How To Build a Coffee Can Birdhouse for Zero Dollars

At the Border Fort

2011 has sproinged! Sprung! Whatever! It’s New Year’s Day, time to build a birdhouse–Year Two in the grand tradition. And…what the hey, let’s figure out how to build one from an empty coffee can and a bit of leftover Cappucino-colored house paint. Attach it to the top of the post holding up our old TV antenna. Cash outlay, no dollars. Zilch. Not one penny out of pocket, just screws out of our supply bucket (for attaching the birdhouse to the post) and paint out of yet another coffee can (where it’s been waiting for months to get a bit of use).

Are we having fun yet?

Why, yes. Yes we are. Almost as much fun as three days ago when I discovered the joys of target practicing in the prone firing position using a .357 Magnum revolver with a 4-inch barrel…while wearing ear protection that turned out to be inadequate. If you’re an old biker, few things will get your attention like a whole batch of Harleys with drag pipes suddenly sounding like an Elmer Fudd convention on crack!

If we’re going to have that much fun, then it’s also imperative to do this using zero power tools as well, doncha think? And to do it on a day near the Mexican border when our dawn temperature (19 degrees) was significantly cooler than that enjoyed by Sarah Palin at her home in Wasilla, Alaska (28 degrees, go figure). Of course, both temps were toastier than the simultanous reading at Mosby, Montana (-38 degrees)…but that’s another story.

No more procrastinating! After all, even little Gato kitten, now being called Little Big Man by my beloved redhead who just can’t leave a good name alone, is all inspired. So excited he is, so ready to watch me do this, so–

Gato! Pay attention! You need to honor the story line here!

Cool it, Dad. Can't you see I'm busy?

Cool it, Dad. Can’t you see I’m busy?



The Coffee Can

Fortunately for the best laid plans of Ghosts and men, we have plenty of coffee cans around. They’re way too handy to discard; that’s for sure. So–yep, there’s one, lying right atop a pile of…stuff…in the utility room. Okay…here we go!

Gato! You’re supposed to be admiring what I’m doing here! Can’t you see Mom’s busy ? What’s the point of doing guy stuff if nobody–

Whaddya mean, if I don’t like it, I should get a dumb dog?

Ahhhh…I work best alone anyway.

THE STEPS

1. Drill a hole. Can’t have a birdhouse without a bird door. Ye olde brace-and-bit started the thing, but coffee can plastic walls are a bit wimpy to stand up to the full treatment from that tool, so a basic steak knife was used to finish slicing out the circle.

2. Smooth edges of hole. Sandpaper might have been ideal–but who wants to waste that? Just drag-scraping with the same steak knife does about as well.

3. Punch 4 holes in bottom of can using, again, the tip of the brace-and-bit. Then temorarily insert sheetrock screws just to make sure everything fits right.

4. Remove screws and paint the can. Start writing this page while the paint is drying.

The "antenna post" destined to host Border Fort Annual Birdhouse #2.

The “antenna post” destined to host Border Fort Annual Birdhouse #2.

Top of the post.

Top of the post.

Starting the doorway hole.

Starting the doorway hole.

A little hard to discern, but the drill bit was starting to make ragged holes instead of a neat entry circle.

A little hard to discern, but the drill bit was starting to make ragged holes instead of a neat entry circle.

The steak knife works much better.

The steak knife works much better.

Slightly raggedy hole complete (hey, knotholes in trees aren't perfect, either).

Slightly raggedy hole complete (hey, knotholes in trees aren’t perfect, either).

Hole edges smoothed a bit.

Hole edges smoothed a bit.

Screws in position (checking fit).

Screws in position (checking fit).

Bottoms up! (One bottom, anyway.)

Bottoms up! (One bottom, anyway.)

Painted can, can of paint, and brush-in-a-baggie (saves cleaning between uses).

Painted can, can of paint, and brush-in-a-baggie (saves cleaning between uses).

Finishing Up

The paint is dry! Time to get out there in the nice, warmish sunshine that feels super-balmy despite only nudging the thermometer to 35 degrees. What’s a thermometer know, anyway? Dumb blob of mercury in a tube, that’s all that is. So there.

FINAL STEPS

5. Wipe fingers thoroughly on jeans, removing all traces of crumbly extra-sharp cheddar cheese greedily consumed with a bowl of seedless grapes.

7. Share remaining cheese with Gato.

8. Head out, climb ladder, and screw all 4 sheetrock screws thoroughly into top of post.

9. Discovering such screwing will force the entry opening to face the metal antenna mast, readjust.

10. Turn birdcan house…uh, coffee can birdhouse so that birdie doorway clears antenna mast pipe and settle for attaching the thing with 3 screws instead of 4, leaving the fourth hole to serve as drainage when the monsoon rains arrive in July.

11. Slap on the roof–removable for easy annual cleanout, what else?

12. Grab a black marker. Correct oversight: Label this year’s masterpiece
“2011”.

And…that’s about it. Could put the hand tools and painting stuff away, no doubt. Maybe the ladder, too. That…and rejoice in your awesome discovery: Last year’s freshman Border Fort Birdhouse construction was definitely not this simple/easy to build!

Th-th-that’s all, folks! Except for…

Update: Autumn, 2013. Last year (2012), a house finch pair did use this coffee can birdhouse for a nesting place, though the few photos I got were not publication quality. Whether it not it was occupied this year, I couldn’t say.

Attaching the can.

Attaching the can.

Can secured.

Can secured.

 Roof snapped in place.


Roof snapped in place.

Here, birdy, birdy, birdy!

Here, birdy, birdy, birdy!

Oversight corrected.

Oversight corrected.

Wa-ay less work than last year's version.

Wa-ay less work than last year’s version.

Gato approves.

Gato approves.

4 thoughts on “How To Build a Coffee Can Birdhouse for Zero Dollars

  1. Please email me a copy of the plastic coffee can bird house. I want to make a few bird houses with my grand children.

  2. Sandra, I don’t know exactly why you’re asking me to do that. You can copy and paste text and download copies of the photos on this page if you like. I don’t have any more information than that.

    However, one caveat: We did see a pair of house finches using the coffee can birdhouse one year but have not observed anybody living there since.

  3. you should always put ventilation holes around the top for air flow. also holes in the bottom for drainage.

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