Make a nest box
National Nest Box Week takes place in February but you can put up a box at any time of year. Follow these simple instructions to make a home for the birds in your garden.
Nest Box challenge
Take the nest box challenge and you can help create much-needed homes for garden birds.
Register your nest box with the British Trust for Ornithology and tell them if any birds move in. The BTO scientists need this information to work out the best way to give wildlife a helping hand.
It's easy to make a nest box, but if DIY isn't your thing you can buy them from garden centres, hardware shops and pet shops. Before you buy, check that the wood is at least 9mm thick and comes from a sustainable source - look for the FSC logo. Make sure the box is made from wood with a rough surface so that young birds can grip the sides to get out (avoid slippery materials such as MDF).
To make your own nest box follow the instructions below. This box should suit house sparrows, which are in serious decline in the UK. We're hoping that extra nest sites will help reverse the trend. You could put up several boxes close together, as house sparrows like to live in colonies.
Your nest box may be used by a range of other birds such as blue tits and great tits. You can make an open fronted version to attract robins and pied wagtails. Nest Box Bingo is one of the downloadable activity guides.
Basic nest box
- Wood should ideally be 15mm thick for warmth although 9mm ply is fine and easier to cut. Use wood from a sustainable source - look for the FSC logo.
- Use galvanised nails as they last longer than ordinary nails.
- Small drainage holes in the base are essential to let liquid waste drain away or in open front boxes to let any rainwater drain away.
- Don't add a perch – predators may intimidate the nestlings and force the adult birds to leave.
- Put the hole at the top of the box to keep the young out of reach of cats or squirrels.
- Don't paint the box. A coat of linseed oil will stop the wood drying out but is not essential. Some wood preservatives are poisonous so best avoided.
- A hinged lid allows you to clean the box easily but make sure it is fastened securely to stop magpies and squirrels raiding the nest.