Building bird boxes

Posted: Friday 14 December 2012
by Kate Bradbury

For Christmas this year, all my friends and relatives will be receiving bird boxes.

Bird box in a garden

For Christmas this year, all my friends and relatives will be receiving bird boxes. I’ve developed something of an obsession with DIY bird boxes, and currently have a pile of them in my front room, waiting to be wrapped in festive paper. I feel like Santa.

It all started when the delivery of a new drill and drill bits coincided with my having a bit of wood left over from a green roof I made for a friend. I knocked up two blue tit boxes in a flash, then another. Before I knew it I was scouring local skips for more wood and was experimenting with designs for robins, wrens and starlings.

In the wild, birds nest in a variety of situations such as holes in trees and hedgerows, which tend not to be that abundant in gardens. A snug box with an appropriate entrance hole can make a fantastic substitute for many species. And birds won’t just breed in it – a well-placed box can also provide winter refuge for small species such as wrens.

More than 60 species are known to use nest boxes, including blue tits, great tits, coal tits, house sparrows and robins. Indeed, provision of nest boxes may even bolster declining populations of swifts, house martins, house sparrows and starlings. The key to success is to use untreated wood, as any chemicals can leach into the nest with potentially fatal consequences, and create a nice, snug box with no draughts (a few drainage holes in the base are essential, however).

Each species has different nesting requirements and no one size fits all, hence the accumulation of such a range of designs in my flat. I’ve erected a blue tit box in my garden and one each for blue tits and great tits in the communal area of my block of flats. I’m hoping the eaves of my mum’s house can attract sparrows, while my dad has the perfect conditions for nesting robins. I’m not sure who will get the starling box.  

So, if you have a spare bit of wood, why not make a box? As I'll mention on my Christmas gift tags, it’s important to choose the right spot for your box. Prospecting birds are unlikely to nest a busy location (for example if the box is too near a feeding station), or anywhere with strong sunlight or a prevailing wind. It’s generally advised to place the box in a north-easterly direction, but if shadows are provided by tall buildings this rule doesn’t apply.

Autumn is considered the best time to erect bird boxes, but it won’t do any harm to put one up in January, as long as the box is fixed securely. For advice on how to build a box and where to site it, visit

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donutsmrs 15/12/2012 at 17:20

What a brilliant idea for Christmas presents Kate. I've got two blue tit boxes up in my garden one didn't have any birds in it this year as it wasn't up very long but the other one has had several blue tit families in there over the years. I love to watch them flying in and out feeding their young. Poor things they work so hard.

flowering rose 15/12/2012 at 20:37

Yes ,its lovely to encourage birds to nest in the garden,I have put up a few , but no result ,I don't know why,so I am hoping maybe next year.

Crown Bees 17/12/2012 at 18:20

I similar and vital concept is to build mason bee houses. ...preferably not next door to the bird house. Native, solitary gentle bees will easily nest and pollinate your vital fruits and vegetables! (Read more at

oldchippy 21/12/2012 at 15:20

Happy Christmas Kate and all at Gardeners World

andyh147 10/01/2013 at 22:08

Great idea and I hope they are all up. I have seen increased activity from the blue and great tits in the garden starting to seek out potential sites for nesting. They need to be up now so the birds can get used to them. Suggest people use the RSPB site on positioning of birdboxes.

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