A Simple One-Board Cedar Bluebird House!


Attracting birds to your yard is always a fun endeavor. Even more fun is when you are providing a nesting box for the next generation. Bluebird nestboxes can cost $20-$50 if you purchase online. And many of the DIY Bluebird houses use a mixture of lumber that has become crazy expensive during the pandemic! I’ve designed a simple Bluebird House that is strong, sturdy, and will last decades! Best of all, it only requires a single cedar picket fence board!

This Bluebird House is constructed from a single Cedar Picket Fence Board and some hardware cloth.

This Bluebird House can be made in an afternoon with simple hand tools. In fact, I’m going to show you step by step to make it with a simple Japanese Pull Saw, hammer, drill, and a few clamps. Now, if you had access to a miter saw and table saw, then by all means, use them! But if you haven’t been the ‘home improvement’ type before, perhaps consider giving this a shot. I guarantee you can build this house yourself for minimal cost in tools and material.

Materials required

  • 1×6 Cedar Picket (1)
  • Nails
  • Construction Adhesive
  • Our Design Plans (free pdf). Adapted from the Bressler design to be made with a single, affordable Cedar Picket Fence board. [1]

Tools Required –

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  • Two-sided Japanese style pull saw (Amazon link)
    • Or, use a crosscut and ripsaw if you have them
  • Hammer
  • Drill
    • Drill Bits
    • Spade Bit or Hole Saw (1.5″ diameter / 18 mm)
  • Clamps (We got this 4 pack on Amazon for a great price!)
  • Square or Straight edge
  • Tape Measure

Steps to Build a Bluebird House

Step 1 – Measure and cut the boards per the blueprints for the Bluebird House / Nesting Box.

Measure the necessary lengths, taking time to ensure accurate measurements using our plans.

Secure the board firmly to a work surface. If one has a vise, it can help substantially. But bar clamps can clamp to any sort of bench, and in a pinch you can hold the board securely with your knee.

But cut the boards from the cedar picket slowly and carefully. The more square and true your cuts are the easier the birdhouse will go together. And, the more secure and sturdy the birdhouse will be.

Note that the Front and Floor need additional cuts. The Front is a shorter width, so must have some material removed using a rip saw. And the Floor of the birdhouse has a shorter width, and needs a 1/2″ chamfer on the corners.

Ripping the Front to size

On the floor, for the ‘picket ear’, I glued a chamfer back on, to fill up the gap. But we will see that later.

I really need to stress something here. If you have a miter saw and table saw, then by all means use it. But, if you are new to DIY, I need to suggest the use of a Japanese style pull-saw. The saw I used to make the cuts you are seeing is a hardened tooth Japanese saw with a Rip cut on one side (with the grain), and a cross-cut (across the grain) on the other. So, you are basically getting two saws in one!

If you are worried about cutting straight, then I’ve got good news. This saw cuts on the pull stroke, making it way easier to cut a straight line! I’ve got a link to the same saw I used to build this birdhouse at our Recommended Products Page. You can get to it by clicking on the logo below.

Furthermore, if you are new to woodworking, or hand tools – a Japanese style is much easier to learn on, or use than the Western saws. If you are interested in learning

Step 2 – Drill Entrance Hole, ventilation holes

The entrance hole size for an Eastern Bluebird House should be 1-1/2″ diameter. Use a 1-1/2″ hole saw or spade bit to make the entrance hole per the print. Make 1/2″-5/8″ ventillation holes on the sides per the dimensions shown in the Bluebird House Blue Prints.

Step 3- Add saw kerf cuts to below the entrance hole

Use your saw to carefully cut 1/8″ deep, spaced every 3/8″ to create a small ladder that helps baby birds climb out of the birdhouse for the first time. Take care to keep your fingers away from the path of the saw.

Step 4 – Assemble the floor to the sides of the Bluebird House

The first step to assembling the birdhouse is to attach the floor to the sides. I use the other pieces to help stand everything up while fitting and gluing the floor.

