From February onwards, nesting season begins and so our feathered friends start looking for the perfect spot to nest and raise their chicks. One great way to support your local birdlife during this time is by placing a nest box in your garden.

While nest boxes are widely available to buy, why not have a go at making one yourself? It’s an easy DIY and makes for a great afternoon activity. Read on to find out how you can make your very own nest box for birds.

What you'll need

  • A plank of untreated wood, measuring 1.4-1.5m in length, 15cm in width and at least 15mm thick for insulation
  • A saw, drill, screws and nails
  • A pencil and tape measure
  • A strip of rubber

How to build a nest box

  1. Measure, mark up and then saw your wood into six sections:
    • 2 Sides: one cut at 25cm x 15cm x 20cm, and another cut at 20cm x 15cm x 25cm (both pieces needs cutting at a diagonal so that the roof piece sits on a slant - this is for rain to run off)
     Front – 20cm x 15cm x 20cm
     Roof – 21cm x 15cm x 21cm
     Back – 35cm x 15cm x 35cm
     Base – 12cm x 15cm x 12cm
  2. Use a drill to make a round entrance hole in the front piece for your birds to enter the box through. It should sit near the top and the size of the hole depends on the species you’d like to attract – 32mm is great for house sparrows, 25mm for blue tits.
  3. Drill some small holes in the base of the nest box – these will help with drainage.
  4. Once all the wood is cut, sand it down to ensure it’s safe for the birds who might be visiting.
  5. Nail everything, excluding the roof, together.
  6. Attach the roof using screws. Then, use a waterproof rubber strip as a hinge so that the roof can be easily lifted up for cleaning.
  7. And then you’re done! You can decorate your box with non-toxic water-based paints to finish it off or leave it as is for a more authentic look.

Learn more about birds and their nesting habits

Where to place your nest box

Now it’s time to put your nest box up. It’s important to choose somewhere ideally north-east facing and at least 3 metres above the ground so it is out of the way of potential predators. It should also be sheltered from the wind and rain and not in direct sunlight. Keep any bird feeding areas away from your nest box – having other birds too close by can deter birds from nesting there.

How to clean your nest box

It’s vital you clean your nest box out at the end of each breeding season (around autumn time). Carefully take your box down, remove any nesting materials inside and use boiling water to give the nest box a thorough clean. Steer clear of insecticides or bleach – boiling water is more than sufficient for cleaning out any parasites.

Make sure you only clean out the nest box when breeding season is over - it is actually illegal to clean out nest boxes from 1 February to 31 July. 

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