The Swift House
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In the early Spring of 2003 I found out that chimney swifts were quite happy with wooden chimneys, that it was the fires that required bricks. I promptly set out to build them one. After studying the plans at I went to Lowes to get materials. I loaded my cart with four bags of concrete, three sheets of half-inch treated plywood, eight sixteen-foot treated 2x4s, a roll of aluminum flashing, and assorted 1x4s for trim. Then I asked the store guy to help cut three 4x8 sheets of 3/8ths T1-11 into 21 inch pieces, in the four foot direction.
The guy says, "Sure. What you building?"
I says, "A birdhouse."
Here's what it looks like, finished:
done1.JPG (133800 bytes)
This series shows the construction process.
This is the first side panel.
1st_panel.JPG (40067 bytes)
Here the panels are stacking up next to Mr. Haney and                                                                                                                                                                     the equipment trailer.
equip.JPG (56642 bytes)
The first three sides held square by a piece of plywood at the top, the eventual roof.
3_sides1.JPG (43432 bytes)
With four sides and the start of the sheathing, it is becoming recognizable. There's an air space between the half-inch plywood exterior
wall and the T1-11 interior wall. The idea is to let air flow up from the bottom and out the round holes you can see in the next picture.
4_sides.JPG (48465 bytes)
The flashing is to keep raccoons and rat snakes out.                                                                                                                                                                    The inner chamber is totally snake-proof.
snoke_proof.JPG (47701 bytes)
I bolted a 2x6 to the side of the boat shed to help hold against the wind.
Brace.JPG (65376 bytes)
Lining the chimney up with the foundation hole.
positioning.JPG (64112 bytes)
The first lift is from the top.
Then set it down on the sawhorses to get another grip.
sawhorse1.JPG (51721 bytes)
A beam across the top of the bucket, and lots of ropes.
2nd_rig2.JPG (61778 bytes)
If Pharaoh had had a Phord, he wouldn't have needed all those slaves to raise his obelisks.
2nd_lift2.JPG (62377 bytes)
In position.
upright3.JPG (52768 bytes)
Just needs straightening up and
leaner2.JPG (54760 bytes)
It's ready for the foundation.
solid_base.JPG (48489 bytes)
And this will be the baby swifts' first view of the sky. After this picture was taken the bottom of the chimney was closed with a piece of plywood,
tight around the edges, with about twenty one-quarter inch holes drilled through it for ventilation.
1st_look.JPG (14686 bytes)
The Results
I knew it was too late in 2003 for the swifts to find the tower in time for nesting season, but when they also failed to show up
in 2004 and 2005 I started to think I had done something wrong. I knew they were around, because I regularly
see them flitting about and I've seen them flying into the broken off tops of ancient trees down in the swamp.
Finally in 2006 they decided to move in.
They started one nest, then built another and made babies. I don't know how many; I didn't want to disturb them.
For the summer I even avoided driving the tractor up to add to the compost pile.
Once nesting season was well and over I opened the bottom of the tower and took a few pictures of the nests,
trying not to annoy the paper wasps in the process. It's hard to compose a shot holding the camera up over your head.
The unfinished nest.
unfinished_nest1.JPG (40886 bytes)
The nest they used. They smeared their glue all over the sticks and the wall, even made the circle of glue above the nest.  The people at
Driftwood Wildlife Association say that the circle above the nest is just where they wipe the excess glue off their beaks.
swiftnest3sml.jpg (34697 bytes)
  Even the sticks they dropped stuck to the wall.
swiftnest2sml.jpg (35204 bytes)
An update, January 2009. Three summers now the swifts have nested and each summer at least several young successfully got out the top of the tower. So far we haven't been able to tell how many but a Swift Cam is in our future.