My husband and I love doing projects. One of our favorite pastimes is to peruse salvage yards and antique markets for hidden treasures. We find great satisfaction in taking beat-up items and rejuvenating and repurposing them. The majority of our projects involve refurbishing furniture for our home, but we also enjoy working on projects for the garden. There is something extraordinary about putting a unique piece in the landscape that has meaning to you. All the better if that piece is not just decorative but also functional. Birdhouses check both of those boxes in my garden, offering both visual interest and shelter for our feathered friends.
Wild birds have always interested me, and I enjoy attracting them to our landscape by offering them sources of food, water, and shelter. We have placed birdhouses in our yard for many years, hoping that a mating pair would take up residence and raise a brood. Fortunately, our birdhouses often have tenants, and we have witnessed many a fledgling successfully leave the nest.
Each spring, in anticipation of the tenant’s migratory return, I clean out the birdhouses. This year, I noticed that four of our six birdhouses looked a little, shall we say, shabby. And I’m not talking about the shabby chic decorating trend. In truth, they were in rough shape, the kind of shape where if birds had building inspectors, they probably would have been condemned. Rotting roofs, damage from squirrels and woodpeckers, and faded and peeling paint plagued them all. These birdhouses were sentimental to me, as two of them were built by my husband, my grandfather made another before he passed, and the fourth was picked out and named by my son when he was little, and so replacing them was not an option. Luckily, my husband was up for a project, and so the birdhouse renovations began.
Thoroughly cleaning, sanding, and in some cases, disassembling the houses was the first step. Our goal when doing projects is always to reuse and repurpose whenever possible, and these birdhouses were no different. Leftover shingles from our roof now cover the tops of three of the birdhouses. An old water spigot, wheel, and bent screwdriver became perches. We repurposed two old license plates found at a flea market into the roof of the fourth house, and leftover water-based, non-toxic paint from previous projects inspired the colors of each home.
The only item we purchased in the renovations was the entrance plates. Squirrel and woodpecker damage had left the entrances too large to protect the residents from predation. To prevent this in the future, we found metal electrical plates at our local hardware store that happened to have 1.5-inch circular cutouts. This size is appropriate for many of the smaller songbirds, such as Carolina wrens and swallows.
When the renovations were complete, we remounted our birdhouses and placed them back into our landscape. We are thrilled with the transformations and love how the houses add a little bit of whimsy and character to our backyard. I adore how the bright colors pop, although I have since read that birdhouses should blend into their surroundings to lessen the chance of attracting predators. Luckily, our backyard is fenced in, and predators are rare, but I will keep a close eye on the situation. If they need repainting, I will gladly do so.
We gave all of the renovated houses names, a tradition started by my son when, as a toddler, he designating the barn-shaped birdhouse “The Bird Barn.” Joining them now are The Hose House (with the water spigot perch), The Blueberry House (with its blue paint and blueberry patch location), and Liberty House (with its New York license plate roof). Like a ceremonial ship launching, we put them out into the world and hoped for the best.
I am happy to report that within a week or two of placing the revamped birdhouses out, they all have residents busily building nests within them. I was particularly thrilled when Phillip the house wren and his mate returned and started building a nest in The Bird Barn for the third consecutive year. I’m hopeful that they are pleased with the renovations.
It has been very entertaining to watch all the birdhouse residents as they prepare to raise their families. Being able to be a part of that by providing them a shelter to do so gives us great satisfaction. I will enjoy my revamped birdhouses for many years to come as I putter about the garden. They will provide visual interest and entertainment as I watch the antics of our feathered friends. Now, what garden project should we tackle next?