Project: Build a Bird Box
With the BTO’s Bird Box Week just around the corner and the territory battles hotting up it’s time to break out the hammer and nails and give your local birdlife a helping hand onto the property ladder with a homemade avian des res. Failing that you could always enter our competition to win the project box in our giveaway at the end of the feature.
Project time: 1.5 hours
What you’ll need:
Pretty much any type of wood will do as long as it hasn’t been treated. Chipboard and other manufactured boards will degrade quickly outside if exposed to weather so should be avoided unless your box will be sited in a very sheltered position. Hardwood will last longer then a softwood such as pine but it may also be a bit more expensive if you are buying it new. Try to use wood that is at least 15mm thick to avoid the wood bowing or twisting and to keep the inside of the box insulated. If you are buying your wood you should be able to cut all pieces from a single plank
If you have hole cutting bits you will need a minimum of 25mm diameter for Blue Tits and other similar size birds, 28mm for those the size of a Tree Sparrow, 32mm for House Sparrow and 45mm for Starlings. If not draw a circle in the correct position, drill lots of holes around the inside edge and then tap or chisel the middle out.
Nails or screws
Use galvanised or special external grade nails or screws so they don’t rust.
Saw to cut your panels
Hammer or Screwdriver
You can use either a rustproof brass or plastic hinge or improvise one from a strip of rubber (old inner tube works well) nailed to the roof and backboard. You will also need to make sure the roof is secured with some kind of catch mechanism or screw to keep it shut.
Assembling your bird box
Download the pdf plans here. You will see that there are two types, one with an entrance hole for the likes of tits, sparrows, Nuthatches, Starlings and Woodpeckers and one open-fronted more suited to Robins, Wrens and Spotted Flycatchers. Both are just as easy to make so choose the one best suited for your garden visitors or, if you are feeling particularly handy, make both.
It is best not to include a perch as this could be of more use to potential predators than the birds themselves.
Cut your wood panels to size. The sizes in the plans are approximate and you can tinker with the dimensions to suit the wood you have to hand and the birds you are trying to attract. The plan is for a box suitable for smaller birds like sparrows and Nuthatches. Make your box bigger for Starlings and Woodpeckers. If the wood is smooth cutting out some grooves under the entrance hole to help the babies climb up when it’s time to fly the nest.
With the exception of the roof, which needs to be hinged for cleaning at the end of the season, screw or nail all the panels, together. Don’t use glue to assemble your box as this stops moisture escaping from the joints. Drill a couple of holes in the bottom to allow water to drain should it get in.
Don’t worry if your DIY skills are a bit rusty, it doesn’t have to be perfect, after all, you are simply trying to replicate a hole in a tree so it just needs to be safe and weatherproof. If using softwood you may want to apply a coat of bird friendly wood preservative. Do this to the outside only and leave a couple of centimetres around the entrance hole uncoated.
That’s all there is to it.
How and where to hang your bird box
Hang your bird box on a tree, fence or other suitable place away from areas where other birds will congregate such as bird tables or feeders. Be careful not to put it anywhere that gives cats or other predators easy access or a good hiding place close to the box. Boxes for Robins and Wrens should be situated in amongst foliage and preferably low down (under two metres) whereas other birds prefer theirs higher up, between two and four metres, with a clear flightpath in. These aren’t hard and fast rules and you may have good results with other situations so feel free to experiment. Make sure the entrance is facing away from prevailing winds.
A single nail will usually fix your box securely to most supports but if you are worried about damaging a tree you can use suitable wire to tie them on. You should protect the tree with a layer of plastic tubing or rubber around the wire and remember to adjust it as the tree grows.
Cleaning your bird box
By law you can only clean out your nest box between the beginning of August and the end of January but it is best to leave this until the end of October to avoid disturbing any late nesting families. Remove the old nest and clean thoroughly with hot water, allowing the box to dry properly before re-hanging. Any unhatched eggs must be disposed of as, again, you cannot keep or sell them by law.
Make sure you do put you boxes back up over winter as many species still use them for roosting in the colder month.
Win a Bird Box
You can win the bird box shown in the photo and made by my own fair hand. All you need to do is send me a email to firstname.lastname@example.org, on or before February 14th 2013, with Bird Box Competition Entry in the subject line and I will pick a winner at random on February 15th. Postal entries can be sent to the address on our contacts page here.
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