Happiness can be derived from the simplest of sources. Many of the things that inspire peace and happiness in my life are found in nature. For example, I enjoy watching birds in my yard, whether it be the chickens scratching around in their pen, or the cardinals, robins, and sparrows flitting through the bushes and garden rows.
Birds are great helpers in the garden, and it can be a joy to listen to their songs and watch their antics. You can make your yard more attractive to birds simply by providing a dish of water and a few bird houses for shelter.
I recently saw a website showing how to make a bird house from PVC pipe. I became inspired to give my bug-eating buddies new homes! Eagerly, I drove to a home improvement store.
There I stood, about twenty minutes later, looking up at the ten-foot lengths of PVC pipe thinking “How am I going to get that in my car?” As I looked around for all the required parts, I discovered that even if I bought the long pipe and all the fittings to make ten bird houses, they would cost close to nine dollars each. Plus, I would have to go to my dad’s shop to do some cutting and gluing.
Then I remembered other bird houses pictured on the internet that were made from two-liter soda pop bottles. “It doesn’t have to be this complicated or expensive,” I realized. “All I need is weatherproof containers that I am able to cut holes in.”
So began my quest: I searched a couple of stores, contemplating ways to use food storage containers (These were made of clear plastic. I could paint them; but paint peels off plastic so easily, in my experience.), plastic containers with snap-on lids (Not bad, but most were too large and would have to somehow be divided into little condos.), and canisters with screw-on lids (Too wimpy and, again, see-through). I even considered the possibilities of putting a wooden floor into some plastic bed risers (They must be sturdy enough since they can hold up a bed, right?).
What I really wanted to use was a flower pot because I assumed it would be made out of a type of plastic that would hold up well in the weather. I planned to buy a flower pot saucer to make the roof. The stores I visited no longer carry separate saucers to go under the pots, except for some thin, wimpy, clear-plastic ones.
I was walking through the store departments–gardening, storage containers, camping equipment, cleaning supplies–while carrying around a nice-sized flower pot. Suddenly, I saw some shatterproof plastic plates for toddlers. The flower pot fit perfectly into the lip of the plate! I didn’t know how the plastic plates would hold up to sun, weather, and varying temperatures; but I decided to give it a try.
The colorful bird houses were pretty simple to make. Hopefully, they will keep my feathered friends comfortable for years to come.
If you’d like to make one of these bird houses for yourself, here are the step-by-step instructions for how I made ours:
- Get a plastic flower pot that is 4 inches across inside the bottom and as tall as you can find. When researching the topic, the recommended height I saw for sparrow houses is 9-12 inches. Mine is only about 5 1/2 inches, but considering the sparrows have happily nested in gourds, I don’t believe they are that picky. Also, find a plastic plate, wooden board, or piece of metal (I’ve seen people use old license plates.) to become the roof.
Here’s a photo of several items you will need to get started on this project:
- Draw a 1 1/2 inch diameter circle on a piece of paper. (I walked around the house with a ruler and discovered that our beta fish’s bottle of food is exactly that size, so I traced around the bottom of it.)
TIP: If you don’t have anything to measure with, just draw a rough circle as big across as the distance from the end of your index finger to the beginning of your second knuckle. (1.2 – 2 inches are the usual recommendations, with 1 1/2 being the best; but like I said, some birds are not too picky. You’ll be close enough.)
Take a look at this photo of birds in my old, crumbling gourds and you will see that dimensions to not have to be exact, for sparrows anyway.
- Place the paper circle on your flower pot 6-7 inches above the base of the pot, if possible, (The hole is about 4 inches high on mine.) and trace around the circle with a permanent marker (so it won’t get all over your hands as you work, like a regular marker would).
Use a utility knife (or a pocket knife would do) to cut out the door of the bird house. If you’re into details like I too often am (as I’ve said before, I’m a “reforming perfectionist“), you can smooth the hole’s edges with a little sandpaper and remove the marker traces with rubbing alcohol.
- Mark three spots, spaced fairly equally, around the rim of the pot and use an ice pick (or similar tool) to punch three holes about 1/4 inch down from the rim of the pot.
- Set the pot upside down on your “roof” and make marks along the plate rim that correspond to your flower pot’s holes. Use the marks as guides to bore 6 holes in the plate–3 in the lip of the plate and 3 in the base of the plate, about 1/4 inch in from where the lip starts.
Next, you will thread the handle through the holes. I used rust-resistant wire, knowing how most string will not hold up over the long term. (Don’t ask how many times I’ve re-strung my dear old wind chime after finding parts of it scattered on the ground by a storm!)
- Thread the wire through one of the holes in the bottom of the plate, then run it through the lip of the flower pot, starting from the inside (so the end of the wire points to the outside of the flower pot).
- Push the plate up the wire so you have room to bend the wire end upward (make sure you have enough length bent up so you will be able to secure the end well). Slide the plate back down the wire while threading the end into the hole in the plate lip. Do this for the other 2 sets of holes.
TIP: Don’t start fastening any of your string/wire ends until all 3 are threaded through the holes (unless you think you can fit your hand through that 1 1/2 inch hole you cut?)
- Hold the “roof” down securely while you twist the wire ends or tie your string ends. Then connect the loose ends of your wire/string to each other.
TIP: I actually used only two wires: one long wire for the front two sets of holes and a shorter wire for the third set of holes. With pliers, I crimped the center of the long wire’s loop and bent the crimped tip backward. I fed the shorter wire through that crimped tip and twisted it back around itself, just like I did to all the ends attached to the birdhouse. If you can get all three sections of wire to come out the same length, you create a centered, stable spot that will help the bird house hang nice and level.
- Don’t forget to put drain holes in the bottom for when rain blows in. I considered just leaving the saucer off but thought that might allow too much airflow since this pot is so small and has so many holes in the bottom.
- That’s it, pop the saucer back on and you’ve made a bird house! The only thing left to do is hang it outside and watch your neighborhood birds move in. We used plastic-coated wire to hang ours, loosely looped around each chosen branch.
This is a cheap and easy project to do with kids (Please don’t let the young ones handle the utility knife or the ice pick, though! There’s no need to take anyone to the emergency room over a little bird house! ha ha).
I bought these flower pots for 97 cents each and the plates for 78 cents each. I already had the tools and wire. So, tax and all, each bird house cost about $1.91. Ooo, that makes my penny-pinching, frugal fingers happy!
Here’s a photo of the finished product. I think they’re pretty cute, and the sparrows seem to agree! What do you think?
Update (3/5/15): Here they are with snowy roof tops. Can you see the cardinal in the bushes near one of the blue houses?
Update (1/22/16): Nearly a year later, and the bird houses are still in perfect shape! This one is still full of nesting material, though I don’t think a bird will get past those icicles this morning to enjoy it.