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How to make a house martin nest


House martins traditionally make their cup-shaped nests from mud, which they pack together under the eaves of houses.

In dry summers, muddy pools and puddles can be in short supply, so give house martins a helping hand by making them a home-made papier-mâché nest box, as recommended by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). When you have finished making the nest box, simply fix it to an exterior wall of your house beneath the eaves, where it will hopefully be colonised by a house martin family in spring.

How to do it


Place a round balloon in a vase, pointing downwards. Mix eight parts glue with one part water and stick strips of newspaper on to the balloon, leaving its neck unpapered. Build up to four or five layers, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next.


When the papier-mâché is dry, burst the balloon and peel it away. Cut the dome in half to make two nest boxes. Discard one if you do not want to use it, or make two.


Make the entrance at the top of the semi-circle by cutting out a semi-circle, 6cm x 2.5cm.


Make the back of the wooden frame by cutting a piece of wood a little wider and deeper than your nest box (ours measured 20cm x 15cm). Centre the hole at the top of the board and secure the nest to the box with two layers of papier-mâchéstrips, inside and out. Allow to dry.


Cut a second length of wood to make the roof, ensuring it extends over the nest. Attach it to the back board using screws.


Paint the nest with a dark, water-based paint and finish with a coat of waterproof PVA glue.

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to make a house martin nest
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kathleenhelen 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Did you never do this as a child? Everyone knows how to papier mache a balloon!

kathleenhelen 24/11/2011 at 15:29

When I first moved in to this house we regularly had 7 house martins building their nests and bringing up their chicks outside our bedroom window! Now, 24 years later, we see them but none stop to build. I'd love to try making these but wonder if the paint and glue be safe for the chicks?

willward 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Place a round balloon in a vase, pointing downwards. ??
Am I missing something here?
I do not understand the first sentence of Step 1.

homebird 23/12/2012 at 08:47

This nest looks so attractive.

smflyman 14/11/2013 at 19:06

To hold the inflated balloon put the knotted end into a vase so that the dome of the balloon is supported but your hands are free to apply the papier mache - simples!

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