If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you know the importance of choosing and placing the right birdhouse. You also know that some houses are more aesthetically pleasing than others.
When you invest in a fancy bird house, you want to take every measure possible to preserve its integrity and increase its lifespan. With proper care, you help yours last and look great for years!
One accessory you can’t afford to skip? A birdhouse hole protector.
This handy item not only reinforces your birdhouse against adverse weather but also helps protect it against sneaky predators.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at how these protectors work, the types of predators they can help you avoid, and why they’re a great addition to any birdhouse, fancy or simple!
Selecting and Installing the Right Birdhouse
Before we dive into how to choose a birdhouse hole protector, let’s take a look at how you can choose and install the right birdhouse for your back yard.
In your research, you may also see some birdhouses labeled as nest boxes. This title refers to their function. After all, the primary purpose of a birdhouse is to attract nesting birds that will take up residence inside.
Nest boxes are man-made enclosures designed for animals to nest in. When the boxes are built specifically for birds, they’re usually called birdhouses. Other species, such as bats, can also use nest boxes.
The bird species that are most likely to nest in a box are deemed cavity dwellers. They choose birdhouses, because they most closely resemble the enclosures that they would nest in naturally, if they could find suitable cavities in the wild. Among others, these species include:
However, keep in mind that not all birds are cavity dwellers. If they don’t prefer an enclosure, they will set up a home elsewhere, such as on a tree branch, in a shrub, or on a porch.
Choosing a Season
When you’re planning your birdhouse installation, begin by deciding when you’ll take on the task. In most areas, early spring is the ideal time to set one up.
Why is this the case?
When the weather warms up, most migrating bird species are ready to return to their home region. As soon as they get there, they begin looking for a safe, accessible spot to lay their eggs.
During other seasons, this activity isn’t very prevalent. However, nest boxes installed post-nesting season may be used as a temporary shelter during a storm or for winter roosting.
Choosing Your Species
Once you have your general timeline in place, it’s time to think about the different types of bird species that you want to attract. This is an important initial step, as the decisions you make here will affect the shape, style, and design of the birdhouse you choose.
One of the most important considerations is the size of the entrance hole built into your birdhouse. Of course, all houses need some point of entry, but a hole that’s too big for the species you want to attract could leave plenty of room for a predator or competitor to enter.
At the same time, the opposite also holds true.
If the hole is too small, it could be difficult to attract larger species to it. By taking the time to measure the appropriate size for your birdhouse entrance hole, you can keep unwanted guests at bay while still providing a comfortable and roomy spot for birds to enjoy.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most common entrance hole dimensions, as well as some of the species they’re designed to hold:
Finding the Right Location
Now that you know the type of species you want to attract and the specifics around your birdhouse entrance hole, you can start brainstorming locations to place the structure.
One of the main guidelines to follow at this stage is to make your birdhouse visible. Yes, you want to detract predators, but birds can’t find or use your house if they can’t see it. Research the nesting habits of the species you’re catering to, and use those insights to find the perfect installation location.
Most birdhouses work best when they’re between five and 30 feet off the ground. Carefully research for a given species how far apart from one another multiple boxes should be placed. Tree sparrows make fairly tolerant neighbors, so you can pair boxes for them and eastern bluebirds about 20-25 feet apart, with sets of paired boxes about 300 feet apart. House wrens are more aggressive, territorial neighbors and may destroy the eggs or nestlings of nearby cavity nesters while taking over a nest site. Place nest boxes intended for other species at least 100 feet away from wren boxes and in more open habitat that is less attractive to wrens.
Remember that not all birds will prefer the same environment for their nest box. Some love to nest in wide, open fields, while others gravitate toward wooded spots that offer more shade. Then, there are some birds that choose to nest on the ground and will eschew a birdhouse altogether.
A little research can go a long way toward making sure that your birdhouse isn’t just pretty, but it’s also practical!
Understanding Common Birdhouse Predators
You could follow all the rules and check all the boxes, and your birdhouse could still fall prey to hungry predators who don’t mind usurping all your hard work.
From insects such as fire ants and wasps to rodents like mice and squirrels, you may not be trying to make a home for these critters, but they could still find their way inside.
Once there, they could threaten the safety of your bird brood! A few of the most common nest predators to look out for include:
Let’s learn a little more about some of these predators, including why they enter your birdhouses in the first place, and the signs to look out for.
It’s all too easy for most snakes to wrap themselves around the post of a birdhouse. If your pole is left unguarded or unprotected, they can use their incredible climbing abilities to enter the house and raid what’s inside. Snakes also readily climb trees and gain easy access to birdhouses mounted on trees. Pole-mounted houses are easier to protect, especially in the southern U.S. where snakes are more prevalent.
Most of the time, snakes that enter birdhouses are non-venomous. To some extent, they’re even helpful to keep nearby, as they can help control the local rodent population. Remember that native predators can also benefit birds. Excellent climbers, gray ratsnakes may consume a few birds’ nests per year but also consume many more rodents as part of their daily diet. Rodents play a large role in nest predation. It’s been shown that certain birds even selectively nest near predators, because it affords them some protection against other smaller predators. This phenomenon is called a protective nesting association. Still, you don’t exactly want a snake preying directly on your feathered friends.
