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Nest Boxes

Nest Boxes for Garden Birds

Providing nest boxes for birds in your garden is a great way to attract different species, plus it is fun and very rewarding to watch the whole process of birds first taking the box, building their nest, feeding their young, then the young emerging for the very first time. You can even watch what's happening inside the box with one of our Nest Box and Camera kits! 

Which birds nest in nest boxes? 

The two garden birds most likely to take up a nest box are blue tits and great tits. Other species which may take up nest boxes include coal tits, house sparrows, tree sparrows, wrens, starlings, blackbirds, song thrushes, nuthatches and robins.

What bird box to use for which bird species 

Nest boxes basically come in two types – with a hole at the front and open fronted. For birds which use a box with a hole at the front, the most important thing is the size of the hole. This is because individual species of bird like to use a hole which is just large enough for them to get into – a good defence strategy as larger predators then can’t enter the box. For birds which use an open fronted box, the size of the opening is much less of an issue and a ‘one size fits all’ approach can be used.

This chart shows you which type of nest box and opening hole size different species of garden bird will use:

     25mm    28mm    32mm    45mm    Open
   Blue & Coal Tit    x        
   Blue/Coal/Great Tit and Tree Sparrow      x      
   House/Tree Sparrow, Great Tit and Nuthatch        x    
   Starling          x  
   Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush            x

Where to site nest boxes in your garden

Where you site nest boxes in your garden is important both to the likelihood of the box being used by birds, and the health and welfare of the birds once in it.

The first thing is to ensure you pick a spot which is out of continual direct sun light, because if you don’t the box will become too hot and potentially kill the young birds inside. So never put a nest box in a south facing position.

Choose a tree or a wall, but ensure there is some cover around or close to the box. If it’s an open fronted box, then this must be tucked well into foliage – e.g. a climbing plant on a wall so it is not obvious to predators.

Next ensure the height of the nest box is at least 1.5 metres above the ground.

When to put nest boxes up

Any time of year is fine, but autumn or early winter is best as many species of bird will start looking for a nest site as early as January. In addition, a nest box put up ahead of the very cold weather also provides a warm shelter for roosting birds.

How long will it take until a bird takes up residence in a nest box?

Sometimes a nest box will be taken in its first season, but often you have to wait until the following year. If the box isn't taken then, then there’s a good chance it won’t be, so try moving it to an alternative position.

Annual maintenance of nest boxes

Once a nest box has been used, it’s essential that the old nest is removed. If it isn't removed and for species such as blue tit and great tit, they won’t use it again. The best time of year to clean nest boxes out is early autumn, and it simply needs the old nest removing and any other materials brushing out.

Watch all the action from inside your home

By using one of our Nest Box and Camera kits, you can watch all the stages of use from the birds first arriving, to the adults incubating the eggs, the young hatching, the young being fed by the adults, and finally the young leaving the box for the first time.

Special nest boxes for other species

If you have the right sort of property, both swallows and house martins can be attracted to nest. For both these species, they typically build their own nest but swallows will take this artificial nest (though will add materials to it), and for house martins the presence of this type of nest box may well attract them to build a nest next to it even if another pair do not use the box you've put up. Swallows need a relatively flat area to nest – e.g. a timber beam – and in an open building such a garage, large shed, porch or stable. House martins normally nest under eaves and generally at a gable end of a building.

Swifts traditionally nest in the eaves or gables of buildings. Modern houses and renovated buildings exclude swifts therefore putting up a Swift Nest Box is an easy way to replicate these nesting places. The ideal site for Swift Nest Boxes are under the eaves or on walls facing north, north east or north west out of direct sunlight. Place five metres above the ground, with clear adjacent airspace so swifts can access it in high-speed direct flight.

We have a full range of Nest Boxes for all the species described above, plus larger boxes for owls.