Nest box know-how

Spring is a great time to install a house for your feathered friends. Jean Vernon has some top tips and advice on siting a nest box in your garden.

Haiths Nest Box
Give the birds a home in your garden by putting up a nest box. Image: Haith's.
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Birds are pretty fussy when it comes to choosing a place to nest. They need to feel safe and secure from predators and have a good view on the area around their chosen site. With hollow trees and suitable natural nest cavities in short supply, gardeners can assist wild birds by installing a nest box.

Robin Teapot Nester
Robin Teapot Nester. Image: Wildlife World

Siting a nest box

  • Choose where to site your nest box carefully. Most birds like a clear line of sight to and from the nest box. A quiet and sheltered spot is ideal. Keep it out of direct sunlight and prevailing winds.
  • If possible angle the box so that the entrance faces very slightly downwards to protect from rain. It’s also a good idea to site the nest box away from feeding stations where the competition for food is fierce.
  • Try and site your nest box away from reach by predators. Different species prefer different heights to nest at, so try and install them as high as possible.
  • A nest box camouflaged within a cloak of ivy against a wall or a fence is a good place to try.
  • Make sure the box is fixed securely, you don’t want it to fall down in strong winds with chicks or eggs inside.
  • A nest box needs to be weatherproof and leak free. So it’s worth checking that existing nest boxes are free from cracks and leaks – always do this out of nesting season between October and January. If your nest box is damp inside it’s unlikely the birds will choose to nest in it.
  • When buying a new box avoid those that don’t look like they will last long. “Look for a box that has a thick wood or recycled material on the outside. This ensures durability and gives the nest box the best chance of being used year after year. Many birds are site faithful and if the nest box remains dry and is cleaned out, it could be used year after year,” says Wildlife World ecologist Chantal Brown
  • The box needs to be insulated. Thick timber is a good start, or you can buy boxes made from a mix of natural materials and concrete such as the Schwegler Woodcrete boxes, or Wildlife World’s Urban Bird Box, which is made from, recycled plastic and clay. These insulated boxes keep the internal temperature consistent during nesting season.
  • Protect the entrance from predators by using a nest box plate. These fit over the nest box hole and restrict access by large birds such as woodpeckers and raptors, but also deter gnawing rodents such as squirrels and rats reaching the brood nest.
  • Most birds collect material from around the garden to build their nests. It’s a good idea to provide a shallow mud patch for them to easily source wet mud. Blackbirds stick their nests together with mud, so a readily available source is very helpful.
  • Keep feeding the birds with high protein and high-energy seed mixes. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap bird food, it often has fillers that the birds can’t or won’t eat and the waste material can attract rats.
  • For a fantastic mix of high quality birdseed check out Richard Jackson’s Premium Energy Bird Food. It’s packed full of great ingredients to help support a huge range of garden birds and contains extra high levels of sunflower hearts as well as a carefully chosen mix of other seeds and ingredients to care for garden birds. It also contains a natural form of calcium to help nesting birds form strong eggs in spring.
Jean Vernon

About Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is a slightly quirky, bee friendly, alternative gardener. She doesn’t follow the rules and likes to push the boundaries a bit just to see what happens. She has a fascination for odd plants, especially edibles and a keen interest in growing for pollinators especially bees. She’s rather obsessed with the little buzzers. Telegraph Gardening Correspondent, mostly testing and trialing products and Editor-In-Chief for Richard Jackson’s Garden.
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