how to build a bird box

The total area of all gardens in the UK exceeds that of our nature reserves, and as development destroys trees, hedges and old buildings, natural nesting sites are in decline. Nestboxes placed in gardens can make a real difference to the success or failure of a breeding species in an area, especially when accompanied by the regular supply of suitable food and water.

There is no standard, accurate design for a nestbox. Birds do not insist on their nest sites being mathematically precise! What they do require is a nest site which is secure and weatherproof, and as safe as possible from predators. So, make the box to suit the materials available, rather than buying materials to match any given dimensions.

Whether fixed to a tree or a wall, the height above ground is not critical to most species of bird as long as the box is clear of inquisitive humans and prowling cats. If there is no natural shelter, it is best to mount a box facing somewhere between south-east and north to avoid strong direct sunlight and the heaviest rain. The box should be tilted slightly forwards so that the roof may deflect the rain from the entrance.

You can use nails to attach the box directly to a tree trunk or branch; or you can use rope or wire wrapped right around the box and trunk (remembering to protect the trunk from the wire cutting into it by using a piece of rubber underneath it). Both methods are satisfactory, but obviously annual maintenance is easier if the box is wired and can be taken down easily for cleaning.

The number of nestboxes which can be placed in a garden depends on the species you wish to attract. Many species are fiercely territorial, such as blue tits, and will not tolerate another pair close by; about 2 to 3 pairs per acre is the normal density for blue tits. Other species, such as the tree sparrow, which is a colonial nester, will happily nest side-by-side.

Do not place your nestbox close to a birdtable or feeding area, as the regular comings and goings of other birds are likely to prevent breeding in the box.

After the end of each breeding season, all nestboxes should be taken down, old nesting materials removed, and the box should be scalded with boiling water to kill any parasites. Do not use insecticides or flea-powders – boiling water is adequate. Annual cleaning is best carried out in October or November.

Under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, if unhatched eggs are found in the box, they can only legally be removed from October to January inclusive, and they must be destroyed – it is illegal to keep them.

Are you a teacher?

The goal of this project is to construct a birdhouse and provide it with a place to stay on your school property.

Here are some prompts to help with learning:

  • What should you think about when choosing your materials?
  • How can you make an effort to guarantee the birds’ success in their new residence?

What do I do?

You could use our how-to guide found under the What You’ll Need tab to build a nestbox.

Even better, just purchase a nestbox and put it up.

Put your nestbox in a suitable site. Work with the children to decide on the best location. The nestbox should be about 2. 5-5m off the ground. The best angle is slightly forward to prevent rain from getting inside. After the box is up, leave it alone and observe from a distance to see if any visitors arrive.

Did you know that 63 Wrens are the record number of birds found in a single box? Even though they are tiny, that is a large number of wrens.

how to build a bird box

The box can be fastened to a tree trunk or branch directly with nails, or it can be wrapped around the trunk and box with rope or wire (be sure to place a piece of rubber underneath the trunk to prevent the wire from severing it). Both approaches work well, although it is obvious that if the box is wired and easily removable for cleaning, yearly maintenance will be simpler.

All nestboxes should be removed at the conclusion of each breeding season, old nesting materials should be removed, and the box should be scorched with boiling water to eliminate any parasites. Use boiling water instead of pesticides or flea powder. Annual cleaning is best carried out in October or November.

The aggregate area of all gardens in the United Kingdom surpasses that of our nature reserves, and the loss of natural nesting sites is occurring due to development destroying trees, hedges, and historic structures. Garden-placed nestboxes can significantly impact a breeding species’ success or failure in a given area, particularly when combined with a consistent supply of appropriate food and water.

Depending on the species you want to draw in, a garden can have a certain number of nestboxes. Many species, like blue tits, are extremely territorial and will not put up with another pair nearby; the typical density for blue tits is two to three pairs per acre. Some species, like the colonial nesting tree sparrow, will gladly build their nests next to each other.

There is no standard, accurate design for a nestbox. Birds don’t need their nest sites to be mathematically exact; what they do need is a place that is safe from predators, secure, and weatherproof. Therefore, rather than purchasing materials to fit any specific dimensions, build the box to fit the available materials.


What kind of wood is used for bird boxes?

The exact type isn’t vital, but a box made from hardwood like cedar, oak or beech will outlive one made from pine. Make sure the wood comes from a renewable source. There’s no point improving the habitat for your local birds at the expense of even more endangered habitats elsewhere.

How thick should wood be for a bird box?

Undoubtedly wood is the best material to use; new or old wood, rough or planed, softwood or hardwood – it is really not important. Use what is readily available. A thickness of about 0.75inches is ideal.

What is the best shape for a bird box?

An oval hole or multiple holes – will provide light to encourage species that like open-fronted boxes to nest in more protected environments.