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Sunday, April 11, 2021

How to make A Bird Habitat from recycled/repurposed items.

This Bird Habitat has been made completely from recycled materials, free used materials, and repurposing used free items posted on our local free-for-the-taking board on social media. Except for the bird food and suet blocks, which we always keep on hand, along with a bucket of deck screws nothing was purchased for this project. 

Originally this Bird Habitat started out as an idea I had to have a year-round spot for birds to come to when hungry or needing to hide and take refuge from a predator. My reason for the habitat is simple, give the birds a place to eat, rest, and nest, and they will pay you back 10 fold with keeping the bugs under control in your yard and garden. We tend to be organic (of all things) in our yard along with our kitchen and food supply. 

The habitat was going to be a very simple affair, something I could put together myself. Basically, a group of recycled artificial Christmas trees that I would set up in a spot out of the way from all the other areas we have allocated for specific needs, like the garden and chicken coop. Once set up, I was going to sit feeding dishes inside on the branches of the trees. My first task was finding trees. So I ran an ad inquiring if folks had artificial Christmas trees they no longer needed or wanted, but with one request, no prelit trees or flocked trees. 

My original design/thought was a group of four trees with a post in the middle that could hold a birdhouse but also act as a stabilizer. The trees would be erected, and then a wire would connect (and strengthen) the stand of trees to protect them against wind damage. Although I had found free trees sitting around, a "curb alert" if you will, I was not usually interested because if they were flocked, pre-lit, or missing any part of the stand, they were unusable for this project, and I would have to dispose of them. The ad worked, in no time I had two trees. But only two...

Work outside of the home kept me quite busy, and the opportunity to get more Christmas trees seemed to have dried up because there were no more responses to my original post. It seems we were too far past Christmas. Folks either packed their tree away or threw it away. Now what? But I knew that the habitat was going to be built, so...

There was nothing else to do, but change the design, so we did!

From free pallets, lumber, and assorted stuff!

First order of business, building the base:

Finding pallets strong enough was the biggest challenge. I knew I wanted the top of each platform to be at least 4 to 5 feet high. Free pallets can still be found, but they are always FCFS (first come, first served) around here. Which meant I needed to drive by the corner of our local ranch supply store, regularly. Luckily with spring right around the corner, our local stores are gearing up for a busy season. And our local store is right on the way home, easy to take a look-see on the way home. 

Before we knew it, we had plenty of pallets. Building the base is easy, each time you lay a pallet on top of the stack, screw the two together. Deck screws are perfect for this!

As we stacked and built the height of the bases, we knew we would need some actual lumber for structure support, platforms and siding. Only one thing to do, place another ad asking if anyone had wood scraps that they would like to get rid of. The timing was perfect, some neighboring folks in the next town were replacing a deck and the wooden walkway on their property. Thye responded to the ad. And we hit the jackpot! Three full loads later we had what we needed for this project, and much more for future projects, like a chicken coop. 

Once we had built up the pallets to the height needed, we (the royal "we" where I have the ideas and my husband has the power tools!) added a platform made from some of the recycled wood. Once the platform was nailed on, I could begin stuffing the openings in the front of each stack. This is the fun part, filling each opening with whatever you have laying around, yet leaving little crevices so the bugs will take up residence, make a nest and stick around. 

You will find cut limbs leftover from pruning our own trees last fall, rocks, bricks with holes, crushed up pieces of chicken wire, thin limbs/twigs. PVC pipe pieces, Mason bee egg tubes, pieces of a terra cotta pipe, end pieces of the recycled 2X6 boards we brought home, just anything that bugs can feel comfortable around and build egg nests in. 

With the first base completed, it was time to think about making birdhouses. I had been saving (and using) these canisters from a powdered protein I add to our coffee each morning. They have been used for dried fruit storage in the root cellar, to hold basic pantry supplies in our little RV, and for other assorted uses. We seem to have plenty making it easy to repurpose them into nesting boxes/birdhouses for this project. 

To enter, a small hole was cut near the top. This would prevent water from getting in during our rainy season, and that same small hole would prevent larger birds from taking over or harming any hatched eggs. 

This first group was screwed to the base. There is room in the center for the legs of the second "floor" to be added and secured tightly. 

The second floor added. Again, one screw in the bottom and into the wood to hold the canisters securely in place. The openings in the canisters were adjusted to point the outside to make it easy for the birds to get inside. A box was built around the perimeter. 

From there, trusses were built and attached to the outside of the box. And a little landscaping was added to the box. 

At this point, we were not certain about the roof. The salvaged boards were too thick and heavy to be used as roof shingles. Which was fine because we knew there was scrap plywood in our own supply woodpile, along with a few roofing shingles. 

But as luck would have it, our own neighbors were reroofing their garage. When we walked over to say hello, he was piling up the old tin roofing. We asked what he was going to do with it (of course!), fortunately, his only plan was to pile it into a trailer and take it to metals recycling. Our timing was perfect, we could have all we wanted...and we saved him a trip to the recyclers.

With a pair of tin snips, we turned our platform into a chalet for the birds! The small squares of tin roofing worked out perfectly for our needs. In addition, there were enough full-sized sheets of tin roofing to roof the soon-to-be-built chicken coop as well. With the chalet completed, it was time to turn our attention to the second structure. 

This second base was always meant to be feeding platforms. I had no idea what would work best here, but my husband did! He took his skills and imagination to assemble a four-tiered feeding platform! No plans, simply cutting, building, and attaching as needed. It is easy to see the waterfall design, without the roof. 

The roof on this structure needed to be open, making it easy for the birds to fly in to eat, and fly out quickly if they sensed an intruder. We also knew with our rainy season, the roofline needed to be larger than the base to keep the food dry and have a pretty good angle to it so the snow would slide off. This roof style was much easier to construct than the A-frame roof. 

The four feeding areas front, middle, upper box, and the hanging suet holder in the rear. 

Once both structures were completed and had a roof, it was time to work on siding. With so many small pieces of tin still available, it seemed the logical choice to use for the siding. While my husband worked on the siding, I started putting together the trees. 

This tree was perfect, it went together nicely, is held securely between the two structures (plus lots of rocks placed over the stand). These trees will be used to hold twigs from our own trees. As they break apart in the wind, the small pieces become nest-building material. Plus they provide a landing spot in the winter when the other tree nearby has lost its leaves and offers no protection from larger birds of prey. 

This tree, however, had a broken stand. It is not as secure, due not only to the broken stand, but there is not a structure on each side to keep it as stable as the first tree. We did wrap a wire around the spine of the tree and attach the wire to the pallet stack. But on our first windy day, it was clear it needed some more help. There is now a metal stake to the back right and a second wire has been added to produce equal tension, which should prevent it from falling over, fingers crossed, but so far all is good!

And the siding is coming along nicely. Once the siding was done, we moved the suet feeder up to the front, in the back, we could not enjoy watching the birds...and in its place added a ceramic teapot to be used as a birdhouse for a larger bird. 

With the siding completed, it was time to fill in the cubbie-holes on the feeding structure. I wanted different material in each "cubbie" hoping to entice the birds. I have observed in the natural setting that bugs are very adaptable, and have been known to build a little home anywhere. So the only thing I was concerned about was using materials that offered a bit of spacing between each piece allowing for bug nest building.  Here is a breakdown of what was used. 

Starting at the top we have used the following recycled materials:
  • branch trimmings for our own fruit trees
  • PVC pipe, cut to 18-inch lengths, along with some rolled-up chicken wire. The center PVC pipe piece is filled with Mason Bee Egg Tubes.
  • additional cut twigs and branches
  • odd pieces of lumber and rolled-up chicken wire
  •  twigs
  • cut wood the size of kindling
  • rocks
  • larger limb pieces

Again from the top left to right:
  • rusted metal mesh screen material from the irrigation canal, a length of pipe
  • black plastic garden edging, cut into 18-inch lengths
  • flattened coffee cans, some new, some old and rusty
  • rolled up 1/4 inch metal screen material
  • cut lumber, some soft with dry rot
  • cut lumber
  • rocks
  • cut lumber
With the cubbie-holes filled it was time to landscape the area!

This wind spinner we have had for many years and it never seemed to spin much no matter where we have placed it! It was turned into part of the landscaping in the Bird Habitat, and a funny thing happened, it began spinning harder than ever before! The posts around the spinner are reclaimed fence posts from the old fencing we are replacing on our property. 

This birdbath was on the property when we purchase almost two years ago. It only seemed fitting that it was to play an important role in the Bird Habitat. It will be cleaned and filled with water, once the danger of freezing is over. For the future, I plan on investigating birdbath warming units, so there will be fresh flowing water year-round. We put out food every day, but they need water too...

This walk-through was added, also made from recycled materials like everything else! This piece was a suggestion from my husband, and it holds my favorite bird feeder, given to me almost 15 years ago! The Bird Habitat is placed at the end of the irrigation canal, on the edge of our property. We park our truck (affectionally called Big Blue) just to the area before the habitat. This piece pulls the parking area together with the rest of the yard. 

And the final chore, wheelbarrowing in rocks harvested from our property to tie the different elements together. That is the only tree directly in this area, and promptly loses its leaves at the first sign of cold weather, so those repurposed Christmas trees will provide shelter if needed. 

And with all that, we are done! Ongoing maintenance will be needed and enjoyed, we love the birds!


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  1. How interesting this is and I like the canisters and little camper!! Thanks so much for linking up with me at the Unlimited Link Party 24. Pinned!

    1. Thank you! And Dee, thanks so for hosting Ultimate Link up # 24, I appreciate it!


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