My next-door neighbour in England does this bird box making business, he could have given up his full time job as warehouseman, but he chose to keep it as his hobby as he said he'd lose the enjoyment factor. He made around five or six a week but could have quite easily knocked up 100 a week if he wanted.
Where did he sell them? Many garden centres in the area wanted them, he didn't advertise it was just word of mouth. Many friends of friend know of him and he would often get visitors turning up at his house to buy on just from recommendation.
So if you are a little useful with your hands and a little knowledge on how to use a saw, a hammer and nails you are half way there.
Most bird boxes are made from wood, this give good insulation, quite adaptable and attractive. There are other made from plastic, cement, sawdust and wood shaving compounds but these really aren't suitable for homemade versions. Stick to wood and you won't go wrong, they sell much better as well.
All you need is a garage or workspace and wood collected from woods or bought is you haven't access to wooded areas. You can legally pick up dead wood that is the best to use as it is already dried out. But fro this you will have to design your own boxes as the wood will not be uniform, each unit will be different.
I have found various sites that give good instructions on how to put together designer bird boxes. These can be made quite easily and presented to your market a few days later.
http://www.beautifulbritain.co.uk - Make your own sparrow bird box
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature - Make your own Tit Bird Box
http://www.beautifulbritain.co.uk - Another Make your own Tit Bird Box
http://www.londons-swifts.org.uk - Make your own Swift Box
A little guide on bird and their requirements is needed so I given you a layman's guide to certain species.
- Most bird nests are simply a box with a hole in the front. This should be a different size depending on the type of bird you're trying to attract.
- The smaller species of the Tit family, which include Blue tits, coal tits and marsh tits, you can make a box with a small hole, approximately 25mm across.
- Bigger birds such as the Great tit, nuthatches, house sparrows and tree sparrows: put up a box with a slightly bigger hole, approximately 32mm across.
- Robins, wrens and pied wagtails prefer open-fronted boxes but these can be vulnerable to attack by cats so make sure you advise your customers to put install them somewhere safe.
- Tree creepers need specially designed boxes to copy their natural nesting sites behind loose bark. The boxes need to be a narrow, tapered shape with a small hole at the top of one side.
- Starlings’ nest boxes need to be long with a hole near the roof. Again advise customers to place them high on walls, as starlings will have a tendency nest in roofs or in the walls of old buildings.
- Sparrows nest close to each other in communal boxes, sometimes called terraces. These boxes need to have three compartments with a hole just under the lid at each side and in the centre. They may also like the starlings will nest naturally in the roofs of your house.
A magazine called 'Gardening Which?' can be bought. It give instructions for making boxes suitable for the following birds: blue tit, coal tit, great tit, house sparrow, nuthatch, pied flycatcher, robin, spotted flycatcher and wrens. Well worth a couple of quid if you want a good guide and implicit instructions.
The marketing is again always the secret in any business like this. Make yourself known in shop window adverts, local papers and of course on the internet, perhaps offering mail order sales if you present pictures of your products. There are many doing this online right now. Car boot sales are a great place to display your goods along and don't forget eBay!
By far the best place to market are your local garden centres and pet shops, they can't get enough of them in the summer. Winter is the best time to approach them with your products but make sure you can honour any orders that come your way.
My former neighbour in England is still making them, he only used to charge a ‘tenner’ (£10) for a standard box on a pole with the cost of materials around £3. Not bad in terms of profit made, it actually paid half of his mortgage each month!
The whole beauty is it is a green activity, it helps the environment with more birds nesting and even more green if you collect your own dead wood for the products.