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How and with what would fairies build their houses? They need them because of the ridiculous number and variety of predators targeting them and the unforgiving weather. However, I don’t know with what they would build them, and how anything that they build would hold up. Their houses need to have roofs and possibly doors. There is very little magic in my world, and the weak magic that fairies have access to couldn’t help them.

I have multiple different strains of fairies (one lives in a desert, one in a forest, one underground in caves, and one underwater), however the only strains I’m worried about are desert and forest. Desert fairies are (on average) 2 1/2 inches tall and forest fairies are (on average) 4 inches tall.

My fairies have very poor memory, but other than that, their intelligence is very close to a human’s. Their tech level is very primitive except for a few that live in human towns and cities. They’re omnivorous and their predators are basically anything that’ll eat mice and/or bugs. They are very weak and have the endurance of a hummingbird. They are also diurnal. They can fly, however not for very long, but they can fly pretty high. They can also hover.

I should probably also mention the weather... the climate is very cold, so their nests/houses need insulation, and lots of it. It also rains often, and it’s pretty windy, too.

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  • $\begingroup$ What size, mass, strength, endurance, intelligence, tech-level, are your fairies? Do they live in a forest, city, jungle, desert? What do they eat? What are their natural predators? Are intelligent beings also in the area? Please realize that you need to ask specific questions. Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum and per our help center, "Questions must be specific as well as answerable. If you are looking for discussion, brainstorming, or an overall process rather than specific questions and answers, the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange might not be a good place for your question." $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 2 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ That’s difficult to answer... I have multiple strains of fairies. One strain lives in a desert, one in a forest, one underground (in caves), and one underwater. They are all mammals, they are rather weak, and the largest is around 4 inches tall, the smallest is 2 1/2 inches tall. They are omnivorous and the meat that they eat is mostly insects, spiders, etc. They have intelligence similar to a human, however they have very weak memory. A close idea of their preydators is, that if it eats bugs or mice, it probably eats them (fish eat the underwater strain). $\endgroup$ – Kittycat Sep 2 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, and their teck level. They are very primitive. $\endgroup$ – Kittycat Sep 2 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ Let me restate that- some fairies choose to live with humans because it’s safer than being out in the wild. Those fairies have a higher tech-level. However, I already have these human-dwelling fairy’s architecture covered. $\endgroup$ – Kittycat Sep 2 at 2:19
  • $\begingroup$ Each group of fairies living in a different area (desert, forest, etc.) will use different materials to build homes and build those homes in different ways and locations. Please pick just one to focus on. The information about their habits, technology, skills, and physiology is very useful. Please edit your question to add all these things, after which I'll gladly retract my close vote. (That issue about a weak memory is very important and a great thing to know about your fairies.) $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 2 at 2:37
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Anything involving the use of fire becomes intrinsically harder for smaller animals because small fires burn out faster than big ones, and small kilns dissipate heat faster and can't get as hot. This makes the production of many primitive materials like bricks, quicklime cement, and metal tools far harder for your fairies to achieve even if they were just as smart as humans.

Likewise, a small home made from thin walls will heat up/cool down much faster than a human scale home which would be a problem, especially for your desert fairies.

You also need to consider that many of their predators are much bigger and stronger compared to them than human predators are to us. So a house made from twigs or tiny stacked rocks could just be torn apart by a large bird, raccoon, etc.

So, to have a home that is strong enough to resist giant predators and insulated enough to resist weather, and simple enough for tiny primitive humanoids to build, your best option would be burrowing into something rather than building it from scratch. Since your fairies can fly, burrowing into something up high would be best to prevent ground predators from getting you. This could involve hollowing out a tree or cactus kind of like a woodpecker nest, or if you find a nice steep flat cliffside, that could be even better since it would keep certain tree climbing predators like snakes out too. Something like an old human quarry, coastal cliffs, or canyon wall would be ideal.

Humans have designed communities that are already a lot like this, in your case you just do it smaller and without any need for direct ground access.

enter image description here

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Mud.

mud dauber nest

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/WASPS/Sceliphron_caementarium.htm

Mud is a fine building material. It is available everywhere. Depicted - elegant mud dauber wasp nests. If wasps can build this so can your fairies. Some wasps bring dry vegetation into their nests. They don't eat it, so maybe it is for insulation? That would work for fairies in cold climates also - line the mud nest with grass, fluff and scavenged fur.

