I don’t know why it took me so long to think about putting up another bird house. The one Dave built for the Windowsons, for their chickadee manufacturing project, has been no end of fun. I just hauled it down to bleach it for the new rental season and it’s starting to show some wear, but it’ll be fine. Then I thought: how about if there’s another nest box on the other side of the house? We walked down to the Backyard Bird Shop and had us a look.

(By the way, I know a lot of you want to live with lots of space around you, and that’s understandable, but there’s something to be said for living where you can walk to a Backyard Bird Shop. A library. A grocery store (or three). Hardware store. Brewpub. Another brewpub. Another brewpub. Where was I? So I hope all you country mice are being great stewards of the land or at least not messing it up, but let’s hear it for jamming the bulk of humanity into well-planned cities, okay? We’re rambunctious and destructive, as a species, so we should keep most of us away from what sustains us.)
Bird house. That’s where I was. My eye was immediately drawn to a wall of small bird houses in fabulous colors, and I picked out the little red one and came home with it. I don’t expect Marge and Studley to be interested. The hole is an inch in diameter. Chickadees like their holes a quarter-inch larger. Might not seem like a big deal, but chickadees, quilters, and sloppy carpenters are all about the quarter-inch.
Now, I do not know what the little princesses do in the wild when these precise measurements do not pertain to a given tree-trunk. Seems like you could be house-hunting a long time before you find a nice 1-1/4 inch hole. Chickadees aren’t major excavators, but they are willing to chip away at a hole in a tree if someone else has already started it or there’s a knothole in soft wood, and that’s prety amazing, since their pointy parts are only the size of a fingernail clipping.

Anyway, I don’t expect a chickadee to want this red house. You need at least some clearance. Seems like it’s enough trouble to blast into a hole head-first and somehow apply the brakes inside before hitting the far wall, which is less than five inches away. What I’m looking for here is maybe a wren. We do have a lovely Bewick’s wren hanging around. She’s got her tail cranked straight up like one of those cats that’s super proud of its bunghole. But I’ll bet she knows how to flatten it if she’s coming in hot. We stuck the house in a tree and put wood shavings in it, per the advice of the Bird Shop maven.

I’ve heard this before. Chickadees and wrens are cavity nesters and like to work on holes that already have wood shavings in them. The idea is maybe it indicates someone else already used it and lived to tell the tale, or got a good start going on renovations and then ran out of cash and had to bail. According to one website, it “makes the bird feel like it is doing the work of hollowing out the cavity.” Awesome! I’m stocking up on gold stars to reward the bird. Maybe a trophy for Participation.
Do we really know this? Did someone put a bunch of sawdust in a nest box and conclude the birds liked it because they took it all out? Have they tried it with crumpled-up newspaper? Mac and cheese? Legos? Get back to me.