Building the Ultimate Brush Pile: 4 Easy Steps to a Super Brush Pile for Birds

I Started This Brush Pile in the Spring

If you build it, they will come!  Making a brush pile for your backyard birds is a fun, easy project.
If you build it, they will come! Making a brush pile for your backyard birds is a fun, easy project. | Source

Why Build a Brush Pile?

  • Grocery Store for Your Birds
  • Avian Home Building and Improvement Materials Source
  • Safe Refuge from Predators and Stormy Weather
  • Neat and Tidy Place for Accumulations of Leaves, Branches, etc.
  • Teach Your Kids and Grand Kids About Bird Habitats

Think about it. What’s in that brush pile in your backyard, or next to the garage? I mean besides the obvious dead branches and grass cuttings? Bugs! Also nesting material and places for birds to hide and seek shelter from the bad weather. It’s a veritable gold mine for the birds that live in your neighborhood. You could even call it a survival kit for your feathered friends!

We humans tend to dislike clutter, especially in our manicured yards. Sadly this is often to the detriment of wildlife. Accumulations of dead sticks, branches and leaves happen naturally if Nature is left to its own devices. These accumulations provide all kinds of treasures for wildlife in general, and birds in particular.

But just throwing branches, pine needles and leaves willy-nilly into a jumbled mess isn’t the best way to build a good brush pile. If you want the most elite and bird user-friendly assemblage of natural materials, there are a few rules.

Don't Rile the Code Enforcer!

First, make sure that your municipality doesn’t frown on brush piles. Maybe they are okay with them if they just can’t be seen from the street, or by your neighbors. Locating your pile behind an existing structure, like a potting shed or garage is ideal for that situation. We don’t want the code enforcer descending upon your yard!

If you want to 'pretty up' your pile, you can always plant flowers around the edges.

Best Size for Your Brush Pile

The very best size is about 8 to 10 feet wide, and about 5 or 6 feet high. But any decent-sized pile will yield substantial goodness for your backyard birds. It should be open on all sides and from the top as well. That will make it very bird-accessible.

I have to add a condition to this, and that is that I loosely pile some pine branches on top and against the windy side (that’s the northwest corner for me) of my brush pile for further bad weather protection. I happen to have white pines, but you could use any pine branches. They will serve as a water-repellent ‘roof’ to help keep out rain and snow.

In fall you can start with a layer of dried leaves or pine needles, in spring and summer use grass clippings.
In fall you can start with a layer of dried leaves or pine needles, in spring and summer use grass clippings. | Source

Let's Build a Brush Pile!

1. Start with a layer of grass clippings, pine needles, and or dried leaves.

If they are just thrown on top, they will clog all the entrances that the birds need to dive into your pile. Also, they will eventually compost and decay, rendering them unusable. The birds will find them easily enough under the brush pile. They will use their beaks and feet to uncover any juicy little critters hiding under them as well.

A large tree branch came down in a late spring snowstorm.  I used that for my base framework.
A large tree branch came down in a late spring snowstorm. I used that for my base framework. | Source

2. Next, use the larger branches to make a base framework layer. Be sure to leave plenty of space between these ‘logs’. There should be another layer of branches laid across the top of the base, placed in the opposite direction. This framework makes for a very sturdy and stable pile on which to add more branches.

By the way, the branches for the framework don't have to be as large as these are. Sometimes I just use saplings, making sure that they are criss-crossed for the most stability and entrance holes.

Interweave the branches at the base for a more stable pile.  This method also leaves lots of room for birds to enter and explore.
Interweave the branches at the base for a more stable pile. This method also leaves lots of room for birds to enter and explore. | Source

3. From there you can build up your pile with tree prunings, fallen branches, shrub cuttings, etc. Don’t worry about being neat. If you have to tuck the pieces in here and there so they won’t slide off, that’s just fine. By all means do not stomp on your brush pile to make it smaller. That would defeat the purpose entirely. In this case looser is better. Birds need all the various nooks and crannies to enter into their ‘grocery store’ of goodies, as well as to escape and hide from predators.

