(Chelsea Update would like to thank Tom Hodgson and the Waterloo Natural History Association for the information and photos in this story.)
The house wren is one of our most common and enjoyable backyard birds in the Chelsea area. This bird’s beautiful, bubbling song is a joy to hear in spring and summer.
The house wren is a small, compact bird with a brown back and a light, unstreaked belly. It carries its short tail at a jaunty, upward angle. Both male and female look alike. Because house wrens are equally at home in the city or the country, anyone with a few trees in their backyard should be able to attract them.
House wrens arrive in the Great Lakes Region in late April and early May. Because they nest several times each summer, a nest box put up later may still be successful. And, Wrens are not particular about where they nest. They have even been observed trying to nest in the pocket of a shirt hung on the cloths line to dry.
Although clay flower pots are not as common as they used to be, most folks still have a few languishing in a garage or shed. And, a 6-six inch clay flower pot makes a perfect wren house.
So, here’s how to make one.
First you will need some supplies and simple tools including:
1. A clay flower pot (6” diameter. Azalea pots are ideal)
2. A 6” x 6” square of roofing shingle
3. White garden twine (available in balls at hardware stores).
4. Several 6 penny common nails or the equivalent.
5. A 7 oz. hammer or the equivalent.
6. One U.S. quarter
7. One pencil.
This is a project that can be successfully completed by students in second grade or above (ideal for Brownies or Cub Scouts). Remember, the bottom of the flower pot becomes the roof of the wren house. The shingle placed over the open end of the flower pot becomes the bottom of the wren house.
1. Lay the flower pot down on its side. Hold the quarter against the side of the pot about 1 inch from the bottom of the pot. Trace a circle using the edge of the quarter as a guide. This is how large the entrance hole must be.
2. Sit on a chair. Hold the flower pot on your lap with the penciled circle facing up. Place the point of the nail against the flower pot in the center of the circle.
3. Tap the nail gently with the hammer until it goes through the side of the pot. Continue to chip away at the flower pot in this manner until all the clay pot within the circle has been removed. Rub the nail rapidly around inside the entrance hole to smooth any rough edges.
4. Place the flower pot, bottom first of the square of shingle. Tie the two together with string as you would tie a Christmas package. The string should form and X over the bottom of the pot (which is the top of the wren house) and the shingle. Tie the string off with a square knot.
5. Tie a second string where the first string forms an X over the top of the wren house. This will be used to tie the wren house to a tree.
You may decorate your wren house or leave it plain. Use permanent markers or ceramic paint on the outside of the house only. And don’t be afraid to use your imagination, the wrens won’t care. Tie the wren house under the branch of a tree from 6- to 15-feet above the ground. Tie it in two places along the branch so the house does not spin in the wind.
Tie the wren house several feet back from the end of the branch so it is shaded from the heat of the sun.
The wrens will do the rest.