Introduction: Lighthouse Dovecote

We have talked about getting pigeons or doves for some time but haven't looked seriously as we didn't have anywhere to put them. One Saturday morning we saw free pigeons listed on Facebook marketplace and decided to get a few. Now we needed a dovecote. A dovecote is a structure that provides shelter for pigeons or doves. This could be either free-standing or part of a larger structure (on top of a barn for instance). In my head, this was a square box with a couple of holes on top of a pole.

A quick google search show many simple designs that would only take a short time to knock up. What I shouldn't have done was involve my kids in the discussion... They decided that we should have something that reminded us of our time living in Canada, perhaps a lighthouse, WAIT! Peggy's Cove lighthouse!! By this time, pickup for the pigeons had been arranged and the race was on!

This instructable isn't designed to give you a cut list and exact instructions on how to replicate my project. Rather it takes you through the process and provides guidance where I experienced difficulties.

Step 1: Design

The first decision when basing a project on a real life object is the level of realism that you want to achieve. This ranges from using build drawings to construct to scale through to capturing the main design features and onto getting the rough concept of it.

My aim was for a recognisable structure that people would identify as the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove rather than a scale model. Looking at photos, the key design aspects that needed to be taken into account were:

  • eight sides,
  • the red lantern room,
  • a small balcony,
  • two sets of three windows on the opposite sides, and
  • a small building attached to the side.

Now that you have identified the key design aspects, decide if these could be used to your advantage. For example, three of the windows can be used as entrances for the pigeons. A solar panel can be fitted in one of the opposite windows to power the light (it is a lighthouse after all...). Originally I was going to use the lantern room for seed but this would have been too high to refill, hence I left one wall of the attached building and that is used as a feeder.

Step 2: Core Structure

A core structure was used to provide strength. We live in a high wind location and by building an internal frame, relatively lightweight external panels could be used without compromising structural integrity.

Determining the correct height and width proved challenging. The actual lighthouse is quite tall with a slight taper. If I tried to replicate this the dovecote would have been either very tall or very narrow. As this wasn't a scale model, I could compromise and use proportions that gave space to the pigeons but still represented the tapered sides of the original.

Two octagons were cut for the top and the bottom along with eight corner posts. These posts were ripped with an angle to ensure the external panels mounted squarely. These were glued and screwed to the top and bottom panels.

An internal level was created at each of the window levels to provide three separate nesting areas. An offcut was used to mark the checkouts. These could have been avoided by fitting the floor inside the corner posts but this is not ideal as it creates a space for eggs to roll through, creates drafts and by checking out, additional strength is gained.

Step 3: Side Panels

Plywood panels were cut and screwed onto each side. The edges are angled to ensure each side butted up against the other. I didn't get this quite right and some filler was used to assist getting a good finish.

Three window/pigeon door holes were cut before fitting the panel. The picture makes it look like the windows are different sizes, they aren't. A landing pad was attached under each window with large screws from the inside and glue. Birds are generally light but I wasn't sure about the stress of repetitive landings so probably overdid the screw that I used!

The screw holes on six sides were filled in but two sides were left exposed so the sides can be removed to clean out the interior. I wasn't sure if this was required but it was easier to allow for it now rather than digging out filler later.

This is also the point that I made my biggest mistake. I used material that I had to hand and the side panels were made from plywood seconds. One side is starting to delaminate after only a few weeks outside. Reusing what you have on hand is a fantastic idea, but make sure that it is suitable for the job that you are doing otherwise you will end up doing it twice.

Step 4: Key Design Elements

Once the core was finished it was time to add the smaller, but key, design elements.

The lantern room was made by cutting eight identical panels with 45deg edges then gluing and nailing them together. The roof was trial and error and about five different panels were cut before I was happy with the angle. These were also glued and nailed together. Once the glue had dried, a hole was drilled to fit the roof vent (a piece of dowel with the end bevelled).

Short lengths of dowel were also fitted around the edge of the balcony but drilling holes and gluing them in. A length of tap chain was strung between the dowels as a handrail.

The side room was constructed without one wall so as it could be used as the feeder. A low side was added to stop seed from falling out. Once completed it was bolted to the side of the lighthouse.

Step 5: Lighting

It can't be a lighthouse without a light!

I found a cheap gutter light in a supermarket some time back and thought it would be good for "some" project. It has a solar panel on one side and LEDs on the other. If you are a maker, you need to start collecting items that you see on sale or are very cheap as you will use them at some stage. My wife calls this hording but I think of it as my future project store...

The LEDs were removed from the housing and the connecting wires extended to allow the solar panel to be remote from the LEDs.

Since the LEDs had been removed from the housing, they were no longer waterproof. Masking tape was attached to the LED strip and silicon applied. When almost dry, remove the masking tape.

The solar panel was fitted in the location of the top window and the cables routed internally up to the lantern room. The other two windows were then painted on. These were the same size as the solar panel. While this was different to the door, as you don't see them at the same time, you don't notice the difference.

The LEDs were secured in the lighthouse and the final connections soldered.

Step 6: Mounting

My aim was to get the dovecote as high as possible whilst still being able to access the nesting areas with a ladder. The height was also set by the length of the 6x6 post that I already had in the shed!

The post was set in a concrete foundation. Supports were used to keep it plumb while the concrete set.

A base was added to the top of the post. This consisted of supporting elements and a circular piece of plywood that was cut using a router pivoted by a piece of wood.

The round base was used to allow the orientation of the dovecote to be set once in place. I knew that I wanted the openings away from the prevailing wind but it was good to be able to adjust this. Once the dovecote was lifted into place, bolts were used to secure it.

Step 7: Introducing the Pigeons

Introducing the pigeons to their new home was a little nerve wracking. If you don't time it right, the pigeons will return to where they started (there has to be a business model in that...).

Google research suggested that you should lock them in for four weeks, that you should lock them in for six weeks, that you should lock them in until they make a nest, that you should lock them in until eggs have hatched, etc. We decided to go with five weeks based on no scientific method, just that we didn't want to keep them in a small space for too long but also didn't want to lose them.

To maximise the space available while locked in, we left the lighthouse on a table next to the pole and attached the cage to the front of one level. This didn't given them a lot of room but it did provide perches as well as an easy way to provide food and water.

At the end of five weeks we locked the pigeons in the cage and mounted the lighthouse to the pole. We did this early evening so that we could lock the pigeons in overnight. With great trepedation the wire was removed in the morning. The five pigeons came out, circled the area briefly and then proceeded in a straight line back towards their previous location!! Disaster!

HOWEVER, two days later, three returned and have remained at their new home.

Step 8: Conclusion

This was a fun project to complete, made more so by the involvement of the whole family, from the initial design to digging the hole for the post to placing wagers on if the pigeons were going to stay, and if they might return.

In total, it took about two days to complete. This is longer than a square box dovecote but I was rewarded with friends from Halifax identifying what it was based on without prompting!

In summary:

  • When building based on a real object, determine the level of realism that you want and stick to it.
  • Identify the key design elements of an object and incorporate them into your project.
  • Use materials that you have on hand (reduce, reuse, recycle) but ensure that they are suitable for the task on hand.
  • Involve your family in projects, everybody gets to learn and have fun!
  • Three out of five pigeons ain't bad.
For the Yard

Second Prize in the
For the Yard