How to earn $1000 in six weeks building birdhouses - Part 1

by Rick Brentlinger
(Pace, FL, USA)

This is a DIY article I originally wrote about ten years ago for Backwoods Home magazine. It has received wide circulation online and was also published in a self-reliance anthology. I built the pictured birdhouses from pallet wood.

The Challenge

If I can show you how to manufacture birdhouses and other cool stuff anywhere in the country and if I show you how to find the raw materials for free, would you be interested? If so, here is a business plan that works. Have you seen those weathered wooden pallets stacked behind grocery stores, piled beside feed stores or next to the dumpster in your local lumber yard? Those pallets, your initiative, and the information that follows could mean money in your pocket for years to come.

Pallets are often available free for the asking. Many businesses are glad to get rid of them so they don’t have to pay to haul them away. There are two kinds of pallets—reusable and throw away. The reusable pallets are often made of oak, poplar, and occasionally maple. If there is a big stack of them, some stores will give these away free too. But the ones I like best are the throw away pallets made of pine, oak, or poplar wood.

First, locate a stack of pallets and ask if you can help the business owner by hauling them off for free. Always get permission before you take pallets. When you have a pickup load, stack them neatly near your workshop or at the side of your garage and you’re ready to begin.

I use a electric circular saw to dismantle the pallets, cutting the wood off the stringers and stacking it in a dry place. The 2 x 4 stringers can be cut in half and burned in your woodstove. The wood you’ve cut off the stringers is where the real money is.

Pallet wood is naturally weathered and looks like old barn siding. I use it to make simple rustic birdhouses and bird feeders which I sell at flea markets or wholesale to garden centers around Pensacola. I get $10 to $30 each, sometimes more, for these birdhouses. The retailer usually resells them at double my price.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not a woodworker” or “I don’t have any power equipment.” The truth is that anyone can learn to make a nice birdhouse in just a few days of experimenting. Here are step by step instructions to help you make the most amazing birdhouses.

Birdhouses are simple

A birdhouse is a simple structure with seven basic parts — two sides, a front and back, a bottom and two pieces for the roof. And you don’t necessarily need power equipment to cut the wood. It can be done with a handsaw if that’s all you have to begin with. Once you’ve made some money selling your handmade rustic birdhouses, you can think about buying some power equipment to make the work go faster.

I use a circular saw to do the initial cutting and a Delta 12-inch bandsaw for the rest of the cuts. I can cut up enough pallets in one morning to make 40 or 50 birdhouses or feeders. Once the pallets are cut up and I have the wood stacked in my shop, I can make 4 or 5 birdhouses a day (less than 8 hours). That adds up to a minimum of $40 - $120 a day for pleasant work in the privacy of my own shop (or garage or patio), with no boss breathing down my neck.

Once you have a bunch of birdhouses ready to sell, load them on the truck and head for the local garden centers. Carry several of your best birdhouses with you and smile as you ask, “How many do you need?” Some buyers will want you to put them in the shop on consignment, something I always refuse to do. I prefer payment up front since I know I have a good product that people want.

Where to sell birdhouses?

Birdhouses and bird feeders sell great at hardware stores, garden centers, larger grocery stores, craft stores, feed stores, farm stand, vegetable stands, farmers markets and antique stores. I sold a number of my rustic birdhouses in my booths at antique malls around Pensacola, FL. The rustic pallet wood bird homes nicely complement antiques.

Some people do not want rustic birdhouses. For them, I make birdhouses or feeders from number one pine and fir, maple, oak, and even mahogany which I also get for free. In most areas there are cabinet shops and wood working shops which throw away scrap wood in the dumpster.

You can locate woodworking shops, cabinet shops, and other sources of free wood in the Yellow Pages or by asking around. I stop at these businesses and find the owner or manager. I explain that I putter around making birdhouses and ask permission to go through the dumpster for wood. I have never had anyone say no. They have to pay to have the dumpster emptied. If I carry off some of the wood, I’m saving them money.

