Providing houses for birds, specifically cavity-nesting species is a hobby most people enjoy. Putting up houses for the tree swallows, chickadees, snow buntings, screech owls, and small owls that regularly visit your home is a great way to pass time as well as a means to protect wildlife.

However, if you decide to build a birdhouse, you should do it right. Birds rarely settle in incorrectly built or ill-maintained houses. Worse still, a poorly built birdhouse is a death trap for nesting birds.

The following guide is meant to help you select the best wood for birdhouses and, after that, build the right nest box and properly maintain it.

Why Build Birdhouses?

Let’s begin by understanding the benefits of building birdhouses around and outside your home. What’s the upside?

Wildlife conservation

Natural cavities in trees will always be important for wildlife, especially birds. Unfortunately, such houses are scarce in some locations.

For instance, places with frequent wildfires and intense logging activities often leave birds with no homes. Nest boxes (birdhouses) provide shelter for homeless birds in such situations.

Pest and weed control

Birds feed on garden pests, such as aphids, mosquitoes, spiders, and other bugs that may harm your garden.

Additionally, birds, such as finches, towhees, and sparrows, feed on weeds and weed seeds, thus slowing down the propagation of weeds. As such, inviting birds to your farm through birdhouses can boost your farming output.

It’s good for your mental wellbeing

There aren’t many better natural therapies than watching birds fly around your property, interacting with them, and listening as they chirp throughout the day.

It’s a great way to release stress as you while away the day. It also encourages you to spend time outdoors, which is important for your health and mental wellness.

Qualities of a Good Birdhouse 

Not all birdhouses are good, though. If you’re serious about attracting birds to your nest boxes, you should ensure the boxes meet the following requirements;

  1. Target a specific bird: Building a general house for any bird rarely works as each family of birds has unique needs. Therefore, you should target one bird family in your location. 
  2. Use the right materials: It’s critical that use the right building materials, paint, nails for nesting boxes. Otherwise, you may expose the birds to extreme weather conditions such as freezing or overheating. For instance, use galvanized screws over regular screws. 
  3. A good box stays warm and dry: You need a combination of the right materials and the right technique to make nesting boxes that stay warm and dry throughout the year. For, instance, you need to provide drain holes through the floor. 
  4. Ensure proper ventilation: Air circulation is critical for birdhouses, just as our houses. Therefore, you need to select materials and adopt techniques that enable unimpeded airflow.
  5. Ease of maintenance: Finally, you also need to consider ease of maintenance. A great nest box is easy to clean and disinfect. It should also be easy to air out to dry. 

What is the Best Material for a Birdhouse?

Most birds prefer to make nests in natural and untreated wood birdhouses. It gives them a natural habitat. Additionally, wood houses are warm and cozy.

You’re at liberty to paint, stain, or install metal detailing outside the house. However, the entire interior should comprise natural, untreated wood.

What about the plastic and metal birdhouses on sale on Amazon and eBay? Plastic, acrylics, and vanished and treated wood are only applicable in specific temporary applications as they attract and store heat.

Meanwhile, metal is a poor insulator. A metal nest box exposes birds to extreme temperatures (too cold in winter and too hot temperatures in the summer).

The only exception in synthetic bird housing is concrete. Although it’s heavy and expensive, concrete makes practical and safe birdhouses.

Best Wood for Birdhouse

So, now that we know wood is the best material for a bird house, let’s consider some of the best wood types to make a great nest box.

1. Redwood

Redwood is one of the wood types that go with any woodworking project. The main reason is the availability of redwood compared to other wood types with similar characteristics.

Additionally, redwood is an extremely durable softwood and very environment-friendly. For instance, redwood stumps easily grow new shoots, enhancing propagation.

In addition, redwood trees absorb up to three times as much carbon dioxide from human emissions from humans than other trees.

However, that’s just the tip of the start. Redwood is also exceptionally beautiful. The reddish-brown heartwood and eye-catching grain pattern guarantee a stunning bird house.

It’s also highly resistant to humidity, meaning you don’t have to worry about dampness. Most importantly, redwood doesn’t contain toxic chemicals that may hurt your birds.

