How To Make a Bird Box: Build this Nesting Box to Bring Birds To Your Home
A nesting box is more than likely the easiest thing you could hope to make out of timber; it’s basically just cutting wood and screwing (or nailing) the box together, but if you like your projects to be very rewarding, give it time and you may have some new visitors to your garden. Birds! If you have any questions about this guide on ‘How to make a bird box’, please add them in the comments at the bottom of the page. Tools required:
Heavy duty stapler (12mm staples)
32mm Flat bit (aka Spade bit)
6mm Twist drill bit
Radial arm saw (or router)
Circular saw (or dimension saw)
Framing stapler (or nail gun)
Tape measure/ rule
Pillar drill (for cutting the timber plugs)
No. 10 Plug cutter & counter sink
For hanging the bird box:
8mm Masonry drill bit
1M of 145mm wide x 20mm thick board
0.8M of 215mm wide x 20mm thick board
0.8M of 24mm wide x 25mm thick beading
200mm x 20mm x 20mm block
Roofing felt 300mm x 300mm square
18 No. 50mm x No.8 Screws
4 No. 32nn x No. 8 Screws
2 No. 75mm x No. 8 Screws (with rawlplugs, for hanging the bird box)
What wood to use?
Any timber can be used. I’ve used Idigbo as it’s quite similar to Oak and should therefore give many years of birdie residence before the timber starts to degrade. Softwood can be used, but chose your timber carefully as you want to get a good few years out of it. Here’s a handy wood durability chart if you’re looking for some help.
Cutting the timbers to the required lengths:
Sides, front and base:
We’ll start by cutting the 145mm wide timber first; this section of timber gives us the two sides, front and base of the box.
Start by cutting a square cut on the end of the 145mm timber (and work from the square end!) and cut the sides to 220mm long. Put these to one side and we’ll come back to these in a moment.
Cut the front to 180mm long and then cut the base to 125mm long.
Going back to the two sides we cut to 220mm long; measure up from one end of the timber 210mm and mark a line using a square. Set up your mitre saw to an 11 degree angle and cut the sides to 210mm (at the longest edge). This will give you a shorter length of 180mm.
Rear panel and roof:
Now using the 210mm wide timber, we’ll cut the rear panel of the nesting box and the roof.
The rear of the box is simply cut to 310mm long (square both ends). The roof is slightly different as its total length is 175mm long, but with an 11 degree cut on both ends; you can cut this if you are careful using a circular saw, or better still, a dimension saw, once you’ve altered the angle of the blade to 11 degrees. We now need to cut a groove in the rear panel of the nesting box, this gives the roof of the box something to sit into and helps to keep water out and the birdies dry. The groove is 210mm from the bottom of the rear panel and needs to be 25mm wide, so mark two lines on the rear panel 210mm and 235mm from the bottom and square the lines across the face of the panel.
The groove can be cut using either a radial arm saw (with care!) or with a router and grooving bit; the groove wants to be 10mm deep.
Preparation before assembly:
There are only a couple of things to do before we assemble the nesting box and this is to drill some holes.
I’ve drilled a 32mm hole using a flat bit (or spade bit) so the birds can get in or out of the nesting box. The hole size (and box size) does depend on the type of birds that you’ll want to use the nesting box and this box (and hole size) covers most of the smaller birds we find in our gardens in the U.K.! The entrance hole wants to be in the centre across the width of the front panel and I’ve kept it 60mm from the top of the front panel. Mark out the position you want the hole and then drill through; either drill through the front panel with a piece of scrap timber behind it OR drill through from the face, until the spur of the bit protrudes. Then turn the panel over and complete the hole from the rear; this stops the drill bit from breaking out and making a mess of the timber.
We also need to drill a couple of holes through the base to act as drainage holes. I’ve drilled 5 holes using a 6mm drill bit.
Assembling the nesting bird box:
I’m not going to glue the actual box together as I don’t want it to hold water, so the box is just screwed together in the hope that any water that is not released through the drainage holes will find its way out through the butt joints!
Side panels to base:
On a flat surface/bench, place the base so its front edge is sitting on the bench; place the first side panel against the edge of the base, so the two bottom edges are flush with each other. Clamp them together, if you wish to stop them from moving, and pre-drill two holes through the side panel into the base. I’ve used a countersink bit as I will be covering almost all of the screws with timber plugs later.
Once you’ve pre-drilled the two holes, drive the screws home and then repeat the process for the other side panel.