They might be cute and fluffy, but squirrels are the bane of almost every birdwatcher’s existence. They’re notorious for entering birdhouses, although they aren’t usually looking to attack the birds themselves.
More often, they’re mainly interested in eating any food that might be inside! They’re especially looking for seeds, nuts and nibbles that would appeal to their omnivore nature. Although they do eat meat, they’re known to stick to eggs and insects, rather than larger food items.
Still, they could attack a birdhouse, putting the inhabitants at risk. They can also enlarge the entryway into the house itself.
Compared to many other predators, raccoons are fairly intelligent. When it’s time for them to go on the hunt, they can easily remember where your nest boxes are located.
As such, it’s important to keep an eye out for their presence and know how to keep their activity under control. Mounting your birdhouses on a pole with a baffle is a great way to help deter would-be bandits. While trees or fence posts might be more convenient, they also give raccoons a foothold to climb up.
There’s a reason why they say cats have nine lives! These critters are nimble, quick on their feet, and incredible jumpers. This also makes them strong opponents against any nest box that you install.
Even if they can’t jump onto your box from the ground, they can find a nearby tree to use as a launching pad. Be sure to mount your box away from anything that could serve as a launching point, keep pet cats indoors, and do not feed feral cats.
Protecting Your Birdhouse From Predators
It’s important to safeguard your birdhouse against such damaging intrusions. There are a few key ways you can do so. Let’s take a closer look.
Ensure High-Quality Materials
A birdhouse is an installation you hope to have up for years.
Keeping that in mind, resist the urge to choose the lowest-cost one that you can possibly find. Your bird-watching adventures will be much more satisfying if the house is solid, sturdy, and attractive to the birds that fly around it.
Start by making sure it’s made of durable, untreated wood or recycled polywood. Polywood houses are more sanitary and less likely to harbor bacteria and parasites from year to year. Don’t use pressure-treated wood, as it can be extremely toxic. To be as safe as possible, the surface should be unpainted.
For small-to-medium boxes, stick to cedar, cypress, or pine wood. If you’re building or buying a larger nest box, you can use plywood. Just make sure the wood hasn’t been pressure-treated and is designated as CDX exterior grade.
Then, it’s time to scrutinize the screws used to hold the sides of the birdhouse together. If you’re building your own from scratch, you’ll have control over this selection. If you’re buying a birdhouse online, you can read the description to understand the materials.
In all, galvanized screws provide the tightest and most secure seal.
They’re also easiest to remove if you need to adjust the box for any reason to perform seasonal maintenance. While nails are commonly used, keep in mind that they can rust outdoors and become loose over time. When it rains, that water could quickly get into your birdhouse. Also, poorly constructed nest boxes are easier for predators to access.
Birdhouse Hole (Portal) Protectors
One of the easiest ways to safeguard your birdhouse is to purchase a birdhouse hole or portal protector.
Over time, the entrance hole to your birdhouse can start to widen. While large predators can contribute to this effect, it can also be a result of your local birds simply using the house for an extended period of time. Chewing from squirrels and cats can also cause the hole to deteriorate or change shape.
A special metal hole protector reinforces the existing hole on your birdhouse, making it far less susceptible to these changes and chewing predators.
Check out our Metal Portal Protector, for instance! Measuring 1 ⅛ inches in diameter, this metal accessory fits birdhouses snugly, and is especially helpful for wren houses! We also carry a 1 ¼-inch all metal protector, which fits well on most houses built for smaller species, such as chickadees and titmice.
If you need a protector that’s just a little smaller, we also offer a copper alternative that measures just one inch across. If your nest box has an opening this size, our Portal For Wren Houses -- Genuine Copper is an ideal addition.
Have a slightly larger birdhouse, such as one for a nuthatch? The same copper hole protector is also available in a 1 ¼ -inch model. We can also help you keep your bluebird houses secure with our larger 1 ½ -inch diameter Portal For Bluebird Houses and Metal Portal Protector!
Use Predator Guards
While there are many measures you can take to safeguard a birdhouse against predators, specially-made guards offer some of the most secure protection. These are also called baffle guards.
As you search for the best one, keep in mind that there are several different kinds of guards to choose from. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common types.
As their name implies, collar guards fit like a collar around the post of your birdhouse. These are usually made of metal, and span over a foot in diameter. One example is our Cone Squirrel Baffle/Squirrel Guard.
This wraparound guard breaks apart for easy installation. Ideal for poles between ½ inch and 1 inch in diameter, its entire diameter is 17 inches.
One feature that distinguishes our squirrel guard from others is the included all-metal support collar. A necessary feature to help secure the baffle to your post, most collars are usually made of plastic and won’t last too long against curious chewers! This particular guard is available in classic black or a copper tint model.
Stovepipe predator guards work similarly to collars.
