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Total Time Needed: 1 Hour

Tree swallows sing. They zip and zoom on the wind. They eat flies and mosquitoes. And they're some of the easiest birds to attract. Those are the four reasons we put up a tree swallow birdhouse in our Vermont backyard last spring.

Building a birdhouse is inexpensive, simple and fun for the whole family. The model presented here is everything that swallows--and many other songbirds--look for in a new home: It's made of unpainted wood and has adequate drainage and ventilation, no outside perch, and an entrance hole exactly 1 1/2 inches in diameter. This design allows smaller birds to enter but discourages larger marauders, such as starlings.

Materials

  • One 4-foot length of 1-by-6-inch pine board (actual dimensions: 4 feet by 1 inch by 5 1/2 inches)
  • Hand saw, circular saw or table saw
  • Drill with 1/4-inch bit
  • Keyhole saw or 1 1/2-inch bit, for entrance hole
  • 16 six-penny galvanized nails
  • Hammer
  • 1 scrap piece of exterior plywood, at least 6 by 8 inches
  • 1 small brass hinge with screws

Instructions

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1. Saw the pine board into six segments. Note that each side piece is cut at an angle so that the front edge is 8 inches long and the back is 9 inches

2. Saw 3/8 inch off the corners of the bottom piece, for drainage

3. Drill or saw an entrance hole 1 1/2 inches in diameter, with the top edge about 1 1/8 inches from the top of the front piece

4. On the inside of the front piece, carve some shallow horizontal scratches with a nail. This helps the nestlings get a grip as they try to climb out of the box

5. Nail the two sides to the bottom, using two nails hammered 1 inch in from the corners

6. Drill 1/4-inch mounting holes in the top center and bottom center of the back.

7. Nail the front and back to the sides, using three nails along each edge.

8. For ventilation, drill two 1/4-inch holes along the top of the side pieces

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9. Cut the roof from the scrap plywood so that it overlaps the sides and front. Saw the plywood's rear edge on a slight bevel to butt against the back piece. Attach the roof to the back with the hinge

Tips:

The birdhouse should be mounted on a post 5 to 12 feet high and placed in an open, sunny spot (we put ours next to the garden) where the birds can fill up on flying insects. The time to put it up is in early spring, when swallows are looking for a dry, safe place to raise their young. Maintenance is minimal: Once a year, in the fall after nesting season, clean out the house with a stiff-bristled brush and soap and water. For your brief efforts, your backyard will come alive each spring with birdsong and flapping wings, and your family will witness the life cycle of nesting birds