Swallow Houses!

So we already built plenty of Bluebird houses, good work!
But as we discussed earlier, bluebirds mainly eat bugs that are at ground level. So while that may work great for your garden, fields or high-tunnels, it doesn’t do much to keep all those flies off of your livestock.
To get those flies under control we need a different kind of bird.
We need swallows.

Swallows, at least where I’m from, come in two varieties. There are Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows.  They both eat a heap of flying insects, and they both feed right where we need them to, from 1-12 feet off the ground.

Now if you’ve ever been around a farm much, you’ve probably seen plenty of barn swallows.  They’re the little guys who build mud nests under the eaves of barns, houses, or any other building that suits them.  Short of building more barns, we’re going to have a tough time making more habitat for them, but I’ve got a few ideas that I want to try…later.

As for Tree Swallows, they are another cavity-nester.  This means that they just need a box with a hole in it to feel right at home. So lets make them feel welcome, shall we?

First, download the plans here.

Swallow House Plans


One 3′ x 1″ x 6″ Pressure Treated board (around $2 if you buy it 12′ at a time)

One 3′ x 1″ x 8″ Pressure Treated board (around $2.50 if you buy it 12′ at a time)

Thirteen 1.75″ Triple-coated Deck screws ( around $0.80)

So materials-wise, each house will set you back $5.30, not bad for all the flies you’ll be getting rid of!

Once you’ve got all the pieces cut out, let’s start putting them together!

First we attach the sides to the back board, leaving a gap up top for ventilation.

Attach sides to back

Next, attach the bottom, with three screws, one from each side, and one from the back.

Attach bottom

Now we attach the front, with the scratched-up side facing in.  Secure it with two screws, at the top, so that it hinges out for hanging, cleaning and maintenance.  Make sure to pre-drill and/or countersink these two holes so that you don’t split the wood.

Some birdhouse designs use a “keeper nail” to keep the front shut, but I just make sure the screws are tightened up real good.  If I have trouble prying it open, then It’s tight enough that no gust of wind or predator is going to get it open.

Attach front

And last but not least, put the roof on, and make sure it’s flush with the back edge of the house.  It should overlap each of the sides by about 1/8th of an inch.

Attach top

Now go hang up all those birdhouses!  Tree Swallows are apparently fairly territorial (with other tree swallows) so keep the boxes 100 feet apart, and 6-7 feet off the ground.  Remember, that you probably want to put these boxes out in your pasture, so they’re out there eating all those flies that were bugging your livestock.  Keep them away from the house to minimize problems with house sparrows!

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