How To Build a Chalet Cottage Birdhouse
Chalet Cottage Birdhouse Plans
This little chalet cottage birdhouse is a fun and easy project to make, and it will attract a variety of cavity nesting birds including bluebirds, chickadees and wrens. The angled roof, some colorful paint, bits of trim and a few repurposed flea market finds transform a simple wood box into interesting and useful piece of yard art. The blue chateau features an old license plate for the roof, a vintage drawer pull as an awning over the entrance hole, and a salvaged ceramic fence insulator.
Best of all, these are functional nest boxes that the birds will actually use to raise their families.
Built for the birds: This little chalet is designed to meet the needs of our feathered friends. Cavity nesters -- the types of birds that will move into a birdhouse -- can be very selective when searching for a place to raise their families. Bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, finches, nuthatches and titmice use abandoned woodpecker holes and tree cavities as nesting sites. When natural nesting sites are scarce, these birds will readily move into a birdhouse that's built to their requirements. The size of the entrance hole, the amount of floor space, good air circulation, where the birdhouse is placed in your yard, protection from predators and from the elements are all important considerations. I've built hundreds of birdhouses over the years that successfully fledged many generations of baby birds.
The Cutting List
To make the chalet, start by cutting the boards to the following dimensions:
- Front: 9-1/2" long x 5-1/2" wide
- Back: 9-1/2" long x 5-1/2" wide
- Long Side: 8" long x 4" wide
- Short Side: 3-1/4" long x 4" wide
- Roof A: 9" long x 6-1/4" wide
- Roof B: 4" long x 6-1/4" wide
- Floor: 4" x 4"
The chalet is a basic box with a peaked roof. One side opens on a simple hinge, allowing access to the inside for cleaning out the box at the end of the season. I used inexpensive pine boards that are readily available at the local home center. Pine is relatively cheap to buy, easy to cut and sand, takes paint well, and will last for several seasons. Some of my painted pine birdhouses have withstood our New England weather for more than 10 years, and are still in use. I searched through the piles of common pine boards, looking for the straightest pieces with the fewest knots.
Birdhouses are great scrap box projects. I like using leftover pieces from other projects, and I often incorporate hardwoods such as oak, cherry, mahogany and teak for accents.
Lay Out the Angles
Make a Template
The asymmetrical peaked roofline gives the chalet its unique appearance. The peak of the roof is a 90 degree angle to simplify the cutting and assembly process. To make the layout lines for the front and back pieces easier, I made a template from a thin piece of cardboard, 10" long and cut to match the width of the wood (5-1/2" wide). This made it easy to draw and adjust the dimensions and placement of the roofline until I was satisfied with the look of the chalet.
The finished template is 5-1/2" wide by 9-1/2" long. To lay out the short side, measure 3-1/2" up from the bottom edge and make a mark. On the opposite side of the template, measure up 8-1/2" and make another mark. I used the square edges of another piece of cardboard to define the peak. Simply line up two adjoining sides of the square with the 3-1/2" and 8-1/2" marks on the template, and trace along the edges of the square. The template should look like the layout lines in the photo.
I added the outline for the entrance hole to the template. The center point of the entrance is 5" up from the bottom edge, and 2" in from the edge of the longer side. A compass makes it easy to draw a perfect circle using the center point.
The template also makes it easier to lay out the front and back pieces on the board to minimize waste. Align the bottom of the template with one end of the board, and trace the chalet shape (and don't forget to trace the entrance hole!). Then, flip the template over and position the long roof edge of the template along the long roof line of the layout on the board, leaving least 3/16" between the layout lines to accommodate the width of the saw blade (refer to the photo).
Take care when cutting along the layout lines for the angles. I used a band saw, cutting slowly and carefully just outside the layout lines. A jig saw or hand saw would work well too. A little filing and sanding cleaned up the cut edges.
Chalet Cottage Birdhouse Template
Making An Entrance
Use the template to trace the entrance hole on the front section of the chalet (or measure up 5" from the bottom edge, and 2" in from the edge of the longer side). centering the entrance hole across the width of the front section. Drill the entrance hole using a 1-1/2" diameter Forstner bit, hole saw or paddle bit.
