Not all birds make their nests on trees and bushes. Birds such as great tits, swifts and rollers need cavities, holes or eaves to nest and raise their families.
Such spaces are far from abundant and putting up a nest box can be a great way for providing a home to these birds. Many bird species will readily take up nestboxes and building your own nestbox is a simple, fun and rewarding experience. There are many, many different designs and sizes of nestboxes, most specially designed for specific bird species. The following nestbox design is suitable for garden birds such as great tits and house sparrows. Let’s get to it!
What you will need
- A plank of unvarnished, unpainted plywood 1.5 cm thick
- Pencil and measuring tape
1. Measure and cut your wood. Use the diagram for guidance. This diagram gives measurements for both a small and a large box, so make sure that you use either the first or second measurement throughout. If you don’t have the right tools to cut the wood, you can print the diagram and show it to a carpenter to prepare the pieces on your behalf. Drill two small holes on the bottom piece for drainage. The entrance hole needs to be at least 125mm from the floor and its size depends on the type of bird you wish to attract:
- 25 mm for coal tits (forest areas only)
- 28 mm for great tits
- 32 mm for house sparrows
2. Nail all the sides together, except the roof.
3.Attach the roof on the backside of the nest with the help of a hinge. Not nailing the roof will allow you to open it and clean the nest when the breeding season is over. If you do not have a hinge, you can use an old piece of bicycle inner tube to attach the roof to the nest.
4. Find a suitable area to put up the nest. Using a ladder place the nest high on a tree or on a wall, away from the reach of cats. The box will need to be at least 3 meters from the ground, facing somewhere between north and east. Try finding a quiet place, away from direct sunlight.
5. And now for the waiting game! Although there is no guarantee that birds will make this nestbox their home, with a little luck and patience you should see the males chirping around or even from the top of the nest. If a pair uses the nest box eventually, make sure you keep a safe distance from the nestbox to avoid disturbing them. We hope you enjoy watching them and do not be surprised if you see them raising several broods in there in a season. Do not attempt to open the nest to see the chicks – this can scare parents and may force them to abandon the nest.
6. Cleaning the nest With the end of the breeding season (end of August), it is important to clean the nest to protect the birds from parasites and diseases. First however you need to make sure first that the birds have left the nest. If you are not sure, you can lightly tap the sides of the nest with your hands and hear for any chirps or movement. If there are birds in there, wait another week before trying again. Before cleaning the nest, wear gloves. Open the roof and remove all material found inside. Place the material carefully into a bag and seal it to prevent any parasites from spreading. Rinse the box with boiling water to kill any remaining parasites. Let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the lid. Wash your hands well when you’re done.
7. Take a picture and share it with us! We would be delighted to see the new bird home you’ve built! Send us your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
Decorating your nest box If you’re feeling creative you can add a personal touch to your nest box, but keep in mind that very bright colors can attract predators and some paints can be toxic to birds. Make sure you use an eco-friendly water-based paint (avoid lead-based paints or cresote, as these are toxic to birds). Avoid painting inside the box or round the entrance hole as birds may peck at it and ingest chips of paint. Once you’re done, leave the nestbox to dry thoroughly for a few days before putting it up.