It is really cool when birds settle into backyard birdhouse nesting boxes, but did you know many are not safe? Just as each species of bird makes different choices based on their needs when nesting in the wild, they will also have different needs when selecting a human-made nesting box.
Nesting Box Tips
When making a nesting box for birds, design, location, and materials matter.
For example, a mama bird may start nesting in a generic birdhouse but, due to wrong dimensions or slippery surfaces, the babies find themselves trapped at fledging time, unable to climb out.
Perches can enable predators to attack the nest. It’s worthwhile to learn about the right choices so your birds can enjoy greater safety. It’s not an easy out there in the food chain!
- About Chickadees
- How to Make a Chickadee Nesting Box
Black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapilla) Vital Statistics
- size: 5.5″
- number of eggs: 5–10
- length of incubation: 11–13
- broods per season: 1
- Food: insects, berries, and seeds
- range: year-round in the northern half of the United states and most of Canada
Chickadees, both the Black-capped and the Carolina, are vocal, energetic birds, and we’ve all probably heard their familiar chick-a-dee call. But their loud voices do not match their size; the average chickadee weighs a mere .4 ounces, equivalent to the combined weight of a quarter, nickel, and dime.
They are readily seen around bird feeders and have specialized leg muscles that enable them to hang upside down. The Black-capped Chickadee prefers deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous woodlands, but it is also found in suburban areas as long as there is suitable nesting sites and adequate food.
They gather in flocks and have a pecking order in that a main pair will dominate over all other individuals. During winter, chickadees have an amazing ability to enter a state of “controlled hypothermia” on cold nights, and they can drop their body temperature by 18–22° Fahrenheit to conserve energy during the night.
A common visitor to bird feeding stations in the northern United States and most of Canada, for me, the chickadee signals winter and snow. Even though the bird is present in summer (and in fact doesn’t generally migrate), it’s in the winter around my bird feeders where I hear them singing their long-drawn-out chick-a-dee-dee-dee call.
While this house (which the Carolina Chickadee in the South will also use) may look a bit more complicated than a basic box-style house, it’s actually fairly basic to build provided you have a jigsaw. Because you can change the angle of the jigsaw’s blade, the tool makes it easy to make the 45° cuts that this house requires.
Chickadees are quite tame, and it’s not uncommon for them to eat sunflower seed out of your hand, provided you are patient and remain still. This post has tips for learning to hand feed wild birds.
Also consider adding bee, bat, or owl boxes if you have a larger property.
How to Make a Chickadee Nesting Box
These plans are from the book, Easy Birdhouses & Feeders.
All text and images used with permission by Cool Springs Press / Quayside Publishing Group who also provided a review copy of this book.
Birds are not picky critters; provided you’ve built the birdhouse according to the dimensions needed for a given species, they won’t care what type of wood you’ve used.
You should use wood best suited for the outdoors.
- Species such as cedar, cypress, and redwood are naturally rot resistant.
- Pine, fir, and exterior-rated (or marine) plywood are also suitable choices.
- Avoid treated lumber.
Chickadees prefer to nest along forest edges and are especially prevalent along the edges of farm fields where forested areas have been disturbed. With that in mind,
follow these guidelines for best house placement:
- Mount the house 4–15 feet above the ground.
- Choose a location that receives sunlight 40–60 percent of the day.
- Locate the house along edges of forests or other heavily treed areas.
- Place about 1 inch of wood chips or shavings in the bottom of the box.
All pieces use 1×12 lumber (3/4-inch thick).
A 1 Back 6 x 16-inches
B 1 Roof 6 x 10 -inches (Cut top edge at 45 degrees)
C 1 Floor 6 x 8.25 -inches (Cut bottom edge at 45 degrees)
D 2 Sides 7.25 x 7.25 x 10.25 -inches (triangular pieces)
Hardware and Supplies
- 1 x 12 x 6-foot board
- 1 5/8 galvanized wood screws or 2″ galvanized ring-shank nails
- waterproof wood glue
NOTE: Also buy hinges so you can make the roof open and close for cleaning.
- Cut the parts to the dimensions listed in the cutting list. An easy way to cut the 45°bevels along the top edge of the roof and along the bottom edge of the floor is to first set the blade angle of your jigsaw to 45°. Use a combination square as a guide to help you steady the jigsaw as you cut, and work slowly across the board, letting the saw do the work.
- Use a hole saw or a Forstner bit to bore a 1½” diameter entrance hole in one of the sides. Note: other more recent bird studies suggest a 1 1/8″ diameter for the entrance hole is best.
- Use glue and 1 5/8″ exterior-rated screws to attach the sides flush to the edges of the back; then fasten the roof and floor to the sides and back in the same fashion.
UPDATE: Attach the roof with hinges so you can clean the box after each mating season.
After attaching the sides to the back, glue and screw the roof to the sides and back, followed by the floor.
Hang your chickadee nesting box in an appropriate location and see who comes to nest.
Here are some favorite moments at my backyard birdfeeders:
Buy the Book
I received a review copy of this book from Cool Springs Press and it has become my go-to book for nesting box building plans.
Includes plans for building 16 different nesting boxes, 10 bird feeders, and some birdbaths as well. Included is information on the needs of various bird species, which materials to use, where to locate the birdhouse, and what to expect when your birds are expecting.
The book includes birdhouse plans for the following birds: America Robin, Mourning Dove, House Wren, Black-Capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Easter Bluebird, Flycatcher, Norther Flicker, Woodpecker, Wood Duck, American Kestrel, Barred Owl, Screech Owl, and Barn Owl.
Attracting Wild Birds to Your Garden
Just like us, birds need food and shelter.
- Grow a diverse selection of plants including flowers, trees and shrubs that support the web of life.
- Grow bugs. Many bird species eat a lot of insects and other invertebrates.
- An eco-beneficial garden is a “messy” garden: dead and decaying things nourish life.
- Provide fresh water. Puddles and ponds both help.
- Avoid the use of any products toxic to birds and their food sources including caterpillars.
- Keep pets out of your garden.
- Decorative birdhouses are not safe for birds.
- Use nesting boxes intended to safely house specific bird species.
- If using feeders, provide clean fresh water and the right types of seed.
- Clean bird feeders frequently. Remove feeders immediately if you notice any sign of disease or problems like salmonella, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis, or avian pox are reported in your area.
TIP: Use a wildlife camera with a motion sensor in your garden to get a candid look at life in your garden.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