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Barnwood - Birdbox

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Unique character and historical beauty - we share a bit of the past by recycling and giving new life to this charming 80-100 year old barnwood from the farm that was once in the valley at the foot of our hillside.

These naturally discreet Birdboxes are individually handcrafted according to construction plans and specifications approved by the North American Bluebird Society and the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. (Also available in untreated plywood).

bear image.jpg Nest Box
Some species of birds are known as cavity dwellers, which means they only build their nests inside a cavity, usually a hollow inside the trunk of a tree. Manmade birdhouses (also called a nest box) provide a good simulation for a tree cavity, and have been credited for bringing the Eastern Bluebird back from the brink of extinction.

woodland nesthole.jpg In the woods, there is plenty of natural habitat for these fragile creatures. As we share more and more of these birds' natural environment, providing a nest box to protect them from severe weather, poisons and predators helps to secure nesting options.

Each cavity dweller species is attracted to a particular environment for nesting. Both using a natural habitat or creating a naturalistic environment will attract birds, and having a water source near the nest box area makes nesting more viable. Cavity dwellers usually prefer to nest away from people and feeders, so it is best to put a little space between active areas around your home and the nest box.
Perhaps you've noticed birds nesting around your home. They are great fun to watch and identify. If a nest seems to be in an undesirable or unsafe location, providing the appropriate nest box nearby will maintain nesting options for the birds and birding enjoyment for you. The environment you choose to locate your nest box should have ample room for the species you are trying to attract, have sun exposure and shade cover appropriate to the species and be free of pesticides and herbicides. The time to have your nest box set-up is by mid-late March in the northern states, and by February in the southern states to be ready for the nesting season.

Types of Nest Box
Whether you decide to build your own nest box or purchase one from us, there are a few construction features to take note of. Each cavity dweller species nests in one of three types of nest box. Wrens, bluebirds and finches, for example, nest close to their own species using an enclosed single unit nest box. Robins, barn swallows and phoebes use a sheltered platform or shelf nest box. Purple martins nest in colonies or apartments/condos.

Enclosed Single Unit Type Nest Box Sheltered Platform Unit Type Nest Box
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Picture from Cornell Lab of Ornithology Picture from Shaw Creek Bird Supply

Building Material
Wood, for each type of nest box, provides the best insulation to prevent loss of life in the early spring and remain cool in the summer. The walls of the nest box should be at least 3/4" thick for proper insulation.

woodpecker box.jpg platform birdbox2.jpg The type of wood used should be free of toxins and poisons. Varying opinions exist as to which woods are appropriate for a nest box. Plywood, pine, fir and cedar are the most commonly referred to woods. Pressure treated or exterior grade plywood is toxic. Pine has dangerous resins which disappear quickly when cured. Cedar and redwood are resistant to deterioration when exposed to the sun and rain, but red cedar produces a natural substance poisonous to birds when the "heartwood" is exposed. This toxin remains indefinitely in the nest box. All considered, we suggest using untreated plywood or recycled barnwood.

Roof, Drainage, Ventilation
For each type of nest box, an extended, sloped roof is most desired. A 2" overhang on all sides is sufficient to minimize rain, snow and sun from entering the nest box. Up to a 5" overhang on the front of the nest box will reduce raccoon, snake and cat predators. Four 1/4" holes on each side of the nest box at the bottom allow any water entering the nest box to drain and provide air circulation to keep nesting material dry. Temperatures can reach 107 degrees Fahrenheit inside a nest box killing eggs and young. To provide cross ventilation, there should be two holes (5/8") or slots (3/8" wide, 1 1/4" long) on each side of the nest box placed directly under the roof. If possible, plug or cover the vents in cold weather early in the nesting season.

Nest Box Dimensions
To attract a particular species of cavity dweller, dimensions are an important aspect of the nest box. The entrance hole for the box should be just large enough for the desired species, but too small for a larger, more aggressive bird such as blue jays, starlings, magpies and crows. The hole should be round and 1 1/2" - 2" thick. Adding wooden blocks around the entrance hole will guard against large bird predators eating the eggs. A recessed floor, approximately 6" below the entrance hole and 1/4" up from the bottom of the box, also provides protection from predators. Using screen for the floor may reduce insect infestation.
The interior dimensions of the nest box vary to accommodate for size of the cavity dweller and size of the clutch. To help chicks get to the opening from the nest, rough out horizontal grooves or use 1/4" galvanized mesh inside the box underneath the opening.

One size does not fit all!
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Barred Owl Birdbox Woodpecker Birdbox Finch Birdbox

Access, Predator Guards
Easy top, front or side access enables cleaning out the old nest (early March in the northern states and early February in the southern states) to prevent parasites and removing the unwanted nests of starlings and sparrows (not state or federally protected). Be persistent in removing the unwanted nests and they will give up.
Easy access for you, but not for predators. When it comes to perches, cavity dwellers don't need them. They merely facilitate harassment by sparrows and starlings, and give predators ready access to the nest. Ridged nails or brass or stainless steel screws will prevent cats and raccoons from ready access to the nest. Also, weather resistant hardware, such as brass, will maintain nest box security. For added security, predator guards keep cats, raccoons and snakes from scaling the support post to your nest box.

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Picture from Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

Finishing, Preserving
There are a number of options for finishing and preserving your nest box. For a painted nest box, an exterior grade latex will work. Only paint the outside of the nest box (parts visible when the nest box is closed). Apply a second coat to the top and back of the nest box. Use a natural color paint (green, tan, gray, brown) to blend with the environment in a reflective, lighter shade to minimize overheating. Purple martin apartments/condos are painted white. To just waterproof, use a clear mineral wax or marine varnish. Heavy grade linseed oil stain also helps preserve the nest box, but avoid using creosote as a preservative. You can always leave the nest box unfinished. If you do paint or preserve your nest box, wait two to three weeks after doing so before mounting.

