How to Build a Field Shelter

Updated February 21, 2017

Field shelters can be a way to support habitat for certain bird species as well as a lovely addition for any birdwatcher. Whether you are building a field shelter for your backyard, a nearby field or marsh it's heartwarming to see your shelter inhabited by friends of flight. The following will lead you through building a simple but effective field shelter.

First use your tape measure and mark with a pencil 4, 6-inch sections and 2, 7-inch sections. You should have 6 marks on the board. Use the handsaw to carefully cut the board at these marks. This will give you the pieces for the front, back, top, bottom and sides of the field house. There should be a small piece of approximately 4 by 8 inches left over which can be used for an optional ledge later.

The front is a 6-by-8-inch piece that you will need to cut an entryhole in. Mark in pencil the outline of a 2 inch diameter circle in the centre of the panel. If you are unable to cut a circle with a small handsaw then a 2-by-2-inch square hole will also work. Take another 6-by-8-inch panel and cut 3 inches off one side so that it is now 5 by 6 inches. This will be the back of the field house.

The top of the field house is just a plain 6-by-8-inch panel, no cutting is needed. The bottom is also a regular 6-by-8-panel. These are the easy ones.

The sides of the field house will fit to the bottom at right angles but the roof will be at a slant, the back wall of the field house is only 5 inches and the front is 8 inches tall. Mark each 7-by-8-inch board on one of the 8 inch sides at 5 inches and draw a line from there to the top corner. Cut along these lines.

Now that you have all of your main sides cut it is time to assemble. Line the bottom edge of the back panel with a bit of glue and then hammer one nail at each corner and one in the centre. Hammer the nails in from the bottom panel up into the 5-by-6-inch panel so the nails are less visible. Do the same with the front panel.

Take the 7-inch side pieces and use the same glue and nail technique, making sure the angles are sloping up toward the front of the field house. These should fit exactly in between the front and back panels since the platform is 8 inches long and the front and back are each a ½ inch thick. When placing the sides, also smear a small amount of glue on ends where they will connect to the front and back panels. Hammer nails in from the front and back panels to join all the walls together.

Nail the roof on last. There may be tiny gaps because the front and back panels were not cut at the same angle as the side panels were. It lets in a bit of air and this is OK for the birds, but if it bothers you either sand the front and back to accommodate the exact angle or saw them with a band saw. Lastly, secure the pole if you are placing it out in a field or marsh. This can be done with a coating of stronger wood-binding glue to the bottom centre of the house.


If you have access to a drill press, use a 1/2-inch drill and make a hole in the front panel of the field house an inch below the entry. Glue in a 2 inch long, 1/2-inch diameter dowel for the birds to perch on just outside the entry into their new home. Also, adding bark to the front gives the field shelter a more natural and inviting look.


Always use caution when using a handsaw, hammer or drill.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood, such as pine, at least 3 1/2 board feet of 1/2
  • inch thick by 8 inch wide
  • Tape measure
  • Handsaw
  • Non-toxic glue
  • Hammer
  • Nails, about 25, 3/4 inch in length
  • Pole, 5 to 6 foot, at least 2 inches in diameter
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