How to build a
Chickadee Birdhouse


Myself and these Houses
Houses and Carolina Chickadees Info
Plans for the birdhouse
Making the birdhouse
Links

 

 
A while back, I got into birding. The feeders, the books, the whole nine yards. And also the houses.
Being a craftsy sort, I decided to start making my own bird houses. I spent some time looking around the internet for birding sites with info on houses, and I came upon a really great site, Building Nest Structures, Feeders, and Photo Blinds for North Dakota Wildlife, by Chris Grondahl and John Dockter (see below Bibliography).

Here is a design I found which is applicable to my favored little Carolina Chickadees. These small feathered friends I have actually written my State Representative about, asking that they be renamed the State bird.


After finding these plans among the many other excellent ones on the website, I bought some wood, got some tools together, and have since made almost a dozen of them. I enjoy making them, I can make them for less than the $20-$40 a store-bought birdhouse would cost, and they make great gifts. My birdhouses have found their ways to friends, family, and my local State park.

When I give one of my house away, I include a printout of a Microsoft Publisher document I put together a while back. This, seen in text format below, outlines the use of the bird house, and gives some information about the birds which may be using it. I highly recommend reading it.

One of the things it outlines is that birdhouses must be cleaned out after ue so that they won't become infested with bugs. I've seen this happen. It is disgusting. Happily, I conduct the sanitary routine maintenance, and found a few days ago that two of my houses held bird nests from this year in them, indicating use.

I hope that you will also have success,
 


 
 
Info on the Carolina Chickadee and their houses. 

     Here's some info I put together about how to use the houses, and what the chickadees are like. Here's a website where you can hear various bird calls, including the Carolina Chickadee (click to listen). I've got a Publisher document with graphics and stuff which I use, this is just the text:

The Carolina Chickadee

Information to accompany a birdhouse designed by the Northern Prairie Research Center for the House Wren, Black-capped Chickadee and White-breasted Nuthatch

Physical Description
     Like the Black-capped Chickadee, the Carolina Chickadee has a distinctive black cap and bib and white cheeks. Unlike its counterpart, however, the Carolina Chickadee does not have the conspicuous white area in the wing created by the white feather edges. In summer, the two are best distinguished by locality and voice. Many people find it difficult to distinguish the two species, but luckily there are only a few places where their ranges overlap.

Distribution and Breeding Habitat 
     The Carolina Chickadee inhabits the southeastern United States, breeding in open deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous forests. It is also found in rural woodlands, cultivated areas with scattered trees, swamps, thickets, suburban parks and residential areas. 
Diet
     Carolina Chickadees glean insects on the bark of trees, feasting on a variety of invertebrates. They also dine on seeds and berries and are frequent visitors to bird feeders. 
Pair Formation and Territoriality
     Carolina Chickadees are quite similar to Black-capped Chickadees in their ecology and breeding biology. Carolina Chickadees are monogamous, and pairs stay together for many years, if not permanently. Pairs remain together throughout the winter on their territory, and they defend their territory year round. 

Nesting Behavior
      Nest Building: Although the nesting behavior of the Carolina Chickadee is very similar to that of the Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Chickadees tend to rely less on the presence of natural cavities and old woodpecker holes than their northern relatives. Rather, they excavate their own cavities in snags, rotting tree trunks and limbs for nesting purposes. 
     The male and female work together to excavate the nest cavity, which takes around two weeks, but only the female builds the nest. The nest has a moss base and a cup made of grass, plant down, and feathers. The female lines the nest with finer materials such as fine grass, fur, and hair.
     Female Carolina Chickadees lay one egg per day. The average clutch size is six eggs, but anywhere from five to eight eggs can be present. These smooth, non-glossy eggs are white with reddish brown spots concentrated at the larger end, and they are indistinguishable from Black-capped Chickadee eggs. During the egg-laying phase, the female covers the incomplete clutch with nest material whenever she leaves the nest.
     The incubation period is 11 to 14 days and begins the day the next-to-last, or penultimate, egg is laid. The female incubates the eggs, but during this period, the male dutifully brings her food. The female is a tight sitter, that is, she does not flush readily from the nest when disturbed. If forced off the nest, she often makes a hissing sound as she leaves.
     After the eggs hatch, the female broods the new nestlings. The male continues to feed her, along with the nestlings, during this time. After a few days, the male and female both tend the young equally. Nestlings fledge when they are 13 to 17 days old but remain dependent upon the parents for food and protection. After two to four weeks, they attain complete independence.
     Although the number is uncertain, most pairs probably raise one brood each breeding season. Pairs will produce a replacement brood if a nesting attempt fail.
Winter Movement and Dispersal 
     The Carolina Chickadee is a winter resident. Pairs stay together on their territories over the winter. They forage in mixed-species flocks with nuthatches, titmice, and woodpeckers. 
     Little information is known about juvenile dispersal in this species.