The only downside is that redwood lumber scratches and dents rather easily. This makes it a poor choice for pecking birds, such as bluebirds, woodpeckers, and the northern flicker.

What We Liked Most

  • Rick, red color is visually stunning
  • Resistant to shrinking and cracking
  • Naturally weather-resistant
  • Termite and decay-resistant

What Could Be Improved

  • Prone to denting
  • All-heart redwood is expensive



2. Cedar

Cedar is another excellent wood choice for building bird houses. In fact, it’s the most popular choice where affordability and access aren’t issues.

Its unmatched insulation qualities make cedarwood birdhouses warm and cozy in chilly seasons and sufficiently cool on overly hot days.

Additionally, cedar is lightweight, which is an added advantage when building handing birdhouses. You don’t want a heavy nest as weight increases the risk of falling.

Moreover, cedarwood is highly dimensionally stable. It doesn’t change size when exposed to extreme temperature variations. This is also very important as constant expansion and contraction can easily damage the nest.

Above all, cedar is environmentally stable and durable. It is resistant to insect attacks, rotting, and bugs. It is also weather-resistant and durable enough to last many years.

What We Liked Most

  • A highly attractive reddish tone
  • Beautiful, hard texture grain
  • Exceptional machinability
  • Requires little maintenance (no staining needed)

What Could Be Improved

  • Cedar is fairly expensive
  • It tends to fade over the years



3. Pine

Pine is considered one of the best wood choices for woodworking projects on a budget. It is easily available and very affordable. However, that doesn’t mean the quality is poor.

As a softwood, it’s easy to cut and work, making it an even better choice if it’s your first woodworking project. The grains of most pine trees are also beautiful and highly workable.

Pine wood is also moisture resistant, meaning it can take outdoor conditions relatively well. It doesn’t shrink or warp easily, no matter the conditions.

Moreover, it’s highly elastic, so any natural movements within the timber rarely cause changes in shape. Above all, pine is easy to mold into different shapes. This can be an added advantage if you’d like to sculpture your birdhouse or style it in other ways.

However, beware that pine wood must be carefully treated with strong preservatives to prevent rotting. Hardwoods such as cedar don’t require the same.

What We Liked Most

  • Attractive creamy white to yellow tone
  • Very affordable softwood
  • Easily workable
  • It’s a non-toxic wood

What Could Be Improved

  • Not very durable
  • Requires treatment to prevent rotting



4. Douglas Fir

The Douglas fir is one of many types of fir trees grown worldwide. Others include the Balsam fir, Fraser fir, Grand fir, and Himalayan fir. The trees grow up to 80 meters, with diameters stretching to four meters.

The lumber extracted from the trunks is light brown with medium density. The first thing you need to know about the Douglas fir is that it’s non-toxic.

The needles from Douglas fir leaves are even used as essential oils in aromatherapy to relieve coughs, flu, and muscle aches. You may have also heard about tea made from fir leaves. These qualities mean that the wood is safe for birds.

Douglas fir woods are also strong and durable. It also has exceptional dimensional stability, i.e., it doesn’t shrink due to weather changes. Moreover, Douglas fir is resistant to insect and fungus attacks, enhancing its durability.

What We Liked Most

  • Lightweight and easy to handle
  • Low shrinkage with great stability
  • It’s fairly affordable  
  • Exceptionally weather-resistant

What Could Be Improved

  • A coarse texture makes it difficult to work
  • You need extra sharp tools to work Douglas fir



5. Teak

Teak is beautiful, unique wood with a natural golden honey hue. However, it’s most famous for its high resistance to rot, pests, and fungi in marine and land environments.

This partly explains why it’s the wood of choice for marine applications, such as boat making, docks, and decks. Additionally, teak wood is highly water resistant.

The trunk contains natural oil, which gives teak lumber high moisture resistance. Don’t forget that it’s also highly durable with low maintenance. It easily withstands temperature variations without changing shape.

Unfortunately, the many excellent qualities mean that teak wood comes at a premium. This is one of the main reasons many woodworkers avoid it. However, it’s a wonderful choice if budget isn’t a stumbling block.