Mud is a fine building material for human dwellings too.

mud huts

https://www.designcauseinc.org/single-post/2016/05/31/Construction-and-Cultural-Significance-of-Mud-Huts-1

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a very practical answer. I would add that you could add structural support to the structure by using a woven layer of reeds. You could make almost basket like structures and seal them with mud. This, albeit scaled up is the basis for wattle and daub architecture. $\endgroup$ – Redbud201 Sep 2 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ Very practical. And it really subverts the "neat and prissy fairy" stereotype. $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Sep 2 at 22:24
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Despite not being very strong, the intelligence of your fairies should allow them to "punch above their weight" when it comes to other animals, utilizing superior tactics, tools, and strategy like humans do. With the capability to kill larger creatures, fairies could take over prepared homes from other species. For example:

  • Kill a cavity-nesting bird like a woodpecker or an owl and take over their home (trees, cacti, etc)
  • Kill a burrowing creature like a rabbit or groundhog and take over their home (already well-protected)
  • Kill a swarm of hive-building insects like wasps and take over their home (Use hive building material)

Alternatively, your fairies could attempt to reach symbiosis with another creature or domesticate the creature

  • A fairy might provide a service to insect hives and be allowed to live in a beehive (where it's warm and there's food)
  • A fairy might live on a large mammal like a bear, providing a service in exchange for it's protection and body heat/fur in the cold
  • A fairy might live with humans performing tasks that require fine dexterity in exchange for shelter/food/etc
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Well if the fairies have almost human intelligence, then perhaps they could build something out of baked clay or use something similar to clay and use it as a cement of sorts?

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Woven Nests

I'm going to put this answer here mostly because I like the way they look.

We can look to the weaver bird for inspiration.

enter image description here

It could be built up like a bird's nest with their tiny dexterous hands. with some added fluff, I imagine it could be quite cozy. If you need more of a roof over your head, you can add some mud or layered leaves to shed rain.

A small opening would make it easy to defend. And you could link these little pods together and have a much larger communal nest, where combined body heat would help keep things warm. Certain types of communal weaver bird colonies can cover a most of a tree, looking like a mass of nest material hanging from the limbs dotted with hole openings.

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Dragongeek spoke about them killing or domesticating some animal that already build nests. You can google for a bird called "hornero" that builds spherical mud houses. It's found in South America. Maybe your fairies can occupy those houses, domesticate the birds or replicate the building method... This is the bird and its house

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Wood, built into or onto trees. Or burrow under a bush. Look at shelter constructed by small flying creatures, faeries could do anything they do. Faeries could even make little bricks, or mortar together stones.

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  • $\begingroup$ By “small flying creatures”, do you mean birds? If so, what kind of bird nest were you thinking? Could you give me a few bird types to go by? I need their houses to have tops to them, and possibly doors. $\endgroup$ – Kittycat Sep 2 at 1:49
  • $\begingroup$ Insects. Rodents. Birds also. Some burrow, others makes hives/nests. Faeries could come up with some kind of glue to hold dirt/stones/sticks together. If you need rooves, use dried mud around interlaced sticks. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Sep 5 at 17:21
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Your fairies are basically like humans, just very small (and can fly)

All the same issues that affect how we design and build our structures would be encountered with the fairies, with very similar solutions. A small sample would be:

  • Wet weather - your structures need to withstand rain and keep you dry, especially if you are small
  • The cold - your structures need to be insulated, and you need to keep your buildings warm artificially if naturally unable to
  • Economy - your buildings need to be made of materials that are available, arranged to suit the fairy economy and value system, and encounter issues of longevity, sustainability, cost-effectiveness and utility

So, basically their structures would not differ from ours. If material science is relatively equivalent, timber is the easiest and most cost-effective material that accomplishes protection from wet weather, and is cheap.

However, it has no insulative value, and little longevity. These issues may lead to the use of stone in conjunction with timber, with insulation through air gaps and sheep's wool. The development of better materials would lead the fairy society to progress to advanced industry eventually.

Just a note: your fairy structures would differ from ours with respect to their ability to fly though. So, with this ability, you may be able to:

  • Have entries that are high up, so cities do not need to hug the ground (but they still need to be supported)
  • Have taller ceilings, and no need for interior stairs
  • Rooms could be stacked more, so buildings do not need to be wide if not needed
  • Cities could be vertically distributed, not just horizontally. This means workplaces could be in much closer relationship to homes, meaning infrastructure does not need to be stretched as many of our cities become when they grow.
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