Functional Birdhouses: Bird Houses that Birds Will Live In

Bird houses are a great way to add character and charm to your backyard or garden. Whether a series of colorful birdhouses arranged on a wall, a large multi-chamber home on a stand in the middle of a garden, or a lone, rustic birdhouse mounted on a fence, birdhouses make a statement. However, if you also want to attract wild birds to that house, you must also pay attention to what these homes say to the birds.

Consider the Birds When You Choose a Functional Birdhouse

In North America, over 50 bird species will build nests in bird houses. But each bird species has their own requirements for living arrangements and will look for specific characteristics in potential homes before choosing to nest there. Since each type of bird has different behaviour and physical needs, one type of birdhouse is not suitable for all types of birds and the best way to attract a specific species is choose or build a bird house designed for them. In general, birds are most concerned about the safety and comfort of the house and they tend to nest in homes that most resemble their natural nesting places.

Characteristics of Good Functional Birdhouses

The following general characteristics are important for birdhouses meant for almost all types of birds:


Bird houses can be made from a variety of materials from wood to paper to gourds. Regardless of the materials used, the final home must be durable and able to stand up to the weather for the entire season.



If birds will live in the bird house, it must be free from harmful chemicals or preservatives. If they are painted at all, bird houses should not be painted or treated on the inside. Do not use bird houses made from pressure-treated wood as they contain chemicals that are harmful to the birds health.


Bird houses need to protect the birds from both extreme cold and heat. The provide adequate protection, the walls of wooden bird houses should be at least 3/4″ thick. Metal freezes and overheats and should not be used for functional bird houses.

Good Drainage and ventilation

Ensure that the bird house has drainage holes in the corners to allow excess water that may leak inside to drain easily. Ventilation holes at the top of the bird house allow fresh air in and heat to escape at the top.

Access for cleaning and monitoring

The ability to easily open the back or top of a bird house is useful for cleaning and monitoring the occupants of the home. A top opening allows you to look in without disturbing the nest. You may also need to open the house to remove an invading pest or unwanted occupant.

Protection from predators

To deter possible predators from accessing the birdhouse, look for birdhouses that have sloped roofs with an overhang above the entrance to prevent cats or other animals from sitting on top of the house and reaching in through the entrance hole. Also, remove an external perches from the entranceway. Birds that live in the house, don’t use perches, but invading bird species find them useful when attacking the birds inside. A recessed floor can also help to keep the birds out of reach of any other birds or animals.

Birdhouses can be a fun additional to your outdoor decor, but when you add a functional birdhouse and hope to attract wild birds to nest in it, you need to consider more than the how it looks to you. If you create a home that addresses the basic requirements for bird comfort and protection, the birdhouse will also be appealing to birds.