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Making your own nest box is easy and requires only basic tools and techniques. The materials required are timber, nails, screws and a piece of rubber or plastic for the hinge. Tools needed are a saw and a hammer. The basic design follows the guidelines of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds RSPB ( and the British Trust for Ornithology BTO (

The following design will produce a box suitable for several species. Open fronted boxes are vulnerable to certain predators and will need to be well hidden in places where magpies are very active.

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a spotted flycatcher in a natural nest hole

A 3.5 ft (1100 mm) length of 6 inch (150 mm) by 0.75 inch (18 mm) softwood is ideal for making a nest box. The following diagram shows the cutting instructions. The height of the front will depend on the species that you wish to attract. For most species 3.5 inch (about half the height of the front face of the box) will be ideal. This type of box could attract robin, pied wagtail, redstart, song thrush and wren. A shallower front seems to be favoured by spotted flycatchers.

If you are using recovered or surplus timber then don't be particularly fussy about the measurements - the birds won't be. Internally, dimensions of 3.5 inch by 3.5 inch by 6 inch should be about the minimum.

Begin assembly by nailing the back to the sides, keeping the bottom edges level with each other, as shown above. Then nail on the front in a similar manner.

Cut the base to size so that it fits inside the bottom as shown by the dotted lines in the diagram above. Fix the base in position by nailing through the sides, back and front.

Put the lid in position and nail it to the sides.

Position the rubber/plastic to form a seal. Nail or staple the rubber/plastic to the back and to the lid. I have found that gaffer tape or duct tape also works well as a seal. Nails or staples still need to be used since the adhesive will not grip the rough timber very effectively.

Position the nest box so that the hole is not facing south if the sun shines directly onto the nestlings, they may die from overheating. Any other direction is acceptable but if the box is placed in an exposed position, sheltering the hole from the prevailing wind and rain, is a good idea.

Fix the box securely using wire or screws through hole(s) drilled in the back above the seal. Mount the nest box 1 2 m (5 7 ft) high. Make sure that predators will not have easy access.

Some of the birds attracted to nest boxes are very territorial. Avoid positioning boxes close together.

a robin

New boxes can be fitted at any time of the year and may be used for overnight roosting during the winter. Clean out your nest boxes in February, removing any old nesting materials. The outside of your nest boxes may be painted but leave the inside untreated.

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