Cavity dwellers nest at varying heights above ground in nature. We try to accommodate these heights with safe access limits. Nest boxes should be at least 5' above ground to lessen opportunities for a climbing or jumping predator to access the nest.
A safely mounted nest box will withstand high winds and severe weather, and a smooth, round pole will deter predators. Metal poles, heavily greased after eggs are laid, water pipe, or 3/4" waxed metal electrical conduit are highly suggested for proper mounting. Predator guards are always helpful in protecting the nest, but are especially important when mounting your nest box to trees, wooden fence posts, ungreased pipe or PVC pipe. Face the box north or east to prevent overheating when mounting it on the pole. If the pole is placed near traffic, face the box away from it.
Given time and left to nature, the birds will find their new homes.

If you would like to find out more about ornithology, birding or nest boxes, here are a few good places to start:

If you would like more information about cavity dwellers in your area, contact your national or local Audubon Society.

Providing a Birdbox is a personally enjoyable way to easily give back to our environment. When purchasing a nest box, carefully take note of the construction features. As a note to those of you who would like to build your own nest box, there are slight variations in nest box dimension charts out there. We've provided a chart with fairly moderate dimensions below. If you would like a custom, handcrafted Birdbox, we would be happy to build one for you according to the dimension chart below.

Happy Birding!

Bird species are listed in order by Birdbox size - small, medium, large, X-large, condos.
Species Floor (in.) Depth of Cavity at Front (in.) Height of Center of Entry Hole (in.) Dia. of Entry Hole (in.) Approx. Height of Box Above Ground (ft.) Preferred Habitat & Box Location
House Wren 4 x 4 7 5 1 6 Open fields & thickets
Bewick's Wren 4 x 4 7 5 1 1/8 6 Open fields & thickets
Carolina Wren 4 x 4 7 5 1 3/8 6 Open fields & thickets
Black-capped Chickadee 4 x 4 8 6 1 1/8 5 Open woods & edges
Carolina Chickadee 4 x 4 8 6 1 1/8 5 Open woods & edges
Tufted Titmouse 4 x 4 8 6 1 1/4 5 Open woods & edges
Red-breasted Nuthatch 4 x 4 8 6 1 1/3 12 Open woods & edges
White-breasted Nuthatch 4 x 4 9 7 1 1/4 12 Open woods & edges
Downy Woodpecker 4 x 4 10 8 1 1/4 12 Forest openings & edges
Eastern Bluebird 5 x 5 9 7 1 1/2 4 Open land with scattered trees

Tree Swallow 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 6 4 1 1/2 5 Open land near water
Hairy Woodpecker 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 14 11 1 3/4 20 Forest openings & edges
Red-headed Woodpecker 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 14 11 1 3/4 20 Forest openings & edges
House Finch 6 x 6 6 4 2 8 Back yards & porches
Great Crested Flycatcher 6 x 6 10 7 1/2 2 10 Open woods & edges
Ash-throated Flycatcher 6 x 6 12 8 1 3/4 6 - 20 Open, semi-arid country
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 6 x 6 14 11 2 8 - 20 Forest openings & edges
Red-bellied Woodpecker 6 x 6 14 11 2 20 Forest openings & edges

Platform Nest Boxes
Barn Swallow 6 x 6 6 NA NA 8 Open land
Eastern Phoebe 6 x 6 6 NA NA 8 Weltered ledge over water, under bridge or on building
American Robin 6 x 6 8 NA NA 6 Open areas: side of house is a good place to mount box.

Saw-whet Owl 7 x 7 15 12 2 1/2 15 Forest clearings & edges
Northern Flicker 7 x 7 16 13 2 1/2 15 Farmland, open country. Use a tree with shrubs underneath.
Bufflehead 7 x 7 18 14 3 8 - 15 Wooded lakeshores & marshes
Screech Owl 8 x 8 16 13 3 12 Farmland, orchards, woods.
American Kestrel 8 x 8 16 13 3 20 Open fields, wooded edges, farmlands

Wood Duck 10 x 10 21 16 4 5' over water; 15' over land Wooded rivers or marshes
Pileated Woodpecker 12 x 12 24 19 4 15 - 20 Mature forests
Barred Owl 14 x 14 28 23 8 15 - 30 Mature bottomland forests
Barn Owl 18 x 20 18 4 6 18 Farmland: High on barn, silo, or large tree; entrance hole should be four inches above floor.

Purple Martin 6 x 6 6 2 1/2 2 1/2 17 Pastures, fields, golf courses

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Custom Birdboxes - Specify:
  • Cavity dweller you wish to attract (consider environment).
  • Wood type: Plywood (untreated), Barnwood (recycled).
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Size Floor (inches) Wood Price
Small 4 x 4 - 5 x 5 Barnwood (recycled)
Plywood (untreated)
Medium 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 - 6 x 6 Barnwood (recycled)
Plywood (untreated)
Large 7 x 7 - 8 x 8 Barnwood (recycled)
Plywood (untreated)
Extra-large 10 x 10 & up (Contact us for a price quote)  
Please enjoy browsing through the rest of this site; then, when you are ready to place your order, click on "Order" for information.

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Mama & Papa Bear's Creations, Spring Green, Wisconsin.
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