Dear James: We, especially the kids, like to feed and watch birds in the backyard. Do you have any suggestions for snazzy birdhouses that will attract birds to my yard? -- Andy A.
Dear Andy: To attract birds to your yard, there are several things you must provide in addition to just the birdhouse. They need some trees to hide from predators, food to eat and water to drink, as well as a cute house. But who doesn't want a cute house?
Determine the species of birds in your area and the ones you want to attract to your backyard. Just like people have their specific preferences for houses, so do birds. The shape, size, perch, etc. varies for each type of bird.
You will need a 1/2-inch exterior grade plywood for the front, back and floor of the birdhouse. Plan the front and back with matching pitched rooflines first before laying out the sides to line them up.
Galvanized nails are adequate to attach the sides, front, back, and base together. More expensive stainless steel nails will hold up longer than galvanized and look better.
A very important design feature of the birdhouse is the entrance hole, and to a lesser extent, the overall size of the birdhouse. The size of the hole determines what types of birds flock to your yard.
For example, for bluebirds saw a 1 1/2-inch hole, for wrens saw a 7/8-inch hole, for chickadees saw a 1 1/4-inch hole and for sparrows saw a 1-inch hole. A 5-by-5-inch floor area is adequate for a single nest.
Locate the entrance hole high enough to place a 1/4-inch dowel perch below it. To jazz it up, you may want to paint a bright sun on the front with the hole in the center of it. Another suggestion is to form small shapes from sheet tin to fit around the birdhouse entrance. Be sure to bend over and smooth out any rough edges.
Cut a piece of sheet tin for the roof of the birdhouse, allowing for extra overhang for rain protection. Make sure to round the corners of the tin and crimp the sharp edges over. Birdhouses look best if old tin is used for the roof, but new tin will weather quickly.
The right mix of garden plants and seeds always brings a plethora of birds. The type you plant will determine the kinds of birds you attract. Sunflower seeds are good for attracting chickadees, cardinals, finches and grosbeaks. Make sure you buy the smaller, black sunflower seeds.
Doves, sparrows and other ground feeders enjoy millet. Suet is also a great feed for birds during the winter. This can be in a basket of vinyl-covered wire and hung from a feeder or tree. Attach the basket firmly so raccoons don't get the suet.
A platform-style feeder attracts all types of birds but also squirrels and other animals. This is a flat platform raised above the ground on a pole. Placing a bowl just beneath the feeder on the pole can help deter animals from the food.
A hopper feeder is less messy in the rain than a platform feeder, although squirrels are still able to get to the food in these as well. The hopper holds a very large amount of seed in a clear, plastic-sided, unit and the seeds filter onto a platform through a slot. If you build the feeder yourself, the slot should be no more than 1/2 inch wide to keep birds from getting stuck in it.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.