The size of the entrance hole is very important for attracting cavity-nesting birds. Too small, and the birds cannot get in. Too big, and the more aggressive starlings and sparrows will move in and chase out the smaller birds.
Eastern Bluebirds fit easily through a 1-1/2" entrance hole. The larger Mountain Bluebirds prefer 1-9/16" diameter entrance holes.
A Little Assembly
Begin the assembly by attaching the front section to the short side piece. Line up the bottom edges of both pieces, and attach with weather resistant nails or screws. The top edge of the side piece will not quite meet with the angled roofline of the front section. This creates a small gap for air circulation in the fully assembled birdhouse. Repeat the process by attaching the back section to the short side.
I used a pneumatic nailer for attaching the pieces together, and I ran a bead of water-resistant glue along the edges of the joints to increase the holding power of the pneumatic nails.
A Simple Hinge
The long side piece is attached with just two screws, carefully positioned to form a pivot point and creating a hinged door for cleaning out the interior of the nest box. Measure down 2" from the point where the top edge of the long side nearly meets the angle section of the front piece. Line up the bottom edges of the side and front pieces, drill and countersink a hole, and then attach the pieces together with a weather-resistant screw. Using a square or straight edge, transfer the location of the screw across the side piece to the back edge. Finish attaching the door by driving another screw through the back and into the edge of the door, forming a pivot point. The door should swing open easily.
After the floor section is installed, driving another screw through the bottom of the door will keep it closed.
Fitting the Floor
Now that the subassembly of the chalet has all four sides, it's time to test fit the floor. If needed, trim the edge(s) for a nice fit. Test the fit with the door in the closed position, but do not attach the floor section yet.
The floor needs drainage holes to allow any rainwater to drain away, and to increase the air flow by drawing in cooler air through the floor, then up and out through the side openings under the roof line. Drilling a few 1/4" diameter holes through the floor will work, though I prefer to cut away the corners.
A power miter saw makes quick and easy to cut 3/4" off each of the corners. After positioning the floor section on the saw to slice off the first corner, mark its location on the miter saw (I used blue masking tape) and then line up the other edges for each of the remaining cuts.
Securing the Door
When all four corners are cut off, attach the floor to the front, back and short side sections. Then close the door, drill and countersink a screw hole along the center of the bottom edge. Another screw secures the door, yet allows for easy access to clean out the inside of the chalet.
Finish attaching the hinged side by driving another screw through the back (B) and into the door side, forming a pivot point. Using a square or straight edge, transfer the location of the first hinge screw across the side piece to the back edge. Positioning the hinge screws in the front and back sections directly across from each other forms a simple pivoting hinge of the door for access to the interior of the nesting box.
Up On the Roof
To attach the roof, position the long roof section with one end aligned flush with the peak, and with the back edge of the long side positioned flush with the outer edge of the back section. The front of the roof forms an overhang to protect the entrance hole from the rain. The shorter roof section then overlaps the end of the longer piece, forming a 90 degree peak. Sand and stain the roof (if desired) before attaching the roof to the chalet.
The Details Make the Difference
Sand all of the edges to round over the corners and smooth the joints. Breaking the sharp corners gives the chalet a finished look, and allows the paint and stain to adhere better. After sanding, paint or stain the exterior of the birdhouse. Only paint the outside, leaving the interior surfaces natural for the safety of the baby birds.
To add a little variety and a bit of whimsy to the chalet, I like to add little details that makes each birdhouse a unique piece of folk art. I especially like the rustic country look, and it's fun to attach found objects and other little interesting things that I find at flea markets and yard sales.
The picket fence posts were cut from the slats of an old pallet. I ripped the pallet slats into pieces that are approximately 3/8" x 3/8" square. The lengths are staggered at random lengths, with the top ends cut at 45-degree angles, then attached with glue and short brads.
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© 2018 Anthony Altorenna