Birdhouses support green living

Small pieces which the cabinet shop cannot use are perfect for birdhouses. A birdhouse business recycles material that would otherwise clog the landfill. And it provides income for us independent types who prefer not to work for someone else. An entrepreneurial guy or gal could make this a full-time business if you want to branch out into making other wood-craft items. Dumpster wood and pallet wood is also suitable for making shadow boxes, chicken or rabbit nesting boxes, book shelves and many other cool things.

If I want bigger pieces of wood from the pallets for building wood fences and chicken sheds, I use a Milwaukee Sawzall to cut the nails in the pallets so the pieces of wood are intact. By the way, I bought the Sawzall used but in like-new condition, at a pawn shop for $99. It makes short work of pallets and I have larger pieces of wood for bigger projects. I figure it this way: seven birdhouses at $15 each pays for the Sawzall.

Rustic pallet wood bird houses sell well at hardware stores, garden centers, craft and feed stores or at your local flea markets and antique malls. Rustic pallet wood bird houses also sell well at hardware stores, garden centers, craft and feed stores.

For a week or two of work gathering and taking apart pallets, you can accumulate enough wood to make 100 birdhouses. At four birdhouses a day for five weeks, you will have 100 birdhouses ready to sell for $10 to $30 each. That is a minimum $1000 in about six weeks. Enlist your partner or children and make it a family endeavor. If you are lucky enough to live in a tourist area, birdhouses are impulse buys that create vacation memories for years to come. They can also be sold at your roadside produce stand or through free ads on Craigslist. Jump to Part 2.

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Comments for How to earn $1000 in six weeks building birdhouses - Part 1

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 03, 2013
by: Anonymous

I have been building birdhouses for 15 yrs now. Singles, 2& 3 stacks and my Toten pole houses which have 10 to 14 houses - All are hand painted.

Rick's comment: Cool! The totem pole birdhouses are a great idea - unique and therefore something that should be a good seller. It's a fun hobby and can also be a fun job. Thanks for stopping by.

Jan 06, 2014
Going Back in Business
by: Helena

I have been dabbling in Birdhouse selling for ten years now off and on. I am serious about getting it going stronger and better now this year. So many cutbacks and part-time work has not been able to sustain me.

I have been out of touch with the internet for a while but I know that it is probably my best bet on selling my custom homes and feeders. I live in AZ. Believe it or not I am getting great response by word of mouth. Now I just have to crank them out.

Rick's comment: Hi Helena - Cool thing you're doing. I wish you great success with your home based enterprise. What else can you make with the wood you have available or with Salt River or Colorado River driftwood?

Aug 11, 2014
by: Jake

I started making rustic birdhouses about a year ago, I retired after 35 yrs as a trucker, I made a few for my self out of old horse fence, some friends seen them in my yard and loved them, so I made 12 more and took them to a craft show and sold them all, I got between 20 and 55$ For them.

Rick's comment: Hi Jake - cool stuff. People love the rustic look of weathered wood. Glad you were able to get a good price for the birdhouses you made. $55 is excellent - are you going to make more?

What does it mean to get saved?

Jan 21, 2015
by: Interested Reader

I like making birdhouses so I was thinking I could make them out of driftwood from the beach. The wood is free and unique, plus you don't have to get nails out. All I use is a hot glue gun, driftwood and my imagination. Please tell me if you think this is a good idea or not, thank you.

Rick's comment: Making birdhouses from driftwood is a GREAT idea! I've read of people who collect driftwood along the Pacific Coast and use it to make birdhouses.

Artistic driftwood birdhouses should sell for more money - in the $30 to $59, sometimes up to $100+ each price range. In a place like Santa Cruz, CA. you can set up your birdhouses on the sidewalk on market days and sell them to the public. And remember, driftwood is good for making many things besides birdhouses.

