Build Your Nest Box: The Perfect Bird Box

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How do you build a nesting box yourself? What properties should it have? We share tips on building and hanging the perfect bird nesting box. Birds are certainly one of the most popular garden animals because their beautiful singing not only flatters our ears, but they are also exciting to watch. To lure birds into the garden, many people hang nest boxes in which the feathered animals can raise their offspring. Not only is watching the young birds a great event – but building a nest box yourself is also fun and makes an important contribution to bird protection. We’ll tell you now why birds need nesting boxes and what to look out for when building nest boxes.

Why do birds need nesting boxes?

A common question that many ask: do birds need nesting boxes? After all, they build their own nest in nature. The reason for the need for nesting boxes actually lies with us humans: Many birds only nest in dead wood, natural caves, and in suitable wall niches – but all these places have become a rarity in modern landscapes that were created by humans. So that birds can still raise their offspring in a suitable place, nesting aids are an absolutely sensible alternative.

Nest boxes are not only helpful for birds during breeding. Many of them are happy to have sheltered accommodation, especially on cold winter nights. Since birds have to maintain a constant body temperature of 39 to 42 ° C, a night without adequate protection from the weather can be fatal for them. In fact, some bird species – such as the house sparrow – are known to set up a veritable winter nest in their nesting box. But also insects, squirrels, or even bats like to use nesting boxes as a retreat in winter.

In winter, nest boxes offer ideal retreats

Build your nest box: You should consider that

When building a nest box, there are a few things to consider if you want the residents to really feel comfortable. It already begins when you put together the material to build the nest box yourself: wood-concrete, terracotta, or classic wood are suitable. Untreated oak, Robinia, or larch boards are particularly suitable for building nest boxes, as they are very weather-resistant. Plywood and chipboard, on the other hand, cannot withstand wetness or cold well and are therefore hardly suitable. You should also refrain from plastic: Since it is not breathable, moisture collects inside plastic bird nest boxes, which in the worst case leads to mold on the nest. There is also a lack of the necessary insulation so that strong temperature fluctuations can occur.

If you want to design your nest box individually, you can also paint your birdhouse with paints and glazes. However, it is important to ensure that the colors used to meet the safety requirements for children’s toys as far as possible and, at best, are biodegradable. Linseed oil is suitable, for example, as a glaze against moisture and is also absolutely harmless to birds. Bright colors also make the nest box more visible to predators. It is therefore advisable to use earthy, natural colors such as green and brown tones when painting.

Birdhouses in natural tones are not so well recognized by predators 

Furthermore, when building a nest box, you should pay close attention to the correct dimensions: The bottom of the nest box should be at least 12 x 12 centimeters to provide enough space for the brood. Four holes with a diameter of five millimeters in the base also ensure better ventilation and make it easier for the nest to dry off. In addition, the lower edge of the entrance hole should be at least 17 centimeters above the box floor and the box should have a sufficiently large roof overhang. This protects the birds from predators trying to get to the eggs.

Tip: A perch even helps dangerous predators get into the bird box, which is why you should never attach one.

This is what the perfect nest box looks like

As far as the exact appearance of the box is concerned, it is important to orientate yourself strongly to the respective bird species, because a tit box needs different conditions than a swift nesting box. The typical starling box or tit box with its rectangular shape and its round entrance hole are used by numerous species of birds. Which species moves into the nest box depends heavily on the size of the nesting hole: Each species of bird prefers a different size. We have compiled the entry hole sizes for the most common bird species for you here:

26 – 28 mm Most of the tit species (blue tit, coal tit, marsh tit, crested tit, meadow tit)
32 mm Great tit, tree sparrow
32 – 34 mm Pied flycatcher, house sparrow
32 – 45 mm nuthatch
45 mm star
48 mm high, 32 mm wide (oval) Common redstart

The redstart needs an oval entrance hole

In addition to the typical tit nest boxes, other nest box shapes are used by different species of birds. Some free breeders and species that rely on breeding niches are happy about a brood aid in the “half-cave format”. This nesting box for robins, graycatchers, white wagtail, or wren does not have an entrance hole but has a half-open front. Swifts also have very special demands on their nesting boxes: These should be flat rather than upright and have an oval hole (6.4 x 3.2 centimeters).

Correctly hang up and care for the nest box for birds

If you have built a nesting box yourself, it is now important to install it in a suitable location. In fact, this is decisive for whether the incubator is accepted by birds. If the location is unfortunate, the best nesting box will not be used. Ideally, the nesting aid should be placed about two to three meters above the ground. The entrance hole should neither point to the weather side (to the west) nor only be in the shadow area or the blazing sun. Orientation to the southeast or east has therefore proven its worth. Suitable locations for nesting boxes are sheltered places on a tree, post, or a house wall. Particularly with nest boxes for robins or other half-cave breeders, it is important to ensure that the place is as inaccessible to martens or cats as possible.

Nest boxes should be placed in such a way that predators have no chance

The self-made nesting box can then be attached to the appropriate place with stainless nails or screws so that it tilts forward slightly. Fixed wire brackets are ideal for fastening trees – these do not damage the tree and can be gently removed again if necessary. There should be a distance of at least ten meters between nesting aids of the same type so that there is no conflict between the neighbors. The only exception: colony breeders prefer to stay together in groups. Star boxes, nesting boxes for swallows or sparrows can therefore be hung in the immediate vicinity.

If the birds are fed regularly, sufficient distance should also be maintained from the feeding point: On the one hand, such places are often too restless for the brood, as many different birds fly to them. On the other hand, a feeding place always draws the attention of predators, so that the nesting aid is discovered more quickly. By the way, the perfect time to hang up a birdhouse is in autumn: the animals can use the nesting aid as protection in winter and get used to the construction before the start of the breeding season. After hanging it up, it is best to leave the nest box alone, as too much restlessness is a deterrent for the birds.

The nest box should be cleaned once a year

The nesting box only needs to be cleaned once a year to get rid of vermin and dirt. The best time to clean the nest box is in late summer after the breeding season is over. During cleaning, old nesting material is removed and coarse dirt is brushed from the nesting aid. Chemical cleaning agents or disinfection are not necessary and can even have a deterrent effect on new residents due to their strong odor. However, it is essential to wear gloves when cleaning: otherwise, bird fleas and other parasites could spread to human skin.

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