A work in progress.  I will add a layer of pine branches later on for winter protection and water proofing.
A work in progress. I will add a layer of pine branches later on for winter protection and water proofing. | Source

4. Remember to keep adding to your pile from time to time. Otherwise, it will flatten and be reclaimed by nature. Enlist your kids or grand kids in this process. Children need to learn about nature firsthand. Knowing they are helping the little birds they see around your yard might open up a whole new world to them.

You can expect to see a wide variety of birds accessing your pile, especially in the spring when they need home building and improvement products, as well as baby bird food! Young birds are fed lots of protein by their parents in the form of insects, larvae and other small critters.

male junco foraging
male junco foraging | Source

What Birds Will Visit Your Brush Pile?

Among your visitors, you may spot juncos, robins, chickadees, finches and wrens. Other birds I have seen using my brush pile are catbirds, towhees, warblers and tree sparrows. So don’t limit yourself to just one brush pile. The more the merrier, so long as you don’t offend your neighbors, that is.

Enjoy the Birds That Visit Your Brush Pile

If you can easily observe your brush pile without disturbing its visitors, you’ll enjoy seeing how important it is for shelter, food and nesting supplies. Brush piles for birds can make a real difference in the survival rates of our backyard friends. Your yard will become a favorite neighborhood hangout, and you’ll see an increase in the number of birds that visit the feeders and bird baths, too. To me that’s what makes this fun project so worthwhile.

Have You Ever Built a Brush Pile?

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Do You Think You'll Build a Brush Pile? 8 comments

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Awesome and up! An excellent piece with a lot of clear and concise info on how to build and maintain the birds' amusement park.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thanks Deb for the Votes and your valuable support, as always. That's a good way to describe a brush pile--amusement park for the birds!


Highland Terrier profile image

Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Great information. I never heard of a brush pile, and I 'd never get away with it here in Ireland and surburian but I do let all my trees and shrubs go wild and I only trim them back in September.

We have a lot of trouble from cats and Sparrowhawks so they need the density of wild growing shrubs and trees if they have any hope of survival.

Food has been very scarce this summer over here, the rain was never ending, and it is still raining.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Highland Terrier, so glad you stopped by and left such a great comment! I'm very glad you don't worry about trimming your shrubs and trees that often. Good for you! You are providing lots of nesting, hiding and perching opportunities for the birds in your area, and that is super.

It seems that every time I see the news, you are getting more rain and flooding. My heart goes out to you. I'm hoping that you will soon break out of that rainy pattern, especially before the snowy season hits! Hopefully the rain results in lots of insects for the birds and flowers and trees for you.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Why didn't I know this? I'm sitting here shaking my head because it is all so logical and yet I have never done it. You can be we'll be doing it before Fall get here. Thanks for the great suggestion!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Billy! You are very welcome. Fall is a great time to start a brush pile for your birds. They'll thank you in the wintertime when they are nice and warm inside the brush pile looking for goodies; and they'll thank you again in the spring when they need food and nesting materials. Have fun with your new project!


Linda Compton profile image

Linda Compton 3 years ago from The Land of Enchantment

Wow, Pearl, this is so wonderful! I did a variation on this idea, without realizing it had a name. Left a nice pile after clearing and cutting some fallen branches, which I dried and used for kindling and firewood. Initially kept one pile because I had seen Cottontails use it. Then noticed that certain birds used it, too. When coyotes are in the area, the bunnies hop into it. Smaller birds have darted in when larger birds swoop over. Thanks! Voted WAY up :)


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Linda, Good For You! You obviously appreciate and enjoy lots of different wildlife, which is awesome! It's amazing what a simple pile of branches can do to protect lots of different animals from predators, as well as provide food and shelter from storms. Instinctively knowing what to do to help animals is a gift from the Creator.

I really enjoyed reading your comments and getting to know you a little better. By the way, I am now on Day 5 of renewing my mind and working toward finding the positive in everything--thanks to you!

Your votes are very much appreciated, Linda

I hope you have a lovely day ;) Pearl

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    grandmapearl profile image

    Connie Smith (grandmapearl)240 Followers
    60 Articles

    Connie knows how very important natural habitats are to our bird populations. That's why she loves bird friendly flowers, shrubs and trees.



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