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Some 'tweet' ways to build your own birdhouse

Make these wooden homes to attract and enjoy Oregon's rich bird population

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOAN BROWN - Primer and enamel are among the tools necessary for creating an attractive birdhouse.You can have fun in the construction phase and gain years of interesting and melodic company with a build-your-own birdhouse project.

Let your creativity fly — once the basics are understood, you can plan and put together aviary cubbies to mansions.

John Rosenback, veteran and retired gentleman in Gresham, shared his knowledge. Rosenback, who grew up in Cascade Locks, took wood shop in high school, “I really liked it a lot, and always held on to that notion of wanting to do it again some day.” Before retiring, he started collecting wood tools. But, he pointed out, “You really don’t need any fancy tools to make a birdhouse.”

“I did contact the Audubon Society to make sure I was doing the right things,” Rosenback said. “The hole has to be a certain size, the peg has to be a certain size, and I put mine in at an angle.” Another important factor is to make sure there are no leaks into the nesting box.

Birdhouses are easy to make. “In the beginning I just had a slant roof,” he said. Then he taught himself to make a peaked roof. Later, he started using log rounds for the front, and he attached and sealed a nesting box onto the back. The wood Rosenback uses comes to him as gifts, or he barters for with his birdhouses and other wood products.

The birdhouses Rosenback builds have a 1-1/4 inch hole, just right for chickadees, “which we have a lot of around here. Not all birds will nest in a birdhouse.” PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOAN BROWN - John Rosenback with some of the many birdhouses he makes.

Of the many different birds that will nest in a birdhouse, there will be many different preferred specifications. So, another aspect of building a birdhouse is size and length of the peg. For chickadees, Rosenback generally uses a 5/16 inch dowel pin cut 3 inches long and stuck, at an angle, about an inch-and a-half into the front piece of wood. The peg is secured using exterior wood glue that accepts paint or varnish. For smaller birds its good to keep them short so that larger, prey birds — such as jays — cannot land on it and stick their beaks into the hole to get at the eggs or baby birds.

“Most generally I put the hole at the part of the peak, and I center it.” In the beginning, Rosenback painted the entire outside of the birdhouse, but one day a couple ladies explained it wasn’t good to have paint around the hole where the birds would rub. Since then, he has put the lid of the spray paint can over the hole before spraying.John Rosenback's homemade birdhouses are all lined up in a row.

Talking about the bottom, Rosenback said, “Generally I’ll use a piece of wood that is five or six inches wide, and eight inches long.” Depending on what he has. To make a pitched roof he cuts the front and back pieces at 45° angles. “Mostly I use exterior plywood.”

Another tip Rosenback gave was, before putting the roof on, put about an inch or so of wood-shavings on the floor to get the birds started with their nesting. “You don’t need much, because they’ll bring in straw and grass, and all kinds of things.”

“The roof line takes the worst beating,” so get that area well sealed. Before nailing it’s very important to use a sealer, such as silicone, along any seam that may leak into the nesting area. If the chicks get wet, they can get cold and catch pneumonia and die. For birdhouses with peaked roofs Rosenback recommends three coats of primer on the roof plus a heavy coat of enamel paint.

Finally, he puts a stem on the back and starts a nail, so it’s all ready for hanging.

In his backyard, Rosenback has a variety of his birdhouses. He said he talks to the birds, “And they talk back.”