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Feathered friends and fulsome flora will thrive in this birdhouse with a green succulent roof. Attach this simple-to-make birdhouse to a tree -- then watch the new tenants move in under drought-tolerant plants.
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This is a straightforward woodworking project as there is, with simple butted and glued joinery and no tricky angles or curves, so don’t be afraid to dive in. In an afternoon, you can have a handcrafted dwelling that welcomes nesting birds in your neighborhood and offers a home to a small array of succulent plants as well.
Before you begin, however, do a little research about the nesting birds common to your area and what kind of birdhouses they might prefer. You’ll find a surprising range of variations, from the size of the birdhouse, the size and placement of the entrance hole, and whether to include a perch post. Also, each species will have its own habitat preferences, so you’ll want to learn what sites might be best for the birdhouse and at what height it should be mounted.
Start by making layout marks on your cedar board to locate all the parts you'll be cutting. (See the Project Diagram and Cutting List.) While cutting the parts to size could be done with a portable circular saw, the small part sizes make this a time-consuming and potentially unsafe method. So, if possible, do your cutting on the table saw.
With everything cut to size, sort the parts into two groups -- the house box itself and the roof tray assembly. Then locate the parts (B,C,D,E) that need holes drilled in them and complete that step. (See illustrations for details on hole sizes and placement.)
Simple butt joints throughout this project make the parts easy to cut, but the parts don't really interlock and self-align the way they would with machined joints such as dadoes and rabbets. Still, working in the right sequence and checking your alignments and dimensions periodically will keep this easy to manage. Start by gluing and screwing (with #8x1-1/4" stainless steel screws) the cleats (B) to the side walls (A) as shown; one fits on each inside wall surface, centered along the upper edge.
Next, glue the floorboard (C) to one side wall as shown, centered along the inside lower edge. Repeat to attach the other side wall, then clamp the assembly and let the glue set for a half hour or so. (NOTE: If you don't mind the nail holes, you can use finishing nails to help secure the joints, which will allow you to remove the clamps sooner. If nailing manually, you may have to drill small pilot holes for the nails to keep the boards from splitting.)
While those glue joints are curing, you can paint the front face of the front panel (D); apply several coats of spray paint to get uniform coverage, and spray the rim of the entrance hole as well. When the final coat is dry, you can resume the process by gluing the front and rear panels in place. Note that each is recessed slightly (5/8") from the edges of the side walls.
Cut the perch post (H) to length. Add a couple drops of glue near one end and insert the perch into the ½" hole in the front panel.
The roof tray also features only butted glue joints, so sequence is important here also. The tray (E) width and the tray ends (F) length all measure 7-1/4", so it's easy to align their edges/ends and clamp them up. Then when the glue has set sufficiently, remove the clamps and glue and clamp on the tray sides (G) as shown.
When the glue joints have cured, remove all the clamps and apply painter's tape to mask off all of the upper edges and outside faces of the tray ends and tray sides. Then spray-paint the inside of the tray assembly with the same color you used for the front panel of the house box. Apply several coats and make sure the paint penetrates all the joints thoroughly. (Cedar is naturally rot resistant but this paint layer will provide additional protection once the tray is filled with soil and plants.) Remove the masking tape after the paint has dried.
All that's left now is to connect the roof tray assembly to the house box. Set the roof in place and look from below to check the alignment; the inner faces of the tray sides should align parallel with the outer faces of the sidewalls. As far as front and back overhang, you can offset equally or favor a slightly longer front overhang like we did.
Drive four #8x1-1/2" stainless steel screws through the tray and into the wall cleats below. Don't glue this connection, because you will have to remove the roof annually to clean the birdhouse before nesting season begins again.
To hang, use a wire cutter to cut 7' of jack chain into four 1' pieces and one 3' piece. (NOTE: You may want to use a piece of chain that's longer than 3' when you hang your birdhouse, depending on the size of your tree branch.) Insert four #6x1/2" stainless steels screws into loops at the end of the four 1' chains. Then, drive the screws into the four corners of the roof tray. Connect the four chains with an S hook and attach to the 3' chain. Wrap this chain around a tree branch and secure with another S hook.
Spread a 1" layer of potting soil in the ROOF tray. Quick-draining potting soil, such as a mix formulated for cactus, is the ideal growing medium for the succulents you will be planting.
Plant your choice of succulents. Pack tightly for immediate results, or leave some room for plants to mature. If plants have a large soil ball from growing in nursery pots, knock off the excess soil before planting, preserving as many roots as possible.
Water plants well after planting. Once established, they will need only about ½" or less of water per week. Place the birdhouse in full sun for best growth.