Make a nest box

Making your own nest box is simple and rewarding. Decide on the type of box that you want to make and then use a cutting plan, such as the ones provided in our handy PDF guide, to cut the wood and put it together.

Robin. David Tipling
Some species like Robin prefer an open-fronted design. David Tipling

Building a box - the essentials

Wood is the best material for building a nest box, as long as it is at least 15mm thick. This will prevent the wood warping and provide sufficient insulation to protect chicks from heat or cold. Soft woods, such as pine and cedar, are easy to cut and their natural resins ensure a long life. Hard woods such as oak or beech will also be weather resistent but may warp when conditions switch from dry to wet. Buying planed wood or quality plywood is not cheap, so it may be worth seeing if you can pick up some off-cut scraps from a timber merchant.

For those who have a basic toolkit, then you will probably have to lay out money for a set of drill bits to create entrance holes. It is worth keeping an eye out for special offers on multi-size bit kits at discount supermarkets, but if you can only afford one then opt for a 32 mm bit as this will potentially allow any of the common small birds to use the box. Simple hole-fronted (Blue Tit, House Sparrow) and open-fronted (Robin) designs are available in  . Larger species, such as Starling and Jackdaw, need a larger entrance hole and a larger box.

Use nails or screws to fix panels together. For extra security you may like to glue the side panels together as well as nailing them, but do not rely on glue alone – over time the wood may flex or shrink and the joint will split apart.

Nest boxes - our essential guide

Get up to speed with our free nest box guide, which includes all the plans for four common species.

Box types - hole-fronted or open-fronted

The two main types of small nest box offer opportunities for different species of bird. Those with a small hole may be used by tits and sparrows, while open-fronted boxes are used by Robins and Spotted Flycatchers. With hole-fronted boxes the diameter of the hole is key. While a smaller species, like Coal Tit, will use a box with a larger diameter entrance hole, there is a risk that a larger species will take over the site. We recommend using the following hole dimensions.

Bird

Nest box hole size

Blue Tit / Coal Tit / Marsh Tit

25mm

Great Tit / Tree Sparrow

28mm

House Sparrow / Nuthatch

32mm

Put a hinge on it

To make it easier to clean out old nesting material at the end of the breeding season or to inspect the progress of a brood for nest recording, make sure the roof is hinged or fixed in such a way that it can be opened fully. Attach a waterproof hinge to the roof of the box, so that it can be lifted easily but won’t fall off. Old inner tubes, damp proof membrane or rubber are ideal waterproof materials to use. Cut to the width of the box and then nail in place.

Nest Boxes: Your Complete Guide

If you want to know more, try our in-depth book. Written by Dave Cromack and drawing on BTO expertise, this new book provides the perfect guide to building, erecting and monitoring nest boxes for a broad range of bird species. It's a perfect gift for the avid bird fan.

Find out more and buy today


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