Either by coincidence or design, our new line of locally handcrafted birdhouses arrived just in time for high school graduation season. While many of us are simply enjoying weekly doses of potato salad and barbeque at graduation parties, a select few are dealing with the existential crisis of becoming an “empty nester” parent.
I will not attempt to dissuade the upcoming class of empty nesters from engaging in awkwardly long hugs or forced family vacations a la Clark W. Griswald, but I can offer one solution to mitigate your grief.
Create a bird-friendly garden complete with a hand-crafted birdhouse.
Having birds around will benefit you and your backyard in several ways. For starters, birds eat insects such as aphids, mosquitoes and snails. They act as a natural pest control that can save your garden from harmful insecticides. Smaller birds, such as sparrows and finches, eat weed seeds, reducing the need to use chemicals in your garden and the pain of pulling weeds. Further, hummingbirds are great pollinators that can enhance the size and color of your blooms by spreading nectar from plant to plant. When is the last time your son or daughter pollinated your petunias?
There are also intellectual, psychological and economic benefits of being bird-friendly gardener. Creating a bird-friendly yard with native plants requires more time outdoors and what is more relaxing than fresh air, fragrant flowers and the satisfaction of a well-kept garden? As you spend more time watching your backyard birds, you will begin to notice migration patterns, plumage changes and courtship behaviors. You’ll also begin recognizing familiar faces and relishing the arrival of new ones.
As for mental health, a study by Daniel Cox at University of Exeter found a positive relationship between good mental health, plentiful birds and vegetation in neighborhoods. This relationship included reduced likelihood of depression, anxiety and stress.
In addition to reducing the need to buy insecticides and weed-killers, keeping a well-maintained, bird-friendly yard also benefits the resale value of your home. And let’s face it; with the kids gone it’s not uncommon for empty nesters to consider downsizing their homes.
Finally, there is the blatant symbolism of creating a place for your birds to fly home. And when your backyard birds come home, they won’t empty your fridge and dump three months-worth of laundry on the floor.
Tips for creating a bird-friendly yard:
- Provide food, water and shelter. Place birdhouses at least 20 feet from feeders and baths and high enough to keep them safe from predators.
- Clean your birdhouse once per year by removing the old nest and scrubbing the interior with a stiff brush and a mild bleach solution to kill mites and other parasites. (The roofs on our birdhouses are removable.)
- Landscape with native, environmentally conscious plants that require less water and are more disease resistant. Use diverse, layered vegetation (plants and trees that grow to different heights) to provide shelter for a variety of bird species.