My kids LOVE animals, and we try to encourage that love in any way that we can. We’ve got multiple aquariums, multiple dogs, multiple cats… you get the point. Our neighborhood has a ton of trees, so we also have a lot of birds, squirrels, and BATS! We can walk around a night and just see them buzzing overhead, it’s pretty awesome.
My oldest son (5) and I have been talking about building a bat box for quite a while. Brown bats are on the decline, and bat boxes or bat houses are a great way to give them a habitat. Why encourage bats to live near us?
- It’ll make my kids happy.
- They eat mosquitoes.
- Did I mention that they eat mosquitoes?
- It’ll make my kids happy.
Seriously though, they’re a very helpful animal, but I’ll let you research the “why” on your own. I’m going to go over the “how”. As always, I looked around and found lots and lots of examples of bat houses, lots of plans, lots of kits. As usual, I ended up making my own amalgamation of what I found. The final design stemmed from a single factor, the cost of cedar. You’re not supposed to use pressure treated wood (the bats won’t go near it) and cedar is the most weather resistant wood I can get locally. It’s also very expensive. I ended up getting a 8′ 1″ x 12″ for $33, but the plan I came up with used only that one board (with a little usable scrap). I didn’t really draw plans for this one, just a whiteboard sketch.
I went with a 2 chambered box (for no particular reason). I started by cutting the pieces down to the right height, with the “back” piece being 4 inches longer, to allow for the necessary “landing area”. Then I cut some simple side panels, and a roof piece. The roof piece was wide enough to account for the 3 vertical panels plus 1 inch per chamber, and an inch overhang on the front.
Next came the only time consuming part of the whole process. You’re supposed to make the inside (and landing area) surfaces very easy for the bats to climb and hang on. I went with the method of cutting grooves to make a ladder, in effect. I simply put the table saw blade up to about 1/8″ in height, and ran the wood over it again and again, creating lots of little “steps”. I did this on both sides of the inner panel, and 1 side of both of the outside panels.
After that, I wanted to add an angle to the top of each piece, so that the roof would have a slant. I stacked the pieces, angles the blade, and ran them all through. Looking back, I’m not sure why I did them all at the same time.. it made no difference, but I guess efficiency won. I then transfered the angle to the side panels, so they would match the roof as well. They were cut with the miter saw.
One common thing I saw in other plans, was a vent on the front of the box. I never found any specifics on placement, but I did read that it shouldn’t be over 1/2, so I just cut a section off of the front panel, and created a 1/2 gap during the construction phase.
Speaking of the construction phase, this was by far my favorite part, because my oldest son was going to help me build it! He was the one who kept asking for the bat box, he’s the most interested in animals, and well, he’s the oldest, so he got to help. We’d been talking about building this thing for a LONG time, and when the day finally came, he’d been sick for several days. I almost put it off, but once he came outside to help, I could swear that he felt 1000% better 🙂
I explained some safety to him, and how the nail gun worked. I kind of explained what NOT to do with it (didn’t want to implant interesting ideas though) and away we went. This was really awesome for me, as he took right to it, he was comfortable with the gun, and he was just having a really good time. Definitely worth a $33 piece of cedar, even if it ended up in the trash.
Anyway, I held the pieces in place and helped him place the gun. He shot every nail except the first one 🙂
Back on my own, I realized that I hadn’t accounted for how the vent that I created would impact the overall height of the front panel. The opening at the base of the box was kind of ugly, so I cut some angled pieces to pretty it up and nailed them on. Next time, I’ll build that angle into the side panels.
I decided that the project needed something, so I went to google to find a Bat symbol. You can judge how big of a nerd I am, by how long it took me to decide between the old school bat symbol or the one from the Christopher Nolan movies (but I won’t tell you how long that took me). I ended up with the newer symbol mainly because it had less curves. I printed it out, placed it on the box and firmly outlines it with a pencil. Cedar is pretty soft, so it left a nice visible outline when the paper was removed.
I took a utility blade and retraced the outline to stop any tearing of the wood outside of the shape that I wanted, then I spent some time with a chisel digging out the symbol about 1/8″ down. I didn’t want to go too deep, just enough to make it visible. [Now that it’s hung up on the house, I can just barely see the symbol.. I probably should have smudged some watered down paint into it before mounting it.]
The bat box was almost finished, I just needed a way to mount it to the side of the house. I cut two pieces that was about 2 1/2 inches wider than the bat box, and screwed them in from the back. This created 2 “tabs” on each side of the box, perfect for screwing it to the house. Your mounting method may change depending on where you plan to put it. There are some things that you need to keep in mind when mounting it, though, like height, proximity to water source, etc. Do some research and you’ll find lots more 🙂
This was a simple, fast build that kids will enjoy and can very safely be apart of. Hopefully my bat population will rise and my mosquito population will fall.
Have you seen another bat house you like? Got ideas of suggestions to make this one better? Let me know in the comments!
UPDATE!!! A redditor pointed out that I should have had my son wear safety glasses, even if only to start a good habit. He makes an excellent point!!
I feel like a bad dad now, but at least I learned, and next time.. safety first. That’s one of the great things about posting stuff like this.. honest, helpful feedback from a complete stranger 🙂 Thanks guy!