Shelter for wintering birds
When winter sets in, many birds and animals are left out in the cold. Sometimes these animals can find shelter, but more often, they die from the extreme temperatures and severe weather. This has a big impact on the avian and wild animal population. Roosting boxes allow birds and animals to find shelter and hibernate through the freezing temperatures and nasty weather.
A roosting box is a wooden box with several perches inside. It's different than a bird house because bird houses allow room for nesting; roosting boxes are simply places for birds and animals to wait out bad storms. Little songbirds, like chickadees or titmice, are accustomed to eating a lot during the day and then losing a lot of that energy shivering and fluffing out their feathers to keep warm at night. Although they huddle together for warmth, sometimes it's not enough and up to 50% can die of exposure during a bad storm.
Roosting boxes are great for keeping little birds out of the wind, since the boxes emulate hollows in trees where birds would normally shelter. Unfortunately, there are not too many suitable hollow trees left, so the boxes serve a great purpose. Other roosting boxes are for small animals, like dormice, squirrels, and bats. These often provide a nesting element as well as sheltering the animals from the cold. The boxes are airtight and can get extremely warm, which is like providing a heated room for birds to hang out in while a blizzard is going on.
You can buy a roosting box at any pet or outdoor store, or you can build your own.
Build Your Own Roosting Box
You will need:
- A 12' long, 10" wide board with 1" thickness
- ¼" dowels
- A hand drill
- A saw
- A jigsaw or hole saw
- A screwdriver and screws
- Wood glue
Start by cutting the board into pieces for the box. The back should be 9½" x 30"; the sides should be 8" x 24" x 22"; the roof should be 9½" x 10"; the front should be 9½" by 22" with a 1½" or 2½" domed door cut into the bottom of the piece and the floor should be 8" x 8" with a 3" rounded piece jutting out in the front. Your perches should be ¼" by 9½". With a hand drill, make several staggered holes in the sides of the box and affix the perches with wood glue. Screw the pieces of the box together and hinge the roof on top of the box.
Hang your roosting box 10 to 15 feet high on a tree or a building. Mount the box where it's easily accessible for cleaning and where accumulations of bird droppings won't be a problem. Orient the entrance towards the south, if at all possible. The sunshine will hit the box through the day and warm it up for cold birds at night. If you wish, paint the outside of the box with a dark-colored paint - this will help to attract and trap heat from the sun all day so that the birds will be warm at night. Remember, don't paint the inside of a roosting box - the birds will not use it.