How to Build a Bird Box

To build a bird box in your own backyard, there are more than a few things that it's worth knowing. You can be sure that a nesting box will be used, but knowing who it will be used by, for what length of time, and how to ensure that they enjoy their time with you, is the best way to ensure that your bird box is adored. Throughout this article, we're going to give you the rundown on great bird boxes - from how to make them to where to place them, and everything in between.

Nest Box

A next box is a simple thing, from concept to execution. Essentially, the idea is that birds love to spend their time within the hollows of trees or similar naturally occurring nest sites, in order to be safe from predators, and provide shelter for their young.

To lure a bird into your garden, you can purchase or make your own bird box, which will allow you to provide that shelter for nesting birds very easily, creating a simple and straightforward nesting site in no time at all.

A wide range of bird species can be attracted to bird nesting boxes, but a good general rule of thumb is to make sure that the nest boxes are appropriately sized for birds in your area. For example, if you have a number of robins near you, the bird box ought to be fairly small. In the US, though, a number of their garden birds are slightly larger than their UK counterparts - this means that their nesting boxes ought to be a little bigger.

Bird Box

Own Bird Box

Owning a bird box is a very easy process, despite the complex legislature around birds, protecting them, and sheltering them whenever possible.

The good news is that it's entirely legal, simple, and easy to create a nesting box in your back garden and use it to host a range of great birds easily. The point at which it can become tricky is when the birds have already taken up residence.

As a general rule of thumb, keep away from the birds that are in there. You don't want to upset them and their territory, as they're liable to leave the bird box, never to return. Also, it's illegal to disrupt the habitat of the majority of nesting birds, so to be on the safe side, legally, steer clear of the bird box in your garden.

Nest Boxes

There is no real difference between a nest box and a bird box - they're functionally much the same thing, with the only real difference being that people call them either of those two options.

Next boxes are typically small, wooden boxes designed to fit a breeding pair of birds, along with one or two clutches of young. These have long been a staple of gardens, and are commonly used to provide shelter in urban and suburban environments, where there may be fewer trees than you might expect.

What to do if your nest box isn't used?

Bird Box

If your nest box isn't used, your best bet is to put down food to attract local birds. Keep your eyes on the skies, and try to identify a few common breeds that are near to you. If you live in an urban or suburban environment, most of the birds you see will be garden birds, like house sparrows or blue tits.

For small garden birds like those, the general consensus is that seeds and nuts are the best options - they're small and high in protein, allowing for birds to get a lot of nutrition out of a relatively small amount of food. Other birds may prefer worms, so purchasing a small stock of mealworms is an affordable plan B, if needed.

Why are bird nest boxes needed?

Bird Box

Simply put, a bird box is needed because, during the breeding season, a number of natural nesting sites have been disrupted due to urban development. To ensure that the numbers of wild and garden birds near us don't utterly plummet, a great plan is to build a bird box - that's wonderful nesting material for any bird out there.

Tell me the best time to put up nest boxes for birds?

Bird Box

The best time to put up nesting boxes for birds is generally shortly before the breeding season commences. The earliest bird to nest is typically the Robin, which gets started at the end of winter/early spring. Therefore, we would suggest putting a nest box up in late January, so that a robin might be able to use it in early February.

How best to watch your new avian neighbour

Bird Box

The best way to watch any birds that move into your new box is to select a window out of direct sunlight and sit behind it. The reason we recommend this is that without direct sunlight, birds eyes can struggle to see through glass. Therefore, house sparrows or blue tits would go about their regular business without seeing you. If they don't see you, then they won't be frightened by you.

Where to put a bird box?

Bird Box

A good rule of thumb is to place a nesting box in the rough spot where a nesting bird might have considered a nesting place anyway. The entrance hole of the bird box should be in shade, with the box itself being a little way away from any imposing, loud people or objects.

Consider placing a bird box around one and a half to two meters up a tree, with the entrance hole mostly shaded by the canopy of the tree. This will allow the bird to have a clear flight path into the entrance holes of the box, without making the box utterly obvious to predators.

How big should the hole be in a bird box?

