/2” (roof)
(1) 4” x 4-3/4” (bottom)
(1) 9” x 4” (front)

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Step 3: Smooth Out Cuts

Once all pieces are cut, lightly sand any rough edges.

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Step 4: Assemble Sides, Back and Bottom

Attach the back, sides, roof and bottom pieces using nails. The sides should be flush with the base of the bluebird house. The back should hang about an inch below the bottom. A clamp is not necessary but can be helpful for keeping edges straight during assembly.

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Step 5: Drill Hole for Bird Door

Drill a 1-9/16” entrance hole in the front panel centered from the sides and the top of the hole approximately 1-3/4” from the top. The size of the entrance is important to prevent undesirable birds like the starlings and house sparrows from using the house. Also, do not add a perch to the front of your bluebird house, predatory birds are attracted to perches.

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Step 6: Position Front Panel

Place the front on the box, leaving a 1/4” gap between the top of the front and the roof. This gap will allow the front to pivot open and also provides necessary ventilation.

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Step 7: Attach Front Panel

Secure the front to the house with a single nail on each side 1/2” from the top.

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Step 8: Double-Check Hinged Opening

Make sure the front pivots easily. This panel allows easy access for observation and cleaning.

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Step 9: Drill Mounting Hole

Drill a small hole at the top or bottom edge of the back for easy mounting.

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Step 10: Paint

Painting is not necessary, but light color paint may be applied (dark colors will draw unwanted heat to the nest). Do not paint the interior of the box.

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Step 11: Attach Door Catch

Attach a small pivoting catch at the bottom edge of the door to keep it from swinging open. A bent nail will work. We used a tack intended for securing electrical wires.

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Step 12: Hang House

Mount the box at a height of at least five feet near open land, but within 100 feet of shrubs, trees or other locations where birds may perch. Multiple boxes are encouraged at distances of 50 to 100 yards.

For more information on bluebirds, visit the North American Bluebird Society website.

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