Rear panel to base & side panels:
I’m next fixing the rear panel to the base and sides. The rear panel is flush with both the base panel and side panels at the very bottom. However, the rear panel overhangs the side panels at each side of the nesting box by 15mm, so you do need to centre the rear panel in place and make sure when you pre-drill your fixing holes that you’ve taken account of the position of the side panels!
Pre-drill two fixing holes though the rear panel into the base and then pre-drill two fixing holes (on each side) through the rear panel into the side panels; these need to be 25mm from the side edge of the rear panel.
Again, once you’ve done this, fill all holes with screws and secure.
Fixing the front panel:
Next, slot the front panel into place, attach a clamp if needs be to hold it whilst drilling. As before, pre-drill two holes through front panel into base and two holes through front panel into each side panel. Fill up with screws and secure!
Preparing and attaching the roof:
To fix the roof to the now otherwise complete nesting box, we need to attach two blocks to the underside; these are so we can screw through the side of the box into the blocks attached to the roof. These two blocks need to be 36mm in from the side edges of the roof, 52mm from the front edge and 20mm from the rear edge underside of the roof, in all cases so they don’t foul on the carcass of the box as the roof is attached.
Once these blocks have been cut to length and pre-drilled, they can be glued and screwed down.
To add a bit more protection from water getting in to the nest box, I’ve added roofing felt.
For this, I’ve cut the felt more or less to size, plus a bit of extra in width and length. Starting from the rear of the roof, position the felt so it is flush to the under side of the rear edge. Using a heavy duty manual stapler, fire three staples through the felt into the rear edge of the roof. Wrap the felt round the edge and smooth it down over the roof.
With only the felt at the rear edge of the roof secured, place the roof into position within the groove and sit on top of rest of carcass of box.
Pre-drill and then screw through once on each side of the box into the blocks we’ve just fitted to the underside of the roof.
Now back to the felt, from the front of the box pull the felt so it is fairly tight.
From each side in turn, we now smooth the felt down over the side edge whilst keeping the felt pulled tight at the front. We fix a length of beading down; it can overhang both the front and back of the nesting box for now – we’ll trim it in a second.
Place the beading into position and using either a frame stapler or nail gun, fire three nails into the beading through the felt and into the roof. Repeat this process for the alternate side of the nesting box. On both sides of the nesting box, trim the excess felt below the beading and remove; use a craft / Stanley knife for this.
From the front of the nesting box, smooth down the felt and again, fix the beading to the front edge of the box; this beading will have to be cut to size so it fits in-between the tow beads fixed to the sides. Again, use a frame stapler or nailer to hold in place. Once all the beading has been fitted, using a tenon saw trim the beading where it over-hangs.
Using some pre-cut plugs, we’ll fill the screw holes; these are made for the same timber as the box and are cut using a plug-cutter.
Glue these into place and give them a tap with a hammer to make sure they are securely in the hole. Once dry, remove any excess plug with chisel and give a quick hand-sand to smooth them down.
* Don’t add plugs to the holes for the screws that fix the roof on (through the side of the box); these should be left so you can remove the roof when required to clean the bird nesting box out. The nail / staple holes in the beading to the roof can be filled using a filler / stopper of the same shade as that to match the timber. Again, once dry, sand down.
One final thing to do is add two fixing holes in the top corners of the rear panel; use a 6mm or so drill bit for these.
Using some sand paper, take off all sharp edges and corners and then we are done.
Painting, treating etc.:
You can leave the box untreated if you want, however, if you do decide to give it some kind of protection via either oils, stains or paints, then do make sure that whatever you apply is safe for the birds!
Securing the bird box to a wall:
When securing to a wall or other surface, then the height of the box is again dependent on the type of birds you want to attract. For the majority of garden birds in the UK, it’s anywhere between 1000mm to 3000mm from the ground, though do pay attention to the location and keep the box out of strong winds, rain and sunlight ,as well as any means of predators from gaining access – walls, fences etc.
To fix it to a wall, you’ll need a spirit level, hammer drill and hammer. Place the box into position against the wall and check for level. When satisfied it’s correct, either mark the position of the holes and remove the box and drill holes OR drill through the two fixing holes within the top of the rear panel.
Once the holes have been drilled, insert the rawlplugs, position screws in the holes, tap into place, and then screw it up securely to the wall.
Awaiting your new feathered friends:
You may not see much in the way of interest in your nesting box for a while, so do be patient and it should soon start to attract a new birdie family.
If after several years of no interest, then it may be because its too near a bird feeding area (too much passing bird traffic) or territorial boundaries of other birds etc. Moving your nesting box may attract some new feathered neighbours if it is in a more ‘des-res’.
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