The Earth-Sheltered Birdhouse Design

Build a better birdhouse with these plans for an earth-covered design more in keeping with bird shelters in nature.

| May/June 1990

The classic, six-paneled birdhouse design is all wrong. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising—after all, when it comes to houses for humans, styles vary from year to year, from region to region and fad to fad. We're not at all sure what the most appropriate shelter for homo sapiens should be, and our architecture expresses this uncertainty. It's not difficult to find houses that have nothing to do with the region in which they stand. Cape Cod cottages can be found in the Arizona desert, and ranch houses are popular in Maine. Anything goes.

Adding to our confusion is the wide range of building materials now available. No longer must we fell and saw into boards the trees from which our houses will be built. We order windows from Minnesota, plasterboard from Pennsylvania, lumber from Oregon, tiles from Mexico, vinyl from Kentucky, lamps from Korea, towel bars from Illinois and cabinets from Canada. The result: houses with all the charm of a building materials showroom.

Being no longer wild creatures, no longer partial to caves or tree huts, we sail rudderless on the seas of architecture. That's why we respond so positively to the discovery of birds' nests or animal dens.

They seem, without exception, so right, so much a part of their environment, that we can imagine no changes that would make them more so. They have an inevitability of design that makes us wish our own shelters could be as appropriate.

But it is not to be; we lost, somewhere along the way, the capacity to design by instinct perfect, natural houses. All we can do now is hire architects and hope for the best.

Maybe it serves us right. Maybe it's the price we have to pay for the convenience of indoor plumbing and automatic heating systems. Unnatural conveniences breed unnatural surroundings. The only sad part is that we then try to impose this artificiality upon other creatures.

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