Information courtesy of:
     http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/,
     which suggests Carolina Chickadee boxes be placed 5-15 feet high in “forests, woodlots, and yards with mature hardwood trees, forest edges, meadows; area should receive 40-60% sunlight; hole should face away from prevailing wind; 1" shaving can be placed in box” because the Chickadees like to think that they’re cleaning out their own nests in tree trunks. After the birdhouse is used, it must be cleaned out to prevent infestation by insects. The protruding nail on the front of the box may be pulled out, allowing the side of the house to swing out, enabling cleaning. Two nails, for hanging the house, are inside it.

Birdhouse design courtesy of:
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/tools/ndblinds/ndblinds.htm#contents,
     which says that for the White-breasted Nuthatch, the entrance hole must be 1 and 1/4” in diameter. 
          Compiled by John Derrick


 
 
Making the Birdhouses
     Materials, Instructions, and Techniques

     After following the excellent plans a few times, I've come up with some tips and amendments to help things run smoothly. These are all based on my experience in my work area. They are not Gospel, and are METT-T dependent (if you're not military, that means they're dependent on the situation). 

Materials

Lets start with a list of materials:

One 1" x 6" x 4'0" board ( one inch by six inches [actually 5 and a half] by four feet. I generally get eight foot lengths and then half them. Get the cheapest stuff you can, any preservative chemicals could actually be harmful to the birds, along these lines, don't paint or stain the inside. I don't paint or stain any surface (laziness passed off as environmentalism).

Circular Electric Saw- or you could get exercise with a hand saw

Power Drill- is there any other kind?

Extension cord- where I work the cords on the tools aren't long enough

Appropriate working/cutting surface- I work on my family's garage floor. Bricks hold the wood off the cement while I drill and cut. One of the bricks came with three large holes in it, and is ideal for supporting a piece of wood on top of it while the wood's being drilled. I'll let you work out the best ways of supporting things.

Nails- I use a bunch of smallish 1 and 1/2 inch nails for the house itself, and two big ol' nails with heads which won't go through a 1/4 inch hole for nailing the house to a tree.

A Pencil- for marking cuts and holes.

1 and 1/8 inch wood drill bit- for the entrance hole to the house.

1/4 inch wood drill bit- for drainage and vent holes.

Yardstick- for measuring.

Knife- for scoring back of front piece, and other assorted uses.

Carpenter's Square- for planing cuts and measuring.

Hammer- generally used with nails, see above.

Broom- for sweeping work area after use.

Eye Protection- My glasses do it for me, but for all others not so wonderfully endowed, being blind sucks.
 

Instructions
It takes a four foot section of 1 by six inch wood to make these houses. I always start with an eight foot section, and then cut it in half. 

Then I look at my four foot section and see which side has the least blemishes, cracks, knots, and other things I'd rather not be seen on the finished product. I take my "outside" side and use a square to mark off the sections. I try to make sure that I won't have any cuts on knots. I try to match the wood with the section of the birdhouse I want it used for. I can hide a great big ugly knot by placing it on the back piece where it will be hidden inside the house on one side, and by the tree on the other. Speaking of the back, I include what is cross-hatched as scrap in the back, making it longer (11 and 1/2 inches) and giving more space to nail it to the tree.

I check my measurements, and cut using the power saw. I support the board on bricks on the floor. I have to be careful to move the piece which was just cut from where it fell. If I don't the next board can fall on top of it and part of it still remain in range of the spinning saw blade, messing it up.

After I've done all of my sawing I move to drilling. I make all of my 1/4 inch holes, and then my entrance hole. For hanging the birdhouse, I put one centered 1/4 inch hole in the top of the backboard and one in the bottom, one half inch in from the end edge..

