He’s strictly for the birds

By on July 28, 2021

Kenny Jones (Photo credit: Shauneen Miranda)
Kenny Jones's birdhouses (Photo credit: Shauneen Miranda)
Kenny Jones and Barbara Wiggs (Photo credit: Shauneen Miranda)
Kenny Jones's birdhouses (Photo credit: Shauneen Miranda)
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Kitty Hawk’s Kenny Jones is a master birdhouse builder

By Shauneen Miranda | Outer Banks Voice

Walking around barefoot outside of his Kitty Hawk home, Kenny Jones makes his way through his garage-turned-studio full of colorful, wooden birdhouses made from recycled materials.

The 64-year-old retired car mechanic, originally from Norfolk, sought a job working at Lowe’s, but, when that plan fell through about a decade ago, Jones looked into building something he had seen at a plant shop in Maryland –– rustic birdhouses made with metal roofs.

“I made about ten birdhouses, and I went over to the Manteo market, and one morning, I sold all ten and I said, ‘Wow.’” Over a decade later, Jones managed to turn his fun hobby into a nearly full-time job.

“I’m working kind of harder than I have ever worked,” said Jones, who clocks in close to a 40-hour week and sells approximately 350 birdhouses per year. He sells his custom birdhouses, which he dubbed as “Bird Shacks,” at seasonal shows and events across the Outer Banks —including the Avon Farmers’ Market and Manteo’s Downtown Market.

Although Jones can make a birdhouse within 25 minutes, finding the necessary recycled materials entails a much longer, more difficult process.

Driving up to Maryland to collect metal, searching local shores for washed-up wood and even going dumpster diving during his bike rides, Jones has dedicated much of his time to repurposing materials to use for birdhouses.

“I’ve been chased out of barns [and] properties with people with shotguns just asking me what I’m doing on the property, and I said, ‘I’m trying to find the owner.’ And next thing you know, we have become friends for years,” Jones said.

But Jones’s work is not a one-person job. With help from his longtime partner, Barbara Wiggs, the couple works together to collect and cut recycled materials  “He’ll be taking down a barn, and he’s throwing the metal overboard, and I’m sitting there cutting up pieces or putting them in the truck,” said Wiggs, who also handles the birdhouse sales.

Jones usually has about 100 birdhouses in stock, but he struggles to keep up with the high number of sales, much of which he attributes to the coronavirus pandemic. “People are buying left and right,” Jones said. “The markets are crazy.”

With an influx of visitors arriving to the Outer Banks in the summer, about three quarters of Jones’s sales come from tourists.

“If you take the tourists away, the place slows down,” Jones said. “I could not do this in other areas.”

Jones refuses to put his birdhouses up for sale in any other place besides Manteo’s White Doe Inn. He expressed his satisfaction with the size and scope of his business –– one that does not engage in any social media or online promotions.

“I have people call me that I met two, three years ago [who] bought a birdhouse,” Jones said. “They live in Kentucky, even Canada. They call me up and say, ‘We’re coming to the Outer Banks next week. We want to get a hold of you and buy a birdhouse.’”

And having a social media-free business model means that apart from markets or shows, customers can only find Jones through word-of-mouth and can get in contact with him via telephone.

“He doesn’t want to lose the thrill,” Wiggs added.

 

 

 




Comments

  • C A

    His birdhouses are really cool! Nice work, and congratulations to him, and his wife. You’re always happier when doing your own thing. He made the right choice. Satisfaction assured.

    Wishing them well, the non internet marketing is surely providing real peace. So cool.

    Wednesday, Jul 28 @ 4:15 pm
  • Laura Magnusen

    Great article! We have several of Kenny’s birdhouses and they are adorable AND the birds love them. They are a home for birds in many seasons. It’s great that the materials are collected and recycled from all areas around the Outer Banks.

    Wednesday, Jul 28 @ 4:43 pm
  • tim

    I live next door – Kenny is the energizer bunny of bird houses! He never stops.

    Wednesday, Jul 28 @ 4:50 pm
  • charlie

    Oh…and he and Barbara are just flat out nice people….

    Wednesday, Jul 28 @ 4:55 pm
  • Frank Moore

    Hey Kenny these look really great, I am proud to say I knew you when you were were just eating birds, not building really wonderful houses for them. Keep up the great work, bro

    Wednesday, Jul 28 @ 9:04 pm
  • Dan Rysinski

    This looks like the gentleman I see working in his garage while I’m walking my dogs at 6am thru the neighborhood behind stack um high.Always wants to come out and meet my dogs and remembers us every year,great guy

    Thursday, Jul 29 @ 11:01 am
  • Dan

    See him working in his shop when I walk by with my dogs for years now.Always comes out to talk and greet,never knew but saw a packed work area,,great friendly guy.Now I’ll bug him for 1!

    Thursday, Jul 29 @ 11:32 am
  • Nick Land

    Glad to see this. Nice work.

    Sunday, Aug 1 @ 6:15 pm
  • Carol C

    Darn it, I left OBX yesterday. Crafters’ hand-made birdhouses are the best! Kenny and Barbara, you rock!

    Monday, Aug 16 @ 8:07 am