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Chickadee Chic: Homemade Recycled Bird Houses

Creative, easy ways to build your own birdhouses

With spring in gear and recycling high on most people’s agendas, no matter what the season, what better way to welcome back the birds than with ideas for re-crafting and repurposing common household containers into haute homes? If you’re looking to lure our fair feathered friends to your yard in order to eat those pesky, plant-destroying bugs, or just for the sweetest of sounds and their avian aesthetic, these ideas will fit the bill…or beak, as it is!

While not all birds require an enclosed structure (barn swallows and robins gravitate toward open nesting, for example), for those who do — owls; purple martins; bluebirds; sparrows; and wrens; etc. — a little homegrown ingenuity can help you ratchet practicality right up into the creative realm.

Consider these easy, inexpensive recycling ideas to welcome home those happy harbingers of spring:

Milk or Juice Carton Bird House

Illustration of birds at a recycled feeder from milk cartons

This one’s really simple: Cut windows in three sides of a well-sanitized cardboard carton, leaving 1 to 2 inches of space from the bottom. Poke holes through the top and string fishing wire, twine, wire, nylon, or other string substantial enough to support it from a tree, porch hook, etc.

Old Boot or Tall Shoe Bird House

Old boot recycled into a birdhouse nailed to a tree

Simply nail the sole to a board so the opening faces straight ahead and toe points down, and then the board to a post. You can add a slanted roof of wood, flashing, rubber, even old license plates to encourage rain runoff.

Coffee Can Bird House

Clean and turn an empty coffee can on its side. Cut a hole in the plastic lid and cover the can. Decoratively paint a disc-shaped piece of wood, cut a hole in it with a dowel for a perch, and affix it to the plastic lid. Use L-brackets or a hot glue gun to attach a heavy string to the top (you can encircle the can to make a design with the string).

Things To Consider

Other things to bear in mind are the safety and cleanliness of your birdhouse. Be sure to check for sharp edges which can injure, and ease of cleaning. An old boot or shoe can always be untied to clean, and the lid can be removed from a coffee can (it’s a good idea to check every so often for rust if you use a metal can). If you’re building something with wood, pressure-treated wood generally contains toxic chemicals like arsenic that can off-gas, so it may be best to determine that first. For ventilation and moisture control issues, which can lead to mold and mildew, punching a few small holes in the bottom will allow it to drain should water seep in. A few extra holes near the top will allow it to breathe.

Beth Herman

Beth Herman is a freelance writer with interests in healthy living and food, family, animal welfare, architecture and design, religion, and yoga. She writes for a variety of national and regional publications, institutions, and websites.

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Brenda, they are talking about metal. That is why they say to remove the plastic lid every now and then to check for rust. Matt, placing them in a shade will help some. The Texas sun certainly would make an oven of them.


Matt they are meaning plastic coffee cans. It works I have tried this one

Virginia Ann Nason

My father in Front Royal, Virginia always used coffee cans in our back yard and the birds seemed to love them. His houses had ‘residents’ every year.

Matt King

I like some of the ideas, but I think an old coffee can would get too hot, and would result in roasted-Chickadee (at least down here in Texas with 80degree weather)


Any nice hiding place usually becomes a home for earwigs for us. Any tips on that?

Sandi Duncan

‘@Kyrie – the birds should help with earwigs – eating them.

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