If you want to encourage birds to come into your garden, a good way to start is to put up a bird box. A bird nesting box is easy to make, and building your own means that you can tailor it to the types of bird you want to encourage.
There are no exact measurements for the bird box, except for the hole in the front – this needs to be cut according to what type of birds you want to nest in the box. A 25mm hole is suitable for blue tits, coal tits and marsh tits; 28mm for great tits, tree sparrows and pied flycatchers; a 38mm hole will allow house sparrows and nuthatches in.
You can make your bird box out of any spare scraps of timber or plywood you have lying around, or buy a plank of wood about 150mm wide and 15mm thick – you’ll need a total of around 1500mm in length if you are using one piece.
Measure and mark out the following sizes on the piece of wood, to form the sides, base, front and top of the bird box:
- Sides: the side panels will be slanted, 150mm wide by 200mm high at the front and 250mm high at the back.
- Base: 150mm by 120mm
- Back: 150mm by 460mm
- Front: 150mm by 200mm
- Top: 150mm by 220mm
Putting the box together
Cut out the pieces using a wood saw (see our cutting and sawing timber project), and sand the sawn edges to make them smooth. Use a flat wood drill bit to drill the hole in the front panel – the hole must be at least 125mm from the base of the box, so that small nestlings can’t fall out.
Using wood nails that are long enough to go through the thickness of the wood and into the second piece of wood, nail one of the sides to the base, then nail both pieces to the back of the bird box – align the base on the back piece so that you have enough space at the top to drill a hole for fixing your bird box in place. Put three nails in each side to ensure your joints are secure. Turn the half-built box over, and nail on the other side, then turn onto the back and nail on the front panel.
To fix on the top, find a piece of rubber or leather (an old bicycle inner-tube is perfect) and cut it to the width of the box to form a flat hinge. Place the top piece of wood in place, and tack the rubber to the back and the top pieces of wood (galvanised felt nails would be ideal for this). This should enable the top to be lifted up so that you can clean the bird box out each year. If you can’t find any rubber, screw the top into place with self-tapping screws so that it can be removed.
Drill a hole in the top of the back piece of wood, and fix your completed bird box to a wall, tree, fence or post. Ideally the bird box should be positioned in a sheltered, north-east facing spot, 2-5 metres above the ground. Try not to place it too near other bird boxes or feeding tables.