Bird Box

The entrance hole in a bird box is a carefully calibrated thing - you need to be wary of being large enough to let garden birds in and out while being small enough to prevent predatory access.

The general consensus is that an entrance hole should be around thirty millimetres in diameter. This will be large enough to admit entrance to the vast majority of garden birds, while also preventing predators. If you'd like to give specific bird access, you can do a little research to find the exact diameter ideal for different species of bird.

Cleaning bird next boxes

You should only really clean a bird box once a year - shortly after the tenants have vacated. Since birds are exceptionally well protected in their nesting areas, we would suggest not going near, and especially not into, the bird box while they're in it.

Bird Box

The best course of action is to wait until they've left the box itself, and remove one of the panels that you made. Then, scrape out any dirt or detritus from inside the box, and give it a good scrubbing with a stiff brush. After that, reassemble and replace the bird box - that will allow it to lose the 'human' smell of you and any cleaning products you may have used by the nest nesting season.

When to clean out bird nest boxes?

Bird Box

As we said previously, the best time to clean out a bird box is shortly after the birds living in it have left. Some birds won't leave the box at all, instead choosing to remain all winter in a state of torpor.

After the birds have left, you can take the box down from the tree trunk, scrub out the inside, and then replace it easily.

Alternatively, you could clean the box shortly before birds are meant to live in it - in early January, it's exceptionally unlikely that there will be any birds in the box. Therefore, be sure to take it down while empty and clean it will allow you to easily face no opposition.

Which way should a bird box face?

Bird Box

Ideally, a bird box should face anywhere between north and east. The reason for this is that the box will, when positioned in that way, naturally avoid the majority of the sun, while also avoiding the most intense of prevailing, wet winds.

The only time we would suggest avoiding this advice is if the box will be situated in a place of plentiful shelter - offering a clear flight path is more important than avoiding sun and wind when in a shelter.

How can I tell if my nest box is being used?

Bird Box

The surefire sign that your box is being used is bird poop around the box. While it's a little gross, birds are likely to poop near the place they spend the most time - their box. Therefore, a quick look at the ground under a bird box will likely tell you everything you need to know.

Should I put anything in my bird box?

No - for most birds, the process of building their nest is an instinctive desire that they follow no matter what. This is the case for robins, blue tits, and other British garden birds. Therefore, adding nothing to the box will allow them to make it their home, building their nest within very easily.

How do you make a simple bird box?

A simple bird box is, naturally, four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. The easiest way to make a bird box is to go to a hardware store and select some outside-suitable wood. Make sure that the wood is 1/4-inch or thicker.

Once you've done that, use the wood to cut a square base, a square front panel, a rectangular back panel and roof, and two side panels with a sloped top side. The roof of the box should slope, so that rain falls off it easily.

Once you've cut the pieces out and ensured they fit together, it's simply a matter of using self-tapping screws to attach the pieces to one another. To ensure that the bird box kit slots together easily, you could drill pilot holes for screws using a fine drill bit. A drill bit, when used like that, guides the screw into place easily, preventing the box from becoming misaligned.

Once the box is assembled, you can cut the hole in the front panel of the box - a three-centimetre opening is ideal since that is a good side for many species of common birds. Of course, the entrance doesn't need to be in the front panel, it could be in the side panels, or whatever's easier for you and your DIY skill level.

What size hole should a bird box have?

A bird box should have a hole of around three centimetres. This is large enough to allow garden birds like a blue tit into the box, while also preventing larger birds of prey or other predators from the box.

What is the best material for a bird box?

The best material for a bird box is outdoor-suited wood. Birds will happily use wood, since they're used to the feeling of standing on it, and humans can buy wood cheaply, and work with it easily in their homes.

How do you make a wooden bird nest box?

The best way to make a wooden bird box is outlined above, in our section titled 'How do you make a simple bird box'.

The reason we recommend wood for this use case is that the material will be resilient enough to withstand natural nesting sites, while also being cheap and easy to work with.

Should you decorate your new nest box?

You certainly can decorate your new bird box, though the could is up to you. We would advise against using any non-natural colours, since they may frighten birds away, but any earth tones can be used to create a pretty pattern outside your home.

Bird Box