Building a bird house is a Cub Scout requirement for first grade boys earning the Conservation Award. Not all youth groups have access to woodworking supplies, but there is still a way to meet this requirement.
Wrens are one of the many birds that live in Florida. There are about 80 species of wrens, most of which are small with short wings. Most of them eat insects and spiders, but the larger ones also eat frogs.
The wren is also known as kuningilin “kinglet” in Old High German, a name associated with a legend of an election of the “king of birds”. The bird who could fly to the highest altitude would be made king. According to legend, an eagle outflew all other birds, but he was beaten by a small bird who had hidden in his feathers.
Wrens are a type of bird that isn’t picky about what their house is made of. They’ll even build a nest in a coat pocket, if the coat is hung in a shed and left undisturbed long enough. For more information and pictures of wrens, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wren
A wren house can be made from a large coffee can. The new “cans” that Maxwell House comes in make a nice sturdy structure that will last for several years. Traditional metal cans or other similar plastic containers, such as two pound potato salad containers, will work for this project as well. To make a plastic can into a wren house, you will need:
- Plastic coffee can or a similar plastic container
- Razor knife or a hand drill with a 1 ½ inch circle cutting bit
- Small drill bit for making a pilot hole
- Hand drill or cordless drill set on slow speed
- Short ½ inch dowel rod (a wood handle from a used foam paint brush, or a twig)
- scrap piece of lumber
- twine or rope
Begin by making the lid into a door. This step requires adult help. Go over safety precautions before you begin using the tools. Choose tools that are small and weak enough for the youth to handle safely.
For a heavy, thick lid, place a scrap of wood under the lid and use a 1 ½ to 2 inch bit to make a hole in the center of the lid. This type of drill bit is the kind used to make a hole in a door for a door knob or lock.
Another option is to use a coping saw, which looks like a giant P. Draw a circle on the lid with a permanent marker. Drill a starter hole inside the circle. Unhook the blade and put the blade into the hole, then attach the blade to the coping saw handle. Saw up to and around the circle.
For a thinner lid, such as a traditional metal can, draw a circle with a permanent marker and then cut out the hole with a razor knife. Use a scrap of lumber or cardboard for a cutting board.
Make the perch. Drill a pilot hole for a screw under the door and in the end of the dowel rod or twig. A wooden handle from a used foam paint brush can be recycled for this project. Position the dowel on the outside of the lid, and use a screw to attach it. If the lid is thin, you might want to add a washer near the head of the screw to give it more stability.
Attach a hanging cord. If the can has a handle, tie a loop of rope or twine to the handle. If the can is a traditional metal can with grooves in the sides, fit the rope into the grooves and tie each end to the can with a half hitch knot.
If it does not have a handle, and the sides are smooth, drill a hole in the lid and one in the bottom of the can. This method may allow rain water to drip into the can. For this reason, drill drainage holes on the opposite side of the can so that any water that drips in can also drip out.
You’ll also need to tie loops into each end of the cord before it enters the can. To get a better idea, and to explain the loops, take a look at the way Cox Cable and Bell South hang wires. They make a loop in their wires before they enter the house so that rain water will run down the loop and drip off. The water can’t go up the other side of the loop.
Put one end of the rope into each hole and make a square knot on the inside of the can.
Decorate the can if desired. Leaving the labels on the can has a country charm, but they can also be covered with contact paper. A wood grain paper has a natural appeal.
Hang the bird house in a quiet part of your yard, in a tree or another protected spot where it will be shaded and protected from wind and rain. After the chicks hatch, the plastic lid can be removed for easy cleaning.