What We Liked Most

  • A striking golden yellow hue
  • Highly moisture and rot-resistant
  • Highly dimensionally stable
  • Rated highly for outdoor use

What Could Be Improved

  • It is a tad expensive
  • It’s not very easy to find



6. Oak

If teak is beyond your budget, oak is a good alternative. It is a heavy, long-lasting, and durable wood with exceptional strength. Both have smooth grain textures.

However, while teak is yellow, the most common oak, i.e., the red oak, has a reddish-brown hue. White teak is much lighter, though, with a tight, even grain pattern.

So, what makes it a good choice for making bird boxes? Several things. For one, oak is bird-safe. It doesn’t contain toxins that may harm birds. Secondly, you don’t need to preserve oak.

The products stand out with zero use of chemical paints or vanishes. This makes it easier to set/position oak birdhouses naturally.

We also love that oakwood is exceptionally strong and durable. Both red and white oak wood can last many years. It’s also water-resistant, meaning you won’t have to worry about damping. Unfortunately, it’s a bit expensive and heavy.

What We Liked Most

  • Stunning natural look with a reddish-brown hue
  • Highly dense, moisture-resistant wood
  • Valuable weather resistance
  • It stands out without painting or natural varnish

What Could Be Improved

  • A tad expensive
  • A big heavy



7. Beech

Beech is another pink to reddish-brown lumber. It’s characterized by a slightly coarse texture with conspicuous rays and tiny pores. The straight grains give it a contemporary feel.

Although it’s mostly used in furniture making, its natural qualities make it a good choice for many other woodworking projects, including making birdhouses.

It’s a hard and fairly heavy hardwood with high crush strength. However, it’s only moderately stiff, thus easy to carve. It works easily with both hand and power tools and has good nailing and gluing characteristics. It also stains and polishes very well.

Other standout qualities of beechwood include its non-toxicity and affordability. It’s rated food-safe (thus safe for birds) and is common in making food containers as it doesn’t impart taste or color. It’s way cheaper than the likes of cherry, walnut, and oak.

What We Liked Most

  • Highly affordable hardwood
  • Stains and polishes well
  • No taste or odor
  • Bird-safe

What Could Be Improved

  • Poor machinability
  • Shrinks with temperature changes



8. Cypress

Finally, cypress is another good wood choice when making a birdhouse. It’s a light, yellow wood with white sapwood that looks very attractive. The straight grain pattern and medium texture are also easily noticeable.

Unfinished cypress surfaces have a characteristic greasy feel. However, one of the main attractions of cypress wood is its durability and rot resistance. Cypress doesn’t rot easily, even when exposed to adverse weather conditions.

It’s also durable enough to last a few decades. We also love that it’s very easy to work. It accepts hand power tools equality well and has great finishing, gluing, nailing, and painting qualities. Above all, cypress wood is affordable.

The only downside is that cypress has respiratory irritation properties. As such, some woodworkers tend to avoid it for birdhouses. The characteristic cypress odor is another factor that can put off some people.

However, there’s no need to fret as both aren’t issues for birds. In fact, cypress is one of the wood types that attracts almost all bird types!

What We Liked Most

  • Durable and rot-resistant
  • Easily workable
  • Bird-safe
  • Affordable and highly available

What Could Be Improved

  • Characteristic odor can be off-putting
  • Deteriorates easily when in contact with soil



Can I Use Pressure-Treated Wood for a Birdhouse?

Unfortunately, you shouldn’t. Pressure-treated wood is also known as CCA-treated wood, meaning it contains chromate copper arsenate. CCA makes wood resistant to decay, which is great.

However, it is also unsafe for animals, including birds and humans. Pressure-treated wood can cause rashes, itching, and even neurological problems.

This reasoning also applies to other chemically-treated wood. For instance, wood containing creosote is not healthy for birds, as is wood painted with lead-based paints.

Can You Use Plywood for Birdhouses?

Yes, you can use plywood to build a birdhouse. Its quality to reflect heat is very attractive. Additionally, plywood is very durable and resists damping.

