Nesting boxes, or birdhouses as they are often called, provide shelter for mated birds to raise their offspring. But, it’s not one size fits all: each bird species has different housing needs. Check out the plans provided here and build to suit your favorite backyard birds.
You can also find decorative birdhouse ideas here.
About Nesting Boxes
When done right, nesting boxes provide wild birds with a safer place to raise their young than they may find in the wild.
Use these tips and plans to house favorite birds in your garden. But remember, birds are territorial, so one box may be all the works in your space.
- Nesting Box Building Tips
- Free Nesting Box Plans
Nesting Box Building Tips
If you want to be certain you are helping and not harming wild birds, consider using proper nesting boxes instead of decorative or artsy (but not safe) birdhouses.
Birds in need of a place to lay their eggs are on a deadline. Your super cute, brightly-painted birdhouse might look like a good option for urgently-needed housing, but, later on when the eggs have hatched and the chicks are growing, it might cause a whole bunch of problems. I’ll explain more in the tips (below).
Proper nesting boxes are functional homes for nesting birds to raise their young. The best designs come from experts who have studied the habitat and behaviors of each species and designed the building plans to suit each of them.
Each bird species nests differently in the wild and that is why each has its own style of nesting box as well. Plenty may choose a goofy home in a pinch, like a brightly-painted, decorative birdhouse with large entry holes, or the hanging planter on your front porch, but it may not end well.
One main problem is the size of the opening on the nesting box or birdhouse. The adult bird may be able to get in, but, if that hole is slightly large, it allows entry for other predators as well. If the opening is too small, once the babies are plump and ready to fledge, they may be too big to actually get out. Plus, bright colors attract all sorts of intruders.
This is the book I use for building nesting boxes: Easy Birdhouses & Feeders: Simple Projects to Attract & Retain the Birds You Want by Bird Watcher’s Digest
There are also free plans and recommended resources below.
Is This a Nesting Box?
Entry hole should be blocked to prevent birds from getting trapped inside
Here are a few tips:
- The nesting box should be designed for the specific species you want to attract, based on known species in your region.
- The dimensions and style of the box should be tailored for the species (and be sure to follow the instructions exactly).
- Perches are rarely recommended on nesting boxes because birds do not need them and they enable predators. No perches!
- Birds lay their eggs in nesting boxes. Once they hatch, the young birds live in there until they are old enough to leave (fledge). If your nesting box plans say to put rough wood on the inside of the box, do this. Eventually, those little birds must climb out on their own, and they need that rough wood surface for their feet to grab as they climb up and out.
- Avoid paint and decorations. Nesting boxes should be made from plain, untreated wood for bird health and camouflage. You want it to blend into the environment.
- Every nesting box needs a side panel or door that opens so it can be cleaned and disinfected at the end of each mating season.
- If birds do nest in your decorative birdhouses (or other odd places), wait it out until the babies fledge, and then block off the holes so it doesn’t happen again. And then make a proper nesting box and put it in that location. The birds will thank you (with handwritten notes signed with birdy foot prints).
Best Wood For Nesting Boxes
According to the Audubon Birdhouse Book, these are the best types of wood to choose for nesting boxes and shelves.
Choose wood that is at least 3/4″ thick.
- Cedar (rot and insect-resistant but squirrels may chew their way in)
- Cypress (rot and insect-resistant)
- Reclaimed barn wood
- Newer, non-toxic, CDX exterior grades of non-pressure-treated plywood
Free Nesting Box Plans
Unlike many other birds that use nesting boxes, the American robin will nest on a ledge. When placed high up on a house wall under an overhang, they can provide a good, secure location for raising their young.
Attracting Wild Birds to Your Garden
- Avoid the use of any products toxic to birds and their food sources including caterpillars.
- Grow plants, trees and shrubs for habitat and be messy: dead and decaying things nourish life.
- Keep pets out of your garden.
- Choose plants that provide food, nectar, or habitat for other living things.
- Birdhouses: Use as decoration only.
- Nesting Boxes: Choose species-specific designs.
- Bird Feed: Provide nutritious food and fresh, clean water.
- Bird Feeders: Clean 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 motion-sensitive wildlife camera in your garden to see what goes on when you’re not there.
How to Block Predators from Nesting Boxes
See the block of wood around the nesting box opening (below)? This helps keeps out predators including bigger birds and raccoons. After adding it, a few nights later I happened to see a raccoon trying to reach in the box to snatch eggs. That little block of wood made it impossible for him to bend his arm down inside and grab dinner. Phew!
More Nesting Box Plans
These are the two books I use for making nesting boxes. Both have plans for a variety of bird species in the United States and Canada. They each contain helpful information about each species and recommendations for where to place the nesting boxes so they are both safe and attractive for the birds.
Backyard Bird Cam
Here is some favorite footage from my backyard birdcam:
Hand Feeding Wild Birds
Over the years, I have had had numerous birds land on my head or hand while I’m standing in the garden. Once they get used to you, and know you’re not there to eat them, some consider you a part of the scenery. Like a convenient shrub to land upon while waiting for a turn at the bird feeder.
If you want to kick it up a notch, learn how to hand feed birds. It’s really sweet.
I hope you’ll try making a nesting box. It is a lot of fun to watch as birds select one as their home, fill it with nesting material, and raise their young. I have boxes for wrens and chickadees, and they are busy from spring to fall.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