My holes all drilled, I score the inside of the front piece to make it easier for the birdies to climb out of their nest. You may wish to put some wood shavings or chips in the house so that the birds will feel like they're cleaning out a real hole, which they enjoy.

I nail the sides to the back, remembering to only put one nail in the side which will become the right side when the finished house is looked at from the front. I then nail the front on, the bottom, and then the top. Centered, there is 1 and 3/8 inches between the roof and the top of the back and the bottom of the sides and the bottom of the back.

I sweep up my work area and put away the tools. I then finish up by signing the bottom with my name, the birdhouse number (how many I've done) and the date. I print out my Chickadee House Guide, roll it up, stick it in the entrance hole with two big nails for hanging it up, and give it away.
 

Techniques
Some little tips and tricks I've learned by doing a bunch of these things. 
Be careful if you bear down on a gritty surface, in can mar the surface  of the wood.

The centered holes for hanging in the back shouldn't bee to close to the body of the house, this can make hammering difficult. I generally go about 1/2 inch in from the edge.

Drill on a piece from the outer side inwards. This way, when the wood splits out, it will be on the inside where you can't see it.

When drilling through a board while there is a surface on the other side within range of the drill which you don't want to hit, put the floor piece, with the inside up (it can be scarred, as in the final house it won't be seen anyway) under the piece you're drilling.

I drill my 1/4 inch holes by useing the square. I measure out where I want the hole using the square. I then press the corner of the square where I want the hole. This marks the place for me, and it also creates a dent which is usefull for keeping the bit from jumping when I start drilling.

More techniques may be on the way as I think of them.

 

 
 
Links
Some great links about birds, birding, and birdhouses.
Birding
Bird Calls, http://www.unc.edu/~mep/- a good site for some common bird calls.

What to Feed the Birds, http://www.nuthatch.birdnature.com/foodmain.html- a site with all sorts of great info on birds, what they eat, how to treat them....

Movies of Handfeeding Wild Birds, http://mega.isis.vt.edu/~sec/birds-movies.html- hand feeding Chickadees.

Birds
E-Nature, www.enature.com- a reference source for animals and plants.

Carolina Chickadee, http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/bird_bios/speciesaccounts/carchi.html- Courtesy of The Birdhouse Network, lots of great info.

Everything about Chickadees, http://birding.about.com/msub1-chickadee.htm?once=true&- the About.com site for Chickadees with lots of links.

Wild Birds Unlimited FeederCam, http://www.wbu.com/feedercam_home.htm- an online, 24/7 bird feeder et up by Wild Birds Unlimited.

The Chickadee Web, http://home.jtan.com/~jack/ckd.html- everything and more than you ever wanted to know about Chickadees.

Birdhouses
Building Nest Structures, Feeders, and Photo Blinds for North Dakota Wildlife, http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/reso
urce/tools/ndblinds/ndblinds.htm- a good site full of designs, including the one spoken of on this page.

The Birdhouse Network, http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/- Lots of good info on birdhouses, birds....

Nestbox Cam, http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/nestboxcam/index.html- The Birdhouse Network's nest cam.


 
 
Bibliography:

The website I got this information from, whose bibliography is:

Chris Grondahl and John Dockter. Building Nest Structures, Feeders, and Photo Blinds
for North Dakota Wildlife. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.  22 December, 2002 <http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/tools/ndblinds/ndblinds.htm>.

Says that:
"This resource is based on the following source: 
Grondahl, Chris and John Dockter.  No Date.  Building nest structures, feeders, 
     and photo blinds for North Dakota Wildlife.  North Dakota Game and Fish 
     Department, Bismarck, ND.  39pp.

This resource should be cited as: 
Grondahl, Chris and John Dockter.  No Date.  Building nest structures, feeders, 
     and photo blinds for North Dakota Wildlife.  North Dakota Game and Fish 
     Department, Bismarck, ND.  39pp. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife 
     Research Center Home Page.  http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/tools/
     ndblinds/ndblinds.htm
     (Version 02JUL99)."

I hope that's all the info that anybody who has read this far into a Bibliography needs. Otherwise, please contact me at jderrick@email.unc.edu, and please don't sue me.

This page made using Netscape Composer 'cause it screws up the least of all the wysiwyg programs I use.
And that IS damning by faint praise.