One day last year (2017) I was a bit fed up with the bird houses that were offered at the majority of outlet stores. Thin wood, smooth finishes inside and out, metal roofs, hard to open or not able to open at all for the yearly cleaning and the lack of clarity about what birds are attracted to the houses. Unfortunately most of these houses will not work because they are not really what the birds want or need. Thin houses and metal roofs allow overheating in the summer months and poor insulation for roosting in the winter. Smooth surfaces make it really hard for the chicks trying to climb out of the structure. Those houses get pretty full after a while and really need to be cleaned out. If it's hard to open or can't be opened at all it typically won't get cleaned which can make it unhealthy for the birds to be in. Paints are another issue. Birds will peck the wood inside and outside of the house and if the paint has lead or is toxic it can be really bad for the residents.
I decided to build our own and used a design that caters to many of the song birds we have here in the Southern Canadian provinces. The front panel is left rough and unpainted, there is plenty of ventilation and I use 3/4 inch cedar to build these homes. The front panel is also hinged on the sides and held shut with a small clasp that can be turned with your fingers or a set of pliers. These houses are built for the birds. Yes they may be a bit "rustic" but they really work and they look good in the backyard. I get many comments back from these houses saying how happy people are that there are birds nesting in them. The Children are ecstatic when they see the birds going in and out building their new homes.
I'm currently going door to door to various greenhouses and landscaping supply places to see if they will carry these houses so keep an eye out this spring here in Calgary. If you would like, I can sell them to you directly. Just shoot me an email and I'll get back to you. I'm currently taking orders for the end of this month (I make as many as I need each month so this is on going).
If there is enough interest, I'm thinking about moving into the BC market as well.
These houses attract Chickadees, Tits, Titmouse, Brown-headed, Pygmy and Red and white breasted nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, House, Carolina and Bewicks Wrens, among others. The houses should be placed between 6-15 feet above the ground and you don't want to put anything in the house when you set it up. They will gather the building material they need.
If you have any questions, even if you don't have one of my houses, feel free to touch base and I'll try to help you out!
On a side note, I'm currently in talks with the UofC to come up with a good bat roosting home and nursery design that will work in the Western provinces. If you'd like a bat house this would be a great time to touch base.