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.
This shows why decorative birdhouses can be unsafe for birds and why it’s best to use properly designed nesting boxes.
About Nesting Boxes
When done right, nesting boxes provide wild birds with a safer place to raise their young than they may find in areas where natural resources are limited.
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
If you want to be certain you are helping and not harming wild birds, consider using proper nesting boxes, designed for each particular species, instead of decorative or artsy (but not safe) birdhouses.
While the ideal is to let nature provide what’s needed, in reality, birds in urban and suburban areas do not always have what they need to nest and raise their young.
In addition to providing a diverse selection of plants and food sources including caterpillars, worms, and butterflies (yes!) in a pesticide-free environment, nesting boxes can also help.
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.
For plans, in addition to the resources below, I like the book Easy Birdhouses & Feeders: Simple Projects to Attract & Retain the Birds You Want by Bird Watcher’s Digest.
The Resources section below also has other helpful tips.
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
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.
How to Block Predators from Nesting Boxes
See the block of wood around the nesting box opening (below)? This helps keeps out predators including other, larger birds and raccoons. After I added one to my wren nesting box, I got footage on my bird camera of a racoon trying to reach in 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.
- Easy Birdhouses & Feeders: Simple Projects to Attract & Retain the Birds You Want (Birdwatcher’s Digest)
- Audubon Birdhouse Book, Revised and Updated: Building, Placing, and Maintaining Great Homes for Great Birds
Backyard Bird Wildlife Camera
Here is some favorite footage from my backyard automated backyard bird camera:
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 ♛