Painting Bird Boxes-The In’s and Out’s


painting birdhousesNow I will be talking about painting bird boxes.. Right ways, best paints to use, things to avoid, and so forth.¬† Painting your bird house is fun and relaxing as far as activities go. After all, you’ve gone to great lengths to construct them a piece of shelter and protection. You’ve probably seen lots of bird houses painted in different colors and wondered what looks best, or should you just go with a nice natural wood stain.

A number of years ago I was part of a watershed project that involved wildlife preservation activities, and the building of bird boxes that were eventually mounted in local watersheds.We stained them a dark brown, but yours truly got to paint pictures of birds on the sides (more on that in a little bit!)

First, I’ll answer those questions in this post. So let’s dive in! Starting with….

Is it Necessary?

Well, to be honest, not really. The look of wood grain on it’s own is hard to beat. After all, we’re talking about something designed to blend in with nature, so it should be as close to natural as possible. However, I think doing a paint job as a form of protection is a good idea.

If you bought your birdhouse as a standalone from unfinished wood, it may look very plain, depending on how much detail there is. Untreated wood is also more likely to be vulnerable to bad weather, mildew, termites, etc.

Of course, I’m referring to real wood here, if it’s a “prefab”, I would not bother…I’ve had one of those and let’s just say…never again. You can tell if something you think is wood is not if the layers start to peel apart if it gets wet.. It didn’t last for one year, a fresh coat of paint wouldn’t have changed that!

What Color(s) to Paint a Birdhouse?

You’ve no doubt seen lots of colorful birdhouses and thought that would be great¬† I’m all for sticking with neutral colors for your bird box(es). Colors like cream, tan, brown shades, beige, etc., are best as a color that will blend in with natural surroundings and help your friends to remain inconspicuous. Bright colors may be more likely to be attractive to predators. Knowing about colors is important in determining what kind of wildlife you’ll attract or repel. For example, hummingbirds love bright bold colors like red, fuchsia and orange.

But for “garden variety” wild birds, you want to stay away from something like this….

colorful birdhouses
Pretty? Maybe. But best to stick to more conservative colors.

Stinging insects like wasps are drawn to greenish yellow which is why traps are designed with that color. Heck if I wear yellow outdoors in the warmer months I will always make sure it’s in the deep shade just in case. I’m funny that way. You could make the roof of the birdhouse a different color if you want to for more interest. If the house is beige, choose a dark brown, green, or gray for added contrast..

Also, think about your settings…If you have lots of pretty flora around, or lots of extraneous vegetation combining a conservative color with a slightly more “colorful” accent color isn’t a bad idea. This example below shows how it can be done well, and it still blends in with its surroundings. And it’s cute, too:

birdhouse blending in with scenery

Safe Paint for Birdhouses

Both acrylics or latex paint will work fine for your bird boxes. They both are highly compatible with wood and if applied correctly can help it stay in tip-top condition as your birdhouses will be exposed to all kinds of weather, good and bad.. Both come in many different colors and finishes. Matte would be better as they’ll look more natural in the wilderness than gloss.

Latex would be the best choice as it’s less expensive, it’s easily obtained in conservative colors, and will provide good coverage.It’s pretty thick so you may only need to apply one coat. Latex exterior, even better.

prime before you paintIf it’s natural unfinished wood you may not even have to prime it. Be sure to let it dry for up to a day before returning it to it’s final resting spot. Latex paint is dry “to the touch” in about an hour. Stick to the outside – don’t worry about any places inside the opening or any of the inner parts.

Acrylic colors will work well too, there’s lots of them out there and the paint will dry quickly, depending on what type and brand you use you may need to apply multiple coats to get a good finish. If you choose exterior paint it will perform well – the paint will expand as it dries and provide a protective layer that will help it to withstand the elements – very important since it will be outside 24-7, most likely. As far as levels of toxicity when used as intended should be no problems.

If you can find acrylic latex that’s even better as it combines the polymer binding quality of acrylics with the resin binder of latex which will make for a tough finish that can withstand the elements.

After the coats are dry to the touch and the look is to your satisfaction you can apply a protective sealant coat to the box to preserve its longevity.

Most likely, birds will not try to peck at dried paint. That’s not very common, but if they do, however, it could be a sign of calcium imbalance.

Designs and Finishing Touches

As far as adding a little bit of adornment that’s not a bad idea either. You could easily stencil on a little bit of a design on one side or add flourishes. I remember something in the 80s called “tole painting” that was used to adorn things like trays and mailboxes, bu that’s fallen out of style now (maybe? I haven’t seen as much lately…)

As mentioned earlier, I got to design all our birdhouses with actual images of birds. I’m pretty sure I drew them freehand or maybe we used a projector.

painting on birdhouse

I completed four boxes like this each with a different bird on the side. No reason you too, couldn’t put your stamp or embellishment on there to really set it off and make it unique. Yes, that’s really me in the picture above doing all that work. Lucky wasn’t I?

It has always been a yearly ritual to visit the location every summer to see how my birdhouses are holding up. And even better, they have a sanctuary too.

Hope this guide has been helpful. Whether you’ve got a group of scouts, friends, or whomever, all wanting to help keep the cycle of wild bird preservation going for generations to come, this is a great activity to take part in, and you’ll come away with something you can be proud of too.


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