How to Build an Upcycled Birdhouse

By Erica Loop in Thinking Sustainably

An upcycled birdhouse is more than just your average DIY project. It's a sanctuary for feathered friends, a lesson in sustainability, and a way to help the planet. Crafting an upcycled bird feeder is a family activity that gives time spent together a whole new meaning. So forget about streaming the same animated movie yet again and get into some real animal antics with these eco-friendly ideas!

Why Upcycle?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2015 Americans generated more than 262 million tons of solid waste. Many of the items that you'd normally throw away can be saved and upcycled, reducing the amount of waste and helping save the planet. By keeping waste out of landfills, the EPA explains, you're helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond the stats, building tiny homes for your feathered friends helps nurture the local wildlife—protecting both the planet and all that lives on it.

When crafting with the kids, start the project with a discussion about why you're making the birdhouse from materials at home rather than buying a premade one from the store. Explain to them how an upcycled birdhouse helps us do our part in helping the environment. The more your kids think about reusing items rather than tossing them in the trash, the better they'll understand their role in protecting the planet.

Boot Birdhouse

Donating your old footwear to charity is a wonderful goodwill gesture. But sometimes the items you want to donate just aren't worthy of re-wearing. When your boots are battered and beyond wear, upcycle them into footwear feeders.

To complete this crafty creation, here's what you'll need:

  • One boot
  • Heavy duty scissors
  • Cardboard (reuse an old box)
  • A long twig
  • Birdseed
  • A marker
  • Twine or wire

Make sure the boot is clean and muck-free first. Then, cut a bird-sized hole in the side of the boot above the heel. Cut the cardboard into a long rectangle. This will become the roof. Fold the cardboard in half, sizing it so that it fits on the top of the boot. Use the scissors to create two holes, directly across from each other, near the top of the boot. Place the cardboard roof on top of the boot. Mark where the holes of the boot match up to the cardboard holes and cut slits in the cardboard at each mark. Finally, push the stick through the cardboard and the holes, securing the roof.

Depending on the sturdiness of your roof, you can hang the feeder using twine or wire threaded through the top ridge. If the roof won't support the weight of the boot, cut two additional small holes across from each other at the top of the boot (perpendicular to those you cut for the roof slits) and weave the twine or wire through to make a large loop.

Old boot sitting on rocks

Cardboard Milk Carton Condo

You know that mountain of cardboard dairy-free milk cartons that's piling up in your recycling bin? Grab one, rinse it well, dry the interior and exterior thoroughly, and get building. Here's what you'll need:

  • Cardboard milk carton
  • Scissors
  • Plastic spoon or thick twig
  • Yarn

First, draw a circle in the middle of the carton. Size it large enough for a bird to fit through. Carefully, cut the circle shape out. Then, poke a small hole through one side and push the end of the spoon through to the other side. Now the birds have something to stand on. If you don't have a plastic spoon, there's no need to buy one. Instead, use a thick twig.

Cut or punch a hole at the top of the carton, thread a piece of yarn through the hole and tie it in a loop. Alternatively, you can cut a thin strip of an old towel or piece of clothing to reuse as the hanger for the birdhouse.

While it's tempting to add a pop of color to the project, craft paints can run when exposed to the elements—posing a safety risk to your new bird buddies. If creating a colorful exterior is an absolute must-do, give the kids non-toxic crayons made from edible pigments and let them go wild.

Spoon-Stuffed Bottle Feeder

You can also reuse old wooden spoons as part of this bird feeder activity. Here's what this fab feeder requires:

  • A plastic water bottle (thoroughly washed and dried)
  • Scissors
  • Two or more large wooden spoons
  • Yarn
  • Birdseed

After gathering your materials, poke holes on opposite sides of the bottle. Make sure the holes are large enough for some of the birdseed to spill out onto the spoon once you fill the bottle. This somewhat tricky scissor step is best left to the adults. Then, push the first spoon through from one hole to the other. Repeat this for as many spoons as you have. Finally, pour the birdseed into the bottle, letting it pour onto the spoons, and tie the yarn around the top of the cap.

With spoon landing sites full of yummy food, it's time to hang the feeder up and let the birds do their thing!

Converted Dollhouse

Give your kids' old dollhouse a new life—one that's all for the birds! Reusing their former favorite toy can give the project a special meaning to the kids. Inspire them to donate their miniature mansion for a good cause.

Along with the house itself, you'll need the following items:

  • Birdseed
  • A sturdy stand or table

The key to making this project work is cleaning house. Literally, clear out the dollhouse. Then find a suitable place to put the house outside. A tree stump, table, bench, or similar stand are all easy options. Finally, fill the floors of the house with birdseed.

Remind your child of the gift they gave back to the environment. Watch the birds make the dollhouse their home—eating, cleaning, and relaxing in the upcycled toy.

Small dollhouse sitting on table

With every upycled birdhouse and feeder comes the chance to help the environment on so many different levels. Not only are you saving the materials you're upcycling from the landfill, but you're also providing shelter and a meal to the cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, and other fine feathered backyard guests.

What upcycling projects have you completed at home? Share your favorite upcycled crafts with us on Twitter!

Image Sources: Pixabay | Flickr | Flickr

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Why It's Good

Recycle, reuse, and treat your feathered friends to an upcycled birdhouse craft that you create with the entire family!