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Chickadee Chic: Homemade Recycled Bird Houses

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Chickadee Chic: Homemade Recycled Bird Houses

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. Well-sanitized milk and juice cartons, plastic soda and water bottles, scrubbed out paint containers, coffee cans, cork squares from an old bulletin board, cigar boxes, worn out boots and more can blossom into enviable avian abodes, adding family fun to an otherwise routine afternoon at home. Channeling your inner fowl aficionado into a recycled bird house can also make for an inspired indoor family project on that disappointing rainy weekend. There are DIY kits available at online sites including,, or Or consider these easy, inexpensive recycling ideas to welcome home those happy harbingers of spring:

Milk or Juice Carton Bird House
This one’s really simple: Cut windows in three sides, 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
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.

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Coffee Can Bird House
Clean and turn an empty coffee can on its side. Cut a hole in plastic lid and cover can. Decoratively paint a disc-shaped piece of wood, cut a hole in it with a dowel for a perch, and affix to 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).

Cork Squares
Make a box shape and glue with a hot glue gun. Cut a hole in front and slide a small dowel through beneath it for a perch. Use flashing or old shingles for a roof. Nail to a board, and nail the board to a post. Or, cut holes for strong string, fishing wire, plain wire or twine and suspend.

Other things to bear in mind are the safety and cleanliness of the bird house. Be sure to check for sharp edges which can injure, and ease of cleaning. And 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 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.

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1 Beverly { 04.27.15 at 7:44 am }

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.

2 brenda { 04.25.15 at 9:29 pm }

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

3 Virginia Ann Nason { 09.09.14 at 5:34 pm }

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.

4 Matt King { 06.05.14 at 9:00 am }

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)

5 Sandi Duncan { 06.11.14 at 1:30 pm }

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

6 kyrie { 06.04.14 at 9:14 am }

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

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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