Putting up a nest box

in

Where you put your box is every bit as important as what it looks like.  The highest priority when siting a nest box must be to provide a safe and comfortable environment in which birds can nest successfully.

Robin in open-fronted nestbox

Robins use open-fronted nestboxes, and prefer them to be
low to the ground and concealed behind vegetation.

Top tips for putting up your nest box

  • Not too close to another nest box - nest boxes of the same type should not be sited too close together as this may promote aggressive behaviour between neighbours.
  • Shelter your box from the weather - the front of the nest box should be angled vertically or slightly downwards to prevent rain from entering the nest box. Make sure it is sheltered from prevailing wind, rain and strong sunlight.
  • Height from the ground should be 3 metres - small-hole boxes are best placed 1-3m above ground on tree trunks, but avoid sites where foliage obscures the entrance hole. If there are no trees in your garden, the next best option is to place your box on the side of a shed or wall. 
  • Open-fronted nest boxes should be hidden from view - attach your box to a wall or fence that has shrubs and creepers growing against it. 
Great tit on a nest box

Great tits use small-hole nest boxes, and prefer them to be
1-3m above ground on tree trunks.

  • Make sure cats cannot get into the box - ensure that it is not easily accessible to predators (cats and squirrels). 
  • Consider a metal plate around hole to deter squirrels - this preventive measure that can be used to deter squirrels from gaining access. These plates are available commercially and can be purchased from any good garden centre or bird care company at very little cost.
  • Keep nest box away from bird feeders - as high levels of activity of visiting birds could disturb nesting pairs.
  • Use galvanized or stainless steel screws or nails that will not rust. If fixing boxes to trees, galvanised wire can be used to tie the box to the trunk or hang it from a branch. Make sure to regularly inspect these fittings to ensure the box remains securely attached.
  • Traditionally, nest boxes for small birds are put up in the spring - pairs begin to prospect in the latter half of February, so a box put up at the end of the winter stands a good chance of attracting nesting birds. However, it is never too early or late to put up a nest box, as some birds will use them to roost in during the winter months.

When will I get birds in my nest box?

Be patient, but if a box is not used for several years in succession it may be worth moving the box to a more suitable location.
There are many reasons why your box is not being used such as the presence of natural nest cavities nearby and the location of territory boundaries. Therefore, while some boxes may be taken up immediately, others may remain vacant, often for no apparent reason.

Next step - Monitor your nest box