In the image below, you can see I’m using the Front of the birdhouse as a spacer for the side pieces, that I hold together with a clamp. Clamps make assembling this birdhouse, and so many other projects so much easier. While building this I actually picked up 4 more clamps from Amazon, as they were selling them so cheap (4 for $16).

Apply a bead of construction adhesive to the sides of the floor. Then align and press the sides to the floor. You want the bottom edge of the floor to be about 1/4″ higher than the side pieces. While doing this, use your square, or a straight edge to try to ensure everything is aligned and true.

Use construction adhesive that is rated for exterior use.

Then, position the parts so that you can drive two nails into each side of the birdhouse and secure the floor. I’m using 4d 1-1/2″ box nails that are galvanized (exterior). They have a small shank which makes them less likely to cause splitting of the wood. To further reduce the chances of the wood splitting, blunt the tips with your hammer.

Take care to hold the parts as square as you can

Step 5 – Assemble Front of Birdhouse

Place the front of the birdhouse between the sides and align the top about 1/4″ below the top of the sides. This will allow for easy clean out after the nesting season.

Again, I use a clamp to help hold the front in the correct location. Then drill a pilot hole to ensure your nail has a true path to the Front. Finally, drive the nail into each side.

Step 6 – Assemble the back of the birdhouse

Flip the birdhouse so that the front is facing down. Apply a bead of construction adhesive to each side for the back to attach.

Carefully center the back of the birdhouse (I use my fingers). And press the back onto the glue. Note that you can either center the back so that it overhangs the top and bottom edges. Or, if mounting to a pole or T-Post, you can align the top to the back, to the top of the sides.

Read more about safe mounting methods of Bluebird Houses.

Then, carefully hammer 6 nails into the back of the birdhouse (3 in each side).

Note – how you attach the back will dictate how you can mount the Bluebird House. So, have in mind your mounting strategy!

If the back is flush with the top of the sides, the roof can overhang the entire birdhouse. This type needs to be mounted on a pole of some type. If the back is more centered, you will have different mounting options.

The house on the left has a ‘centered’ back. While on the right is a ‘flush’ back. Other than that, these birdhouses are identical.

Step 7 – Assemble the Roof

Bluebird houses, and all nest boxes can get very hot without adequate shade. Sometimes the birds and the babies can even die from overheating. So, to maximize the available shade we are going to turn our 5.5″ wide board into an 11″ board.

Apply a bead of construction adhesive to one side of a roof piece. Then, press the other roof piece against it very firmly for 60 seconds. If you have 18″ clams, now is the time to use them. If not, it will be OK, just squeeze them together very firmly for about a minute, then let it rest for 24 hours for the glue to cure.

I used two 18″ clamps to force the sides together. And then two smaller clamps on the ends to keep the boards flat in the vertical direction.

Step 8 – Apply More Clamps. Wait 24 hours.

Construction adhesive typically needs 24 hours of cure time before it is strong. So, we wait until the next day to continue the project. If you have more clamps, you should use them to squeeze all these glue joints together. Apply them now, and wait 24 hours.

Apply enough pressure to minimize any gaps.

Step 9 – Attach the roof to the Bluebird house

Apply a bead of construction adhesive to each side of the birdhouse. Then, press the roof firmly to the birdhouse. Drill pilot holes and hammer several nails into the roof into the sides. Clamp the roof to the house using 18″ clamps (if you have them). Wait 24 hours for the glue to cure.

Step 10 – Install Hinge-Locking Nail

Now we are going to apply a hinge lock so that we can securely latch the door to protect the Bluebirds. To do this, we are going to drill a hole in two steps. Also note, the size bits you use may differ from mine.

I’m using a duplex nail (two heads) for this. I checked the diameter against my drill bits and found that 3/16″ bit is just about the same diameter as the shank of this nail. I will use that for the first step of this operation, which will drill a hole through the side of the birdhouse, into the front door at an angle.

I’m going to drill just about as deep to the first head of the nail. Doing so will allow my nail to easily slip into the hole, and lock the door.