However, we only recommend marine and exterior grade plywood, though. These two plywood types are sufficiently resistant to moisture, making them better suited to outdoor structures.

Marine plywood is particularly good, though it’s slightly more expensive than exterior plywood.

Wooden Birdhouse Dos and Don’ts: Tips to Keep in Mind 

Building bird houses is no different from other woodworking projects. It requires accuracy and keen attention to detail. The following are a few tips to guide you;

  • Wood is best: Although you can also build birdhouses with plastic, vinyl, and metal, wood is the best material as it gives birds a natural-like habitat. However, avoid treated wood and, if possible, stay away from plywood.
  • Build the right size birdhouse: Different birds require different nest sizes. Otherwise, the space may be too small or too big and unattractive to the bird. You can find the exact size specifications for common bird types here.
  • Size the entrance hole accordingly: It’s best to size the hole depending on the type of bird you’re targeting. For instance, sparrows need 1-1 ¼ inch holes.
  • What’s the Right Height from the Ground? Most birds are comfortable about four feet above ground level. You’re free to go a little higher. However, keep it low enough for easy maintenance.
  • Protecting the Floor: Make sure the sides enclose the floor to protect young birds from rain. Also, ensure the roof slopes appropriately to protect the birds from rain.
  • Avoid perches: Perches might look nice. However, they attract predators such as jays, crows, and ravens.
  • Finishes: You’re free to paint the exterior of the birdhouse, though unpainted nests work even better. The best choices are dark greens, natural tans, and grays found in nature. However, leave the inside surface as-is. Never paint inside the birdhouse.
  • Provide a strong foundation: Ideally, attach the next to a fixed point, such as a tree or post. Feel free to swing-suspend it.
  • Spacing Birdhouses: If building multiple birdhouses, install them at least 20 feet apart to prevent territorial wars. The only exceptions are wildfowls and purple martins, which don’t have territorial issues.
  • Ensure proper maintenance: You need to clean your birdhouses at least once during the nesting season and disinfect them at the same frequency to prevent the spread of ovarian diseases. Also, you want to keep the birds warm inside. So, make sure to keep inside surfaces dry and cozy.
YouTube player

FAQs

What’s the best size hole for a birdhouse?

Many birds are comfortable with entrance holes ranging from one to one-and-a-half inches in diameter. Do not make the hole too big or too small.

What’s the best wood to make a birdhouse?

Cedar wood is considered the best wood to make a birdhouse. Its thermal insulation qualities ensure warm and comfortable nests even in winter. Cedar is also durable and affordable.

How do you waterproof a birdhouse?

The easiest way to waterproof a birdhouse is to paint it once the paint has dried. We recommend sealing using a thin coat of raw, licensed oil. Just remember that raw licensed oil seals can take up to a few weeks to dry.

What’s the best wood for bluebird houses?

You can use any type of wood to attract bluebirds as long as it’s ¾–inch thick and unpainted. However, white pine tends to work especially well when targeting eastern bluebirds. Avoid particleboards or plywood.

Which tools and supplies are used to build a birdhouse?

Generally, you need measuring tools (carpenter’s square, measuring tape, etc.), saws (miter saw, handsaw, power saw), a hammer, drill (hand or power), and drill bits. As for supplies, you need solid wood pieces, exterior wood glue, nails, wood filler, exterior paint, and a paintbrush.

Summary 

Building bird boxes is a fun way to spend your spare time while protecting wildlife. You’ll be incredibly proud to see the birds live and multiply in the nests you built.

However, it’s not easy work, so be prepared. Above all, make sure to use the choose the best wood for birdhouse to give the birds the best possible home.

2 thoughts on “8 Best Wood for Birdhouse and Nest Box- (Qualities of a Good Birdhouse)”

    • It works fine… I have several made out of it. The heat problem is NOT a function of the material – it’s based on its location. Some of my houses have black asphalt shingles on top of them – talk about heat! Make sure you put holes or vents in the bottom and an eave vent if possible. I live in southeast VA and all 30 of my birdhouses are in the shade of trees… except my barn owl house. The hole should face away from prevailing winds. 😉

      Reply

Leave a Comment