Wildlife gardening has become increasingly popular in recent years, with bird boxes, bee hotels, hedgehog homes and bird feeders becoming the perfect accessories to a rich and vibrant wildlife garden.
There’s plenty of habitats, feeding stations and more available to buy this Christmas, but it’s cheaper, more fun and more meaningful if you make them yourself. From bird boxes to hedgehog houses, bird baths and bee hotels, there’s a wide range of habitats you can make to help your friends and family encourage more wildlife into their gardens, for a fraction of the price you would spend on buying one.
We’ve listed our favourite home-made habitat boxes, bird baths and more, below. Each step-by-step project offers detailed advice on how to make each item, with photos of each step plus a list of tools and equipment you’ll need to complete the project.
So what are you waiting for? Browse our list of Christmas gifts for wildlife gardeners, below.
Make a bat box
A bat box is the ultimate gift for the nature lover in your life. Designed to mimic natural roost sites, a bat box can be fitted to a wall or fence. It’s easy to make – the key to success is to use untreated wood and make sure all the pieces fit together snugly, as bats dislike drafts.
With your gift, write a note that the box should be placed at least 4m above the ground or close to the eaves of a building, in a south- or west-facing position that gets sun for part of the day.
Make a bee hotel
Bee hotels are easy to make and can attract a wide range of cavity-nesting solitary bees, such as red mason bees and leafcutter bees. You can use a variety of hollow plant stems, including bamboo. Make sure the diameter of each hole is between 2mm and 10mm – any bigger and they won’t be used. Sand off any splinters at the end of each cane or stem, as these can tear bees’ wings.
Finally, leave a note with your gift that it should be fitted securely to a wall or fence 1-2m off the ground, in full sun (ideally east- or south-east facing). Replacing the canes annually helps prevent a build up of parasites and fungal diseases.
Make a bird box
A bird box make a wonderful Christmas gift. Do a little digging and find out which birds visit the garden of your recipient, and then tailor the box to meet the needs of that species. Tits and sparrows use closed-fronted boxes with an access hole at the top, and need a clear flight path to the box, while robins and wrens use open-fronted boxes, which are best placed among the cover of a climbing plant or hedge.
Make a hedgehog house
A well-made hedgehog house provides a snug space for hedgehogs to rest, hibernate and breed. This design enables hedgehogs to enter but prevents access to cats and larger mammals such as foxes. It’s easy to make, using an old wine box and a bespoke tunnel.
Leave a note with the gift to say where it should be sited: ideally at the base of a hedge or tucked into a compost heap or log pile, so it’s well camouflaged.
Make a bird bath
A bird bath is the perfect habitat for bird to drink and bathe. Add a stone or two and bees will drink from the bath in summer, too. Bird baths can be expensive to buy but are cheap to make – this design uses a terracotta plant pot and pot tray, perfect for blending in with the rest of the garden.
Make a house martin nest
House martins make their own nests – typically under the eaves of houses, using mud. In dry summers, mud can be hard to get hold of and house martins can struggle to breed. Give them a helping hand while creating a unique hand-made gift for a friend or family member, by making a replica house martin nest using papier mache.
Make fat cakes for birds
Birds need a calorie-rich diet in winter, to see them through the cold nights. Give the gift that keeps on giving – a selection of home-made fat cakes that your friends and family can use to feed birds throughout winter. Fat cakes are easy to make, follow our step-by-step instructions below.