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This week is National Nest Box Week, an initiative set up to encourage everyone to put up nest boxes in their local area in order to enhance biodiversity and conservation of our breeding birds and wildlife.
Natural nest sites for birds such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast as gardens are tidied and old houses are repaired.
Taking part in NNBW gives you the chance to contribute to bird conservation whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your nest box.
And here is a step-by-step guide to making a bird box. This project is taken from our Seasonal Garden Ideas book, available to buy for just £3.99!
A Box for the Birds
Encourage small songbirds into your garden with a tailor-made nest box – this small-hole version is suitable for blue and great tits, coal tits and tree sparrows.
You can make the box at any time of year, but try to put it into position in January. Birds can start looking for nesting sites pretty early.
Making the box and putting it up should take an afternoon.
What you need
Saw, sandpaper, screwdriver, hammer, tape measure, pencil, drill, drill bits including a 28mm wide bit for the entrance hole.
One piece of sawn, untreated timber measuring 1.2m (4ft) long, 15cm (6in) wide and 1.25cm (¾ in) thick.
Two brass hinges and screws.
Water-based wood preservative and brush.
Hook or strong nail for hanging the box.
1 Mark out all the pieces on the timber using tape measure and pencil, to the following dimensions:
• Back 30cm x 15cm (12in x 6in).
• Floor 11cm x 15cm (4.5in x 6in).
• Front 18cm x 15cm (7in x 6in).
• Roof 20cm x 15cm (8in x 6in).
• Side panels x 2 (cut for the sloping roof) 20cm (8in) high at the back, 18cm (7in) high at the front, 15cm (6in) at top and bottom.
2 Cut out the six sections accurately with a saw.
3 Sand all rough edges smooth – any splinters could damage the birds. Drill several small holes in the floor piece for drainage.
4 Fix one of the sides to the floor of the box using three nails set at intervals, then nail both of these to the back section – three nails per join are enough.
5 Turn the box on to the fixed side and nail the second side on to the back and floor.
6 Make the entrance hole for the birds in the front using a drill and 28mm wide drill bit. Position this hole at least 13cm (5in) up from the floor so the baby chicks can’t fall out. Sand the edges of the hole smooth.
7 Turn the box on its side and nail the front piece to the sides. Everything should fit together tightly without gaps. Screw the brass hinges on to the roof and back pieces.
8 Drill a hole in the top of the bird box for attaching to a tree trunk or branch via a hook or nail. Paint the outside of the box with a water-based wood preservative but do not allow the preservative to get inside the box – it will poison the chicks. Also keep the preservative away from the entrance – the adult birds often tap this area with their beaks before entering.
9 Position the box in a sheltered site, preferably between north and east to avoid heavy rain and hot afternoon sun. Place it high enough to be out of reach of prowling cats. Don’t position it near a bird feeding table – the constant coming and going of other birds will deter the parent birds from using the box.
Hanging the box about 2m (7ft) above ground should be enough to deter predators. Tilt the box slightly forwards when fixing it in place to aid water run-off.
Don’t be tempted to look in the box while baby birds are inside – such disturbance may cause the parents to desert the nest. Just watch comings and goings from a distance. When the chicks have fledged and left the box, take it down, remove old nesting material and clean it thoroughly with scalding hot water – this is enough to kill any parasites. Reapply water-based preservative if needed to prolong the life of the box, then hang it up again.
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