However, these are normally a little more complex in design. Vertical in shape and often made of sturdy aluminum, stovepipes can span up to 36 inches in length and are around eight inches in diameter. Due to their shape and size, many consider stovepipes to be among the most effective types of predator guards.
In our shop, you can find a similar model with our Dome Top Squirrel Baffle and Squirrel Guard.
This cylindrical baffle features a domed top, as well as a scalloped-edge bottom. The unique bottom confuses potential predators, making it difficult for them to achieve a solid foothold. Measuring 6 ¼ inches in diameter, it’s meant for poles that are between ½ inch to 1 ¾ inch in diameter.
Similar but sized to protect against raccoons, our cylindrical Erva raccoon baffle with a dome top and a patented scalloped edge bottom is for poles ½ inch to 1 ¾ inches in diameter and is 28 inches long and 6 ¼ inches in diameter. To keep raccoons and squirrels from getting into your birdhouse, place your poles 8-10 feet away from railings, roofs, or trees. Raccoon and squirrel baffles (top of baffle) should be a minimum of 4 feet from the ground for the best protection.
Want to send a clear message to squirrels, raccoons, and other local lurkers? A noel guard is a great way to do so!
This guard attaches to the nest box itself, rather than the mounting pole. It’s made of a strong wire mesh that keeps predators at bay. These are best-suited for boxes that are mounted to posts or trees, where critters could easily climb up and enter.
Look For Special Features
When we refer to “fancy” bird houses, we aren’t talking about ones that are adorned with glitter and gemstones. Rather, we mean ones that include extra bells and whistles designed to help the birds inside stay as safe and comfortable as possible.
As you’re comparing your options, prioritize any nest boxes that include the features below.
Rainproof Sloped Roof
In most cases, the roof of your birdhouse shouldn’t be flush with its sides.
To allow for adequate water runoff, make sure the roof hangs over the front of the box by around two to four inches. It should also be wider than the sides of your box by at least two inches.
For extra drainage, you can even cut little gutters into the box, making small cuts about ¼-inch deep all the way around the underside of the roof.
Don’t cut corners with your birdhouse walls. You need thick wood for proper insulation, which will help keep all those baby birds warm.
As you’re searching, look for birdhouses with walls that are at least ¾-inch thick.
Then, make sure there are ventilation holes installed on each side of the structure. These don’t have to be big (⅝-inch is ideal), but they should allow air to move freely into and out of the nest box.
In addition to any draining system you create or choose for the top of your birdhouse, you’ll also need drainage holes on the bottom. Look for ones that have at least four, evenly-spaced holes for the best results.
These can vary in size, but most aren’t larger than ½ inch in diameter. When these are in place, water can quickly drain out of the birdhouse in the off chance that it manages to get inside.
Looking for another feature that can help nests stay dry? Look for a birdhouse that features a recessed floor.
Usually located about ¼-inch from the bottom, these floors also keep water away from the central part of the birdhouse, so nests stay nice and dry. Over time, this can help the structure last longer.
To achieve a similar effect, you can also look for a nest lift. Our Bluebird Nest Lift is a great place to start. Simply place it in the bottom of your bird house and you’re good to go! The lift protects the nest from water, as well as bugs and parasites.
Not only does this extend the life of your birdhouse, but it also helps the eggs thrive, so more will hatch!
Keep Your Birdhouse Healthy and Looking Great
Now that we’ve covered how to choose the right spot for your birdhouse, select the perfect model, and keep it safe from predators, it’s time to maintain it!
Even the most beautiful birdhouse could begin to look worn and damaged if it isn’t properly cleaned. Not only do routine wipedowns keep it looking its best, but they also keep the birds inside healthy, too.
Parasites and spiders love to infiltrate nest boxes, especially when there are young hatchlings around. This poses a direct threat to the birds’ wellbeing and can lead to an unstable and unhealthy environment.
When you’re ready, all you need is a bottle of our Bird House Cleaner. All-natural and made with bird-safe enzymes, this cleaner quickly gets to work sanitizing birdhouses and removing stubborn stains. It sinks deeply into the cracks and crevices of your box, so you can make sure you’re cleaning every nook and cranny.
Not sure when to initiate the cleaning process? For best results, stick to these three seasons:
Do you leave your birdhouses up all year long, so birds can winter in them? If so, you can also use this cleaner to prepare the boxes for that activity in the fall.
To learn more about cleaning nest boxes, check out our recent Monday with Martha post!
A Fancy Bird House Needs A Birdhouse Hole Protector and More!
There are few activities that are more tranquil or rewarding than sitting on your back patio, listening to the tune of songbirds setting up a nest.
While you don’t need a fancy bird house to give them a great home, especially if you have the right natural habitat, these boxes can add flair and function to your yard. Once you’ve found the perfect one, it’s important to keep it protected and discourage predators. You can do so by using special accessories, such as a birdhouse hole protector!
You’ll find everything you need to get started in our online shop. From wild birds to pollinator support, we’ve got you covered. Feel free to browse the rest of our collections, and reach out if you have any questions!