Putting up a nest box is a great way to attract different species of birds into your garden. Its rewarding to watch birds first taking to the nest box, then building a nest, feeding their young and finally the young taking flight and leaving the nest box for the first time.
What species will you attract?
The two most likely birds to take up a nest box are Blue Tits and Great Tits. Other species that may also take up next boxes are Coal Tits, Wrens, House and Tree Sparrows.
These birds will use a nest box with a hole at the front, the most important thing being the size of the hole. Birds like to use a hole that is just large enough for them to enter. This also prevents larger predators from entering the box, keeping them and their young safe. To attract the birds mentioned above you’ll need to look for a bird box with an opening of 28-32mm. Anything larger will then attract larger birds like Starlings, Blackbirds or Thrush.
Placing your nest box
Never place your nest box so that it will remain in direct sunlight, otherwise the box will become too hot and the young birds will perish. So avoid putting your nest box in a south-facing garden. It is also important to take into consideration wet weather, so an exposed west-facing garden could see your nest box being exposed to wind and rain. Again this is not ideal for young birds. Ideally you’ll need to place your nest box in a sheltered north or north-easterly garden. Tree, wall or even a fence post can be used to secure your nest box, and finally your nest box should be at least 1.5 metres off the ground.
The best time to put up a nest box
Autumn or winter is considered the best time to put up a nest box, but there is no hard and fast rule so anytime of the year is fine. Many species will start to search for a nesting place in early January, but there are still a few months before garden birds settle down to start the process of raising a new family. Blue Tits and Great Tits have been known to take a month or more investigating a suitable nest site before settling down, and this process usually takes place in January. Don’t be despondent if you find that your nest box isn’t taken the first season you put it up. It sometimes takes a season before they are used, but some birds will use them as a safe place to roost and stay dry. If your nest box isn’t used the second season, then you might try moving it to a different site.
It is very important that once the nest box has been used that the old nest is removed. If you leave the old nest, then birds like Blue Tits and Great Tits will not use it again. The best time to clean out your nest box is early autumn. Just remove the old nest and any other materials and if necessary sometimes a light water based detergent to wipe the insides thoroughly clean.