Now, I’m going to use a slightly smaller bit (1/8″) and drill a little deeper. This secondary hole will allow my nail to grip snugly. But loose enough where I can still pull it out by hand. So, when I wish to clean out the birdhouse, I can easily open the door without using a screw.

Step 11 – Protect the Bluebird House from predators

Many predators will attack, destroy, and eat Bluebird hatchlings. Although the best predicator of fledgling (baby bird success) is coordinated defense from both male and female [2], we can aid their chances through intelligent design and features [3].

Snakes, cats, raccoons, squirrels will climb poles and posts. Woodpeckers, Bluejays, and House Sparrows will remove eggs and evict Bluebirds.

There are several methods to stop predators from climbing such as using smooth, greased poles. But some kind of a baffle, such as a 24″ section of 8″ pvc or stovepipe with a hardware cloth cover on the upper end is effective.

The example to the right employs a common ‘squirrel baffle’ sold in stores, and a Noel Guard.

A Noel Guard is a cage-tunnel that leads to the entrance hole. It is pretty easy to make, and is a great defense against snakes, raccoons, squirrels, and cats. You can also purchase Noel Guards with hardware from Amazon.

Step 12 – Mount the Bluebird House

Ideally, mount your Bluebird House on a pole or post using , ensuring that it follows the criteria for successful mounting.

  • Bluebird Houses should be placed in open areas with short grass, or mowed areas like lawns, cemeteries, golf courses, or livestock pasture.
  • The nest box for a Bluebird should face away from prevailing winds
  • A Bluebird House needs to be protected from predators
  • Avoid areas with large numbers of house sparrows

To mount the Bluebird House, a simple way is utilizing rebar, Electric-Metal-Tubing (EMT), and some pipe hangers.

  1. Attach the pipe hangers on the back of the birdhouse, in the middle.
  2. Slide the EMT up to the roof.
  3. Drill a 3rd hole in the back of one of the pipe hangers, and add a 3rd screw so the birdhouse doesn’t spin on the pole.
  4. The roof is actually what will hold house up. (don’t worry, construction adhesive is quite strong).
  5. Pound a 4′ section of rebar into the ground to a depth of 18″-24″
  6. Slide the conduit over the rebar.
  7. Drill an additional hole at the base of the conduit, and attach a screw to stop it from spinning.

You can also attach it to poles, fence posts, and the like. But please, please, please! Protect the birdhouse with a Noel Guard at the bare minimum! These guards are not hard to make, and can add another layer of defense to the birdhouse. It isn’t too hard to find examples of tragedy where the mother and babies were killed because predators entered.

If the Bluebirds fall victim to a predator can I keep the nest box?

But – if you have had in the past, or currently have a Bluebird nest box and it was attacked by predators, it is ok to reuse the box. Just consider adding defense features or moving it a bit away from trees or brush. That is because research has shown that Bluebirds will use a nest box regardless if there was an attack previously.

A study was done to see if they would use a nest box that had been scented with the odor of a Black Rat Snake versus no scent at all. The results showed the Bluebird had no preference based on the additional scent. [4]

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References:

[1] – The Bressler Nestbox Design. This was the base design I modified so that it could be made from a single Cedar Picket Fence Post.

[2] – Jennifer L. Burtka, Jennifer L. Grindstaff, Similar nest defence strategies within pairs increase reproductive success in the eastern bluebird, Sialia sialis, Animal Behaviour, Volume 100, 2015, Pages 174-182, ISSN 0003-3472, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.12.004.
(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347214004576)

[3] – Bailey, R.L. and Bonter, D.N. (2017), Predator guards on nest boxes improve nesting success of birds. Wildl. Soc. Bull., 41: 434-441. https://doi.org/10.1002/wsb.801

[4] – Godard, R.D., Bowers, B.B. and Morgan Wilson, C. (2007), Eastern bluebirds Sialia sialis do not avoid nest boxes with chemical cues from two common nest predators. Journal of Avian Biology, 38: 128-131. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2007.0908-8857.03788.x

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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