Materials and Basic Design
of Nest Boxes



Look through any book or catalog and you'll see bird houses made of materials you might not have thought of. Recycled paper, gourds, plastic, rubber, pottery, metal, and concrete.

Nest boxes come in all shapes and sizes,

With perches and without.

You don't want perches, however. Perches attract House sparrows and allow small mammals a foot hold.

Wren house

Of all the available building materials, wood is about as good as you can get. It's durable, has good insulating qualities, and it breathes. 3/4 inch thick bald-cypress, redwood and red cedar are recommended. Pine and exterior grade plywood will do, but they're not as durable.

3/4 inch wood or thicker is recommended as it is an ideal insulator.

It makes no difference whether the wood is slab, rough-cut or finished, as long as the inside has not been treated with stains or preservatives.

Fumes from the chemicals could harm the birds.

Rough-cut is better as it allows fledglings to get a toe grip to the hