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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 free items posted on our local free-for-the-taking community board on social media. With the exception of bird food and suet blocks, which we always keep on hand, and a bucket of deck screws nothing was purchased for this project. 


The back story of how this project came to be...

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 by keeping the bugs under control in your yard and garden. We tend to be organic 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. Because as it turns out, my carpentry skills do not match my kitchen skills. My first idea was to use free/recycled artificial Christmas trees. I was going to place them in a circle with a nesting tower in the center for stability. The Habitat was going to be off and away 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. Along with a birdbath for freshwater. See, very simple. My first task was finding trees. 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. I was only interested in plain green trees. even though they are fake trees, I wanted them to be as natural-looking as possible...

Although I had found free trees sitting around, a "curb alert" if you will, I was not usually interested because most were flocked, pre-lit, or possibly missing a part of the stand. Making them unusable for this project. And to be honest, I would have had to dispose of them, adding to the overall cost, which so far was zero. This is why I placed an ad asking about unwanted Christmas trees.  In no time I had two trees. 

I was also working outside of the home at the time, which kept me quite busy. And overnight it seems the opportunity to get more Christmas trees had dried up. Apparently, we were too far past Christmas. Folks either packed their tree away or threw it away. Now what? I didn't want to store these two trees for a year, hoping for more free Christmas trees. 

But I still wanted to build and offer a place for the birds, so there was nothing else to do, except change the design, and so we did!  

The picture below is the (original) finished Bird Habitat. It looked tidy, tidy that is until spring rain began falling, and then all the weeds and wild grasses I love having available for the birds, began growing out of control creating an eyesore...

There was only one thing to do. In the heat of the summer sun, we shoveled the leftover gravel from another project to build a weed-free buffer between the Bird Habitat area and the rest of the yard. 

From this...

From free pallets, lumber, and assorted stuff!

To this...



To control the weeds, we did purchase weed barrier material to lay under the gravel. And I will tell you this, it was worth every penny of the $18.95 it cost! The rocks that border this buffer zone seem to grow wild on our property and I am sure we will have another crop next year! Which is a good thing, as we use them everywhere!

With the backstory completed and the disclosure for the weed abatement, let's build A Bird Habitat, from recycled/repurposed items!

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 stand at least 4 to 5 feet high. Free pallets can still be found in our area, however, they are always FCFS (first come, first served).

Which meant I needed to drive by the corner of our local ranch supply store, regularly. Luckily with spring right around the corner, all of our local stores are gearing up for a busy season. Our local ranch supply store is right on the way to our home, making it easy enough to take a look-see along the way. 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 top pallet to the one underneath. Deck screws are perfect for this! Oh and a battery-powered drill, so much easier than dragging a long cord...




As we stacked and built the height of the bases using pallets, we knew we would need some actual lumber for structural support. In addition to building feeding platforms and siding to enclose the pallet base. There was 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 folks in the neighboring town were replacing a deck and a wooden walkway on their property. They responded to the ad. Gosh, we sure hit the jackpot! Three full loads later we had what we needed for this project, and much more for future projects, like our chicken coop, and raised garden beds. 



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 about 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 these canisters from a powdered protein I add to our coffee each morning. They have also 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 the habitat. 



To make it easy for the birds to enter, a small hole was cut near the top. This would also 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 was 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 making it easy for the birds to get inside. A box frame 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. This was fine because we had scrap 1/4 inch 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. 

Again 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 include the front, middle, and upper box, along with the hanging suet holder in the rear. 

Once both structures were completed and each had a roof, it was time to work on the siding. With so many small pieces of tin still available, it seemed the logical choice to use some of it 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). The 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 had a broken stand. It is not as secure, due not only to the broken stand but there is not a structure on both sides of the tree 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, because 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 all the cubby holes on the feeding structure. I wanted different material in each "cubby" 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.  With a large variety of materials, I am sure every bug that wants to live here will find a comfortable spot. 

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
  •  more 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
  • and more cut lumber
With the cubby holes filled it was time to landscape the area!



Then on to do a little decorating of the grounds. We have had this wind spinner for many years and it never seemed to spin very much no matter where we 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 solar-powered 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 lots of rocks harvested from our property to tie the different elements together. That is the only living tree directly in this area. It promptly loses its leaves at the first sign of cold weather, so the repurposed Christmas trees will provide shelter as needed. 

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

#DIYHomemadeHousehold


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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!

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

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  2. Visiting again to say thanks so much for linking up with me at A Themed Linkup 60 for Summer Crafts and D├ęcor. Pinned again!

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    1. Dee, thank you for hosting, always so much fun at Granny's Grid!

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