Folk-Art Birdhouses

Use recycled materials and scraps to create folk-art birdhouses.


Finished Birdhouses

Pat and Justin Meier, a mother-and-son design team from Iowa, use discarded materials to make folk-art birdhouses. The Meiers begin by building basic boxes from old fence pickets, then they decorate the houses in vintage style with rusty tin, weathered shingles, a railroad spike, old wood, sticks, and twigs. These whimsical bird abodes are designed for wrens. Make one. The wrens will come. Note: If you decide to use a metal roof, be sure to hang the house in a shady area so the interior does not overheat in the summer sun.

Add to your birdhouse collection with a version made from a gourd.

What You Need:
  • 3-1/2-inch-wide pickets or boards
  • 2-1/2-inch-wide pickets or boards
  • Jigsaw or handsaw
  • Nails -- rusty or new
  • 7/8-inch spade bit
  • Roofing material of your choice: wood, tin, shingles
  • Decorative touches of your choice
Instructions:
How to steps

1. Start with two sizes of pickets or boards: a 3-1/2-inch-wide board for the front, back, and base; a 2-1/2-inch-wide board for the sides. This plan yields a rectangular birdhouse with the narrower boards for the sides set between the wider boards for the front and back. Plan the front and back with matching rooflines, then lay out the sides to line up with the front and back. Or, use the tops of two pickets to create the roofline. If using old wood or pickets, work around the nail holes when measuring and cutting pieces.

2. Nail sides, front, back, and base together. For a weathered look, Justin sometimes uses rusty nails for nonwhite birdhouses. In white wood, he uses new panel nails because they are color-matched to blend in and ringed for extra holding power.

3. Drill a wren hole using a 7/8-inch spade bit. Center the hole from side to side, but determine where you want it from top to bottom by how you plan to embellish the birdhouse.

4. To decorate the birdhouse with tin, cut tin shapes using tin snips. To fit shapes around the birdhouse entrance, pencil a 3/4-inch circle on the tin shape. Place the tin over a scrap of wood and make nail holes all around the circle, using the nail to cut the hole. To apply the tin, secure it in place on the birdhouse, then smooth the rough edges of the tin circle around the birdhouse hold by using a ball peen hammer to pound the tin into the wood.

5. Cut a piece of tin for the roof, allowing extra for overhangs. Round the corners on the tin and bend in half. Attach the roof using rusted nails. If you don't have old tin, purchase new tin and let it sit outside through a few rains or until it rusts. This same process will let edges and nails rust over after assembly. Or,consider using an old shingle for the roof. Prepare the base for a shingle roof by nailin gold lath to the birdhouse peaks. Add your own touches to personalize the birdhouse. Consider an old nail for a bird perch, a fence around the base of the house, or a railroad spike for the chimney.

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