Make a nestbox
If you’d like to help the birds in your garden, why not have a go at making your own nestbox?
Please ASK AN ADULT TO HELP. You may need to use tools that could hurt you.
- Natural nest holes don't come in 'standard' sizes, so please use the following sizes as a guide.
Use a plank about 150 mm wide and 15 mm thick. Cut each section as per our plan, which you can download from this page.
- The inside of the box must be at least 100 mm square and the bottom of the entrance hole must be at least 125 mm from the floor. If it is less, young birds might be scooped out by a cat.
- Use galvanised nails or screws. The inside front surface should be rough - this will help the young birds to clamber up. A drainage hole in the base will also help to stop the box getting damp inside.
- Hinge the lid with a strip of leather or rubber (an old piece of bicycle inner tube would do). Do not nail the lid down (because you will need to clean out the box in the autumn). Instead, use a catch to keep it closed.
- The entrance hole size depends on the type of bird you want to attract:
- 25 mm for coal tits, marsh tits and blue tits
- 28 mm for great tits and tree sparrows
- 32 mm for nuthatches and house sparrows
- A starling box needs to be 25-30% larger with an entrance 45 mm across
If you remove the top half of the front panel, the same type of box could attract robins, pied wagtails or wrens to nest. Spotted flycatchers prefer an even shallower, open-fronted box.
Softwood boxes (such as pine) can be treated with water-based wood preservatives, such as Fenceguard or Sadolin: apply only to the outside of the box, and not around the entrance hole. Whatever you use, make sure the box dries and airs thoroughly before putting it up.
PLEASE DO NOT use chemicals like wood preservatives without an adult - they can be dangerous.
Where to put your nestbox
Boxes for tits, sparrows or starlings should be fixed two to five metres up a tree or wall, out of the reach of cats and curious humans!
Unless there are trees or buildings that give permanent shelter, it is best to face the box between north and east, to avoid strong sunlight and the wettest winds.
Tilt the box forward slightly so any driving rain will hit the roof and bounce clear. House sparrows and starlings will readily use nestboxes if you put them high up under the eaves of your house - and putting them there will often deter the birds from nesting in your roof! Keep nestboxes away from areas where house martins normally nest.
Open-fronted boxes for robins and wrens need to be low down, well hidden in a bush, shrub or tree.
Fixing your nestbox with nails may damage the tree. It is better to attach it with wire around the trunk or branch. Use a piece of hose or section of car tyre around the wire to prevent damage to the tree. Remember that trees grow in girth as well as height, and check any fixing every two or three years.
Two boxes of the same kind may both be occupied if they are at the edge of adjoining territories and if there is plenty of natural food. Tits can, however, be very aggressive and seldom nest at densities greater than two or three pairs per acre. If you put up different boxes, you can attract several species.