Build it Yourself: A Small Bird Box

Stewart Timber Bird Box

If you like waking up to the sweet cheeping of sparrows, a bird box is the perfect addition to your garden.

And with a little know-how, a bird box doesn’t have to mean an expensive trip to the garden centre either. With a plank of wood, a saw and a couple of screws, you can have a brand new bird box fixed up in a tree in a couple of hours.

This blog will teach how to whip up a simple bird box and if you enjoy it, we hope you’ll pass it along to your friends.

Our measurements are for a small birdbox but once you’ve got the knack of it, you’ll be able to beef up the numbers and produce larger boxes for owls, woodpeckers and other bigger birds.


What you’ll need

  • Wooden plank 150mm x 1300 mm
    Any wood will make a nice avian abode but hardwoods (oak, ash, beech, etc) are generally better than softwoods (pine, fir, larch, etc) due to their longer lifespan. Avoid plastics and metals as they are far less breathable than wood and may get too hot in direct sunlight.
  • A saw
  • A hammer
  • Galvanised nails or screws

Preparation

Start off by marking out your plank with the measurements in the picture above. Remember, it’s quite a bit easier to cut something than uncut it – so measure twice and cut once.

If you’re using a dark wood, it’s helpful to use chalk as it shows up more clearly than pencil or pen.

Next, find the base piece and drill several drainage holes. If your handiwork turns out to be a bit leaky, you don’t want your bird box turning into a swimming pool.

On the front panel, drill a entrance hole at least 100 mm from the floor – any less and you risk young birds taking their inaugural flight before their feathers have come in fully. Low entrance holes also increase the risk of predators being able to sneak a paw inside and fish out a feathery treat.

Finally mark each piece with its final position – back, front, roof, etc. – and then cut them out.


Construction

Bird boxes don’t have to be works of art and their construction is generally a matter of nailing or screwing all the panels – with the exception of the roof – together. Although there’s no right or wrong order we usually go: front, side, side, base, back and – finally – roof.

The only slightly tricky bit is the roof. Do not nail down the roof – you’ll need to clean the box at a later date. Instead, attach the lid with a strip of leather, rubber or – if you’re feeling particularly fancy – a hinge.

Finally, fasten the roof with a catch. This isn’t strictly necessary as Scottish birds are all too familiar with our weather but it’s nice to give them a bit of respite from the July drizzle!


The Entrance Hole

While you obviously can’t control which birds choose to nest in your box, you can gently encourage them by drilling an entrance hole of a certain size. See the table below for what size hole will attract what species.

  • 25 mm for blue tits
  • 28 mm for great tits and tree sparrows
  • 32 mm for house sparrows and nuthatches

Now, this isn’t a sure thing. If you drill a 32 mm hole, you might still get a blue tit lodger but it’s a good way to nudge the odds in your favour.


Siting

Bird boxes should be fixed a couple meters off the ground on a tree or wall. There’s no iron-clad rule as to height, just make sure it’s out the way of inquisitive cats. If it’s possible, try and nestle the box into some natural shelter.


Have you made a bird box for your garden? Send your pictures to our Facebook page.

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