DIY garden art

Art for the birds

Made from scraps and junk...

Last summer, and over the winter, I made these three birdhouses.

It won a pollinator house design competition and raised $100 for two charities!
The first one took the longest, probably over two weekends.

I made it as a donation to a pollinator house competition for a benefit silent auction. And it won!

These are mostly decorative. The holes will only accommodate very small birds, and I’m afraid the interiors are a bit too cavernous for small birds. They, being as pretty as they are, demand to be displayed – which means they would not be under tree/branch coverage, where birds would be most happy with them to protect them from prey.

They also do not have bases on them that are easily detachable and therefore easy to clean between seasons, which is ideal. I guess birds are fussy that way.

For this one I used some old Ikea lamp parts, antique door handle hardware, a tarracotta pot, and some electrical wire. The birdhouse went for $100!


The second one took a weekend to make

I liked the one I made for the charity competition so much and hated to depart with it. So I made another for myself. This one had another old Ikea lamp, a terracotta pot, a miniature watering can (which served no practical purpose), and some old keys, hooks, and rusty silverware.


The third one I made in one day.

This one I made as a gift for a friend’s retirement. It’s more hardware odds and ends, a tiny terracotta pot, keys and old silverware. This one though, incorporates a part of a wine bottle.

I had to pry all these off the 4’x6’panels they’d been on for 25 years.I finally have the hang of them – but I’ve run out of pointy-ended pickets! I have some left, but alas, no points, which I think adds a lot to the birdhouses.

My only goal was to make them with things found around the house / garage / attic / shed / basement – and no money spent. In that, they were successful. They’re made from old fence pickets from a fence we had taken down. Rather than send the whole thing off to a dump. I kept the fence parts and wrestled these pickets off the 4’x6′ sections. I’m going to keep my eyes open for more whole pickets. If you have any (and are local) let me know. The next one should only take me half a day to make!

It’s important to do all your painting before you do the construction. Afterwards it a lot of fine detail hassle. Afterwards is for touch-ups. Fortunately these are all rustic, so perfection isn’t warranted.


The nonagon polygon.

I started with a 2″x6″ pressure-treated board. I cut it into a nonagon (nine-sided) shape – each edge being the width of a picket (around 3-1/2″ wide).

I took the old pickets, painted, stained, paint-rubbed, or natural, and cut them in varying lengths, making sure three of the longest ones are all the same length (so it can stand on its own later on). The shortest picket determines the size of the cavern inside the birdhouse. Find any one and cut a minimum 1.25″ hole centered on the board, about 3/4 the way up the picket.

I started with the top, recessing the first cut nonagon about an inch from the top of the pickets. Pre-drill all your screw holes. If you’re working with old pickets, like I was, the wood cracks easy.



This one got a brass doorknob, a terracotta pot and a half-cut wine bottle left over from another crafting project.

It gets screwed in with basically any exterior stainless steel wood screws. I happen to have some fancier hex head metal roofing screws that look purposely like a design-y element as they are raised up a bit.

Then attach the base wherever it makes sense based on the lengths of the pickets.

After that, I found “junk” around the house that’s been cluttering up and collecting in bins of old stuff too good to throw away. That was the fun part. Experimenting with found items – glass, plastic, planters, pots, electrical pieces, hardware, silverware and more. There’s almost no end to the junk I’ve collected over the year.

To see other birdhouses (and a bat house) I made, visit here.


Most of the pickets were used to line the walls of my potting shed!



I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

2 comments on “Art for the birds

  1. mhbakerphotography

    Beautiful work Jim. Hope you and yours are doing well. Mark


  2. Pingback: A garden post post

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