The birds have a friend in Dominick Esposito. The retired sheet metal worker is doing his darnest to make sure every bird in the Cape Region has a decent place to live.
Esposito made a birdhouse on a lark three years ago, and hasn’t stop making them since – he’s literally gone to the birds.
He’s so efficient at making the wooden houses, he can construct one in less than an hour.
It’s not unusual for Esposito to get up with the birds and be out working in his shop by 5 a.m. The friendly Esposito is known as The Birdhouse Man to his customers and friends.
Birdhouse Man is in the process of completely covering the pole barn that serves as his shop with birdhouse; he has more than 200 in place now. He said he would fill the west side of the barn by this spring – all 1,600 square feet of it. Passersby watch in anticipation as he adds to the collection at his Route 9 home near the Moose Family Lodge between Lewes and Harbeson.
And with the numerous birdhouses come his feathered friends. Hundreds upon hundreds of birds of all description call the Esposito residence home. They find refuge in the houses on his barn as well as perch on his house, deck, and fences – anything that doesn’t move, in a scene reminiscent of the Hitchcock classic “The Birds.”
The irony is that Esposito’s wife, Donna, has nightmares about the movie.
Esposito moved to the Lewes area about five years ago after retiring because of a disability from Boeing where he worked for 16 years as a sheet metal worker. He and his wife were able to sell their home in Ridley Park, Pa., in just one week, and within five months of making a decision to move, they were living in Sussex East near his parents. They moved to the home on Route 9 just down the road two years later.
“I’ve always loved animals,” Esposito said. “But I never anticipated doing this. It’s all a fluke how it happened. It started as a joke.”
He said he had some scrap wood, was killing time one day and decided it would be nice to build a birdhouse. He then built five more, and people started to stop by.
Esposito has always been good with his hands and can fix or build just about anything. “If you tell me I can’t do that, I’ll spend the rest of my life figuring it out,” he said.
At first, his wife was not thrilled that he was making birdhouses. The more birdhouses her husband put up on the barn, the more people started to stop by. Some came to buy, but others came to take photographs. “I had to apologize to him,” she said.
“I really enjoy it when people tell me how nice everything looks,” Esposito said. “I don’t charge a lot because I don’t have much overhead so it’s a win-win.”
His houses, which come in all shapes and sizes, sell for $5 to $125. He sells simple one-hole houses and makes custom villages with several levels of houses and perches. His wife is one of his most ardent fans and a super saleswoman. The couple, who have been married 23 years, has two sons, Mike, 23, and Craig, 19, who live in the Lewes area.
Esposito also makes bird baths, butterfly houses, mailboxes, shoe holders, garden hose holders, flower boxes and just about anything else made of wood. Besides selling his birdhouses from his home off Route 9, he also has houses for sale at Betty’s Backyard shop at Lavender Fields Farm along Cool Spring Road.
He takes orders based on the houses he has displayed on his barn, and usually has the new house finished the next day. He also offers advice, based on his own experience, how to care for the house and the birds that will take up residence. “You really don’t have to do much cleaning out of a house because the birds take care of it,” he said.
Esposito likes a challenge, so he is trying to figure out a way to build a house with an octagonal roof. Although he hasn’t been able to master it yet, he says he eventually will. It’s those challenges that keep the Birdhouse Man going.