DIY: Mini-House for Live Birds

DIY: Mini-House for Live Birds

Dubbed the "mini-house," it's a great way to be sure you have birds in your training areas, and it will work with either bobwhite quail or chukars.

It's really nothing more than a scaled down version of the larger, more elaborate "johnny-house" used by trainers for years, and I feel it is a great project for folks with limited area or only a few dogs to work.

The top door (at left) releases the birds after they have become acclimated. The middle larger door is for feeding and cleaning. When you first begin releasing, you should keep one or two captive "call birds" as incentive for the others to return. The recall funnel is on the back side near ground level.

For that matter if you do have a large private area or club grounds, you can build several and space them out. Being smaller and less conspicuous than the johnny-house is an advantage, and the mini is durable, cheap to build, easy to clean, handle and move around.

The first mini-house I remember seeing years ago was one a professional bird dog trainer friend had set up on his summer training grounds.

Material List: 

1 Clean 55-gallon plastic drum.

3 small hasp and staple sets.

4 2-inch hinges

4 square feet of 1/2-inch mesh screen (hardware cloth).

1 piece of 5/8-inch plywood, 24x10

Roll of light wire for lacing.

Machine screws and nuts and washers or pop rivets for mounting the hasp and hinge assemblies.


  • Electric Drill
  • Heavy-duty marking pen
  • Square
  • Measuring tape
  • Saber saw or keyhole
  • Pliers
  • Tin snips


In the finished product our barrel is actually upside down and will house 12-15 birds. The bottom becomes the roof, so no rain or snow leaks in. 

Step 1: Cut the top end out of the barrel, leaving about a 2 inch lip all the way around to support for our hardware cloth floor.

Step 2: Measure and mark all openings with the marking pen.

  • Release door, 7''x10". Stay down 2-1/2 inches from the top. Location,

    top front center.

  • Two windows 7"x10", one on each side and in line with the release door. Leave 3 inches of material between the door edge and window opening so you have room to mount the door hinge and hasp assemblies.
  • Bottom access door, 10"x12" opening. Be certain to stay up 1-inch from the bottom. This opening is cut at the rear of the mini-house.
  • Recall funnel door, a 5"x5" opening again leaving a 1-inch lip up from the bottom. This door goes on the front, bottom side of the mini-house.

Step 3: Next, drill starter holes then saw the openings, starting with the top  windows. A suggestion when cutting the doors: If you make the vertical cuts and attach the door hinges and hasps before cutting the door free across top and bottom, it's easier.

Top release door and the recall door only have one hinge centered on the left side while the large rear access door gets two equally spaced.

A close-up view of the loafing ring, intended to give birds a resting place with sunlight and a view of the surrounding area, as well as access to the release door.

Step 4: Cut the plywood resting platform. Use the outside radius of the barrel to mark the first cut then swing another radius resulting in a 6-inch wide shelf for the birds to sit on, around the front inside half of the mini-house just below the front window and release door area. Next, secure the resting shelf to the barrel with wood screws through the wall from the outside.

Step 5: Cut and shape the call-back funnel from 1/2-inch hardware cloth, leaving a half-inch flange to lace through on the 5"x5" open end. The funnel should slope in and upward, tapering from the 5x5-inch square opening to a 3-inch diameter or less round hole at the top, just big enough for the returning quail to slip through. For chukars add a couple inches to the top end diameter.

Step 6: Cut the two window covers from the 1/2-inch hardware cloth; making them 1/2-inch larger than the window openings.

Wire with 1/2-inch the hardware cloth. Wire with 1/2-inch mesh is large enough to allow droppings and spilled feed to fall to the ground.

Step 7: Drill 1⁄8-inch holes around the window and call-back funnel openings and lace the hardware cloth firmly to the barrel. Recall door should be in place before funnel is laced in.

Step 8: Using the barrel's inside diameter as a guide, cut the hardware cloth in a circle to form the bottom floor, then drill 1⁄8-inch holes around the 2-inch bottom lip, then put the hardware cloth inside on top of the lip and lacing it down tight to the barrel.

Step 9: If you want use decoy paint or netting to match the cover in your training area or to hide the mini from people, you can do so, but I don't think the birds care.

Step 10: Feeders and waterers can be as simple or elaborate as you wish, but have to be provided in some way. Farm supply stores usually carry these.

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