The Where and When of BIrd Houses
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Bird House success hacks.
Birds add color, song and interest to your patio or garden. They are also great at eating unwanted garden pests. Here are a few ways to help you succeed at adding bird houses to your home.
If you are about to purchase your first bird house, I suggest you hang it outside in early to mid-March. This allows the birdhouse to 'air out' or get rid of any house, store, people or pet scents they may have absorbed. If you purchase an expensive ceramic or breakable bird house, you may want to hang it over a shrub or grassy area. This will give it more likelihood of surviving if it falls, although I've never had one fall.
You can grow bird house gourds. The vines and white blossoms are lovely. Plant them in the garden after the last frost, or start them indoors a few weeks before the last expected frost. Plant them in a sunny location and let the vines roam or use a trellis. Harvest them after the first light frost kills the foliate, or late September. It's best to dry them in a garage or out building if possible, because they can become covered with a white mold, that is pretty and leaves behind beautiful designs on the gourds after it dies (and it will). I've dried them in our sunroom and have had no adverse health problems with the mold, but it's best to know this ahead of time so you don't freak when it happens (like I did)..
Hang your birdhouse at least four feet above the ground. Make certain that it is hung securely to avoid tragedies. I use heavy, fifty-pound fishing line or thin garden wire. This year a family of wrens built in a house I hung from a metal shepherd's garden hook in my veggie garden and it was about four and a half feet from the ground, so I was able to peek inside and see the eggs and the babies. I also hang houses from tree limbs outside our windows so I can watch them from inside the house as well. I hang one or two in my vegetable garden and a couple in my flower beds as wrens and bluebirds eat lots of insects and this year I have little, if any, damage from cabbage worms, Colorado Beatles or aphids. The down side to this is that my Monarch butterfly caterpillars were probably eaten as well.
Most birds who build in bird houses are at risk from predators such as hawks and owls. For this reason I strongly suggest that you plant shrubs or berry bushes nearby or hang houses near existing shrubbery so the parents have cover and the babies have a relatively safe place to practice flying. Evergreen trees offer shelter for the birds in winter and also are handy for hanging bird feeders. Decorative Cedars and Yew bushes are great places for birds to 'hang out' but too low to actually hang bird houses from.
Make sure there is a water supply nearby. This usually means one birdbath in a plot of a half acre or less. I put out several water sources as there is a 'pecking' order and this gives more birds access to a place to drink and have a bath.
Some people take their bird houses down each fall, clean and store them. I'm a lazy gardener so don't do this. I do pull out old nests once they've nearly filled the house. Last year I cleaned out a wood birdhouse that had four layers of nests in it! However, I cleaned one bird house out and the wrens never returned to that one, so maybe they'd rather to their own housekeeping.
Wear gloves when handling old nesting materials as they are filled with bacteria that can be harmful to humans.
There are all sorts of bird houses, including Purple Martin houses, that are more like condos. They must be placed high up and the Martins need a long swooping area to catch mosquitoes and other flying insects. We had a lot of them until a fence was erected on the property line, and they lost their flight path.
Read about the kinds of birds you'd like to attract and have fun!