15 DIY Driftwood Projects

25 Creative Ways To Use Driftwood

52 Ways To Use Driftwood In Home Decor

Unique Driftwood Birdhouses

Driftwood Birdhouses On eBay

Mar 16, 2015
bird house
by: victor

hi i have a small question any ideal how much a bird house made of pine wood it would sell for it i build 3 houses so far but i don't know how to price them thanks for your help. size 8x6x6 and 6x6x6

Rick's comment: Hi Victor - If you're wholesaling them, small plain birdhouses sell for $5 to $10 each. If you're selling them from your home, say, on Craigslist, they sell for between $10 and $15 each.

Larger birdhouses made of rustic wood sell for $52 to $75 each in a local indoor flea market mall in Pace, FL. Larger birdhouses means about 24" long x 18" tall x 8" deep, with a rustic wood roof or a rusty tin roof.

I enjoy making the larger rustic birdhouses because they're more fun and they sell for a lot more. You can dress them up by following the directions in my how to article.

Apr 29, 2016
Recycled Birdhouses
by: Rocksntwigs

I have been building birdhouses for about 10 years. I mainly sell at craft fairs, but do have a few site I sell on. I use found objects and rocks and twigs, hence the name.

ETSY and Amazon Handmade are great places to sell your handmade birdhouses if anyone is interested.

Rick's comment: Hi Rocksntwigs - I love the idea of using found objects to make each birdhouse unique. Etsy and Amazon Handmade are great places to sell beyond your local area. Thanks for the great ideas!

Oct 01, 2016
bird houses
by: Terry

Decorative, hand painted bird house's are good sellers at flea markets. I have been building well built and hand painted ones for some time. I use scrape wood that I find just about anywhere for free. I have some made of Long Leaf Pine from San Antonio Tx. The wood was milled about 1870 and cleaned up very nice. I have many for sale and will make just about any decor on a request.

Rick's comment: Hi Terry - Sounds like some really cool birdhouses, especially the ones made of antique long leaf pine.

Jan 11, 2018
by: Sue

Do you paint the birdhouse or feeders or leave them plain?

Rick's comment: Hi Sue - I've done both. It depends on the kind of wood I use. If it's old rustic wood, I normally leave it unpainted.

Apr 07, 2018
Backyard birds
by: Chris Moore

Love your info. I’ve been building birdhouses for about 15 years on the side. Something about being in your shop and making rustic or modern birdhouses out of scrap wood, branches, and vines is relaxing to me. Not to mention some dollars in your pocket. I’ve done flea markets, arts festivals , and many many word of mouth sales. I take a picture of each house I make in a good setting and place it in a portfolio binder. Funny I tell my wife when I see a brush pile or stacked pallets an opportunity for imagination, dollars, great conversations and a home for our feathered friends.

Rick's comment: Hi Chris - Yes, it is fun and relaxing to create a unique birdhouse. Blessings to you!

Oct 15, 2018
Need to sell some birdhouses
by: julie sale

hello, everybody, I am the birdhouse lady. I painted birdhouse and I sell them. these birdhouse's are hand painted with my own art and they have pinecone roof. I am looking for a way to sell them if I can find the right people that will buy them. I have fix up some catalog pages. that I might can send a copy to somebody.

Rick's comment: Hi Julie - I am so glad you are making cool birdhouses. I wish you the best with that fun adventure.

I recommend you place some ads and pictures of your birdhouses on your local Craigslist and also, take them to the flea market and any arts shows in your local area.

Because the internet is often, not a safe place, for your protection, I do not allow people to put their personal contact information on my website.

Dec 13, 2018
Handmade birdhouse
by: Gary Dennison

I made handmade birdhouse out of popsicle sticks and add window and steeple with a bell with it.

Rick's comment: Hi Gary - I like the creativity of that. Thanks for letting us know. A blessed Merry Christmas to you.

Jan 27, 2019
bird house
by: gopal datt

hi i am gopal we made wooden bird house and beautifully paint it by hand we are from india. now we want sell over birdhouses in global market can you help us to select a excellent market?

Rick's comment: Hi Gopal - It's great that you're making birdhouses. I'm glad to hear that.

I don't have any information about global markets. I sold my birdhouses in my local area. I wish you the best as you research global markets for your birdhouses.

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