Types of bird box - house martin nest box

How to make a house martin nest

Find out how to help house martins by creating a papier-mâché nest box.

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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.


You Will Need

  • Wood (1m x 150cm)
  • Balloon
  • Drill, or screwdriver
  • Newspaper
  • Saw
  • Screws
  • Water-based paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Waterproof PVA glue

Total time:

Step 1

Wrapping newspaper around a balloon
Wrapping newspaper around a balloon

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.

Step 2

Cutting the papier-mache dome in half
Cutting the papier-mache dome in half

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.

Step 3

Cutting out the entrance hole
Cutting out the entrance hole

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

Step 4

Fixing the nest to the wood
Fixing the nest to the wood

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.

Step 5

Fixing a lid to the nest
Fixing a lid to the nest

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

Step 6

Painting the nest
Painting the nest

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


Kate Bradbury says

House martins tend to nest in loose communities, so erect several of these nest boxes under your eaves. In dry springs it’s also worth leaving out a large dish of mud made from garden soil and water, so they can build and repair their own nests.

Kate Bradbury