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For The Birds

Make sure you're building a house suitable for the birds in your area.

Ahh spring: when a birds' attention turns towards mating. Which means nesting and, if you supply an attractive bird and butterfly garden for them, you'll end up with a backyard brood that provides constant entertainment. There's plenty of creativity in the design of a birdhouses, from pseudo-Victorian styles to zestier models that can echo an alien space ship...the birds aren't really that choosy. Before you purchase, consult the friendly staff at Gertens to find out which birds are likely occupants, then check out the Gerten's 'Bird Nest'.

For any winged tenants, you'll need to keep some basics in mind:

  • Get a birdhouse out of wood, evoking natural tree nests. Cypress and cedar are prime options, pine a less expensive choice.
  • On the inside walls and floor, make sure to avoid wood treated with stains or chemicals that could harm hatchlings.
  • Flat roofs are a no-no; be sure to have a long eave (three inches or so) so that water doesn't dump onto the entrance hole.
  • Besides the primary entrance hole (that varies depending on the feathered resident), make sure there are several extra smaller (1/4 inch or so) holes in the floors and walls for ventilation and drainage. Also, position the entrance hole away from the area's prevailing winds, so your birds don't get wiped out during storms.
  • Be sure to protect birds from animals such as squirrels, cats or raccoons that will fight the birds for food, or worse yet, kill them outright. Mess this up and you've built a bird trap, not a birdhouse.
  • It's best to mount the house on a metal pole that's cemented into the ground. And keep it a solid six feet off the ground, well out of cat-leap range. Smearing the pole with slippery substances like petroleum jelly and hot-pepper spray will foil climbing attacks.
  • Make sure the birdhouse has a top that the top that lifts off or unscrews for easy cleaning. You'll want to check periodically for insect invasions, dampness and other problems.
  • Finally, if you get more than one birdhouse, distance them from each other to avoid the natural turf wars that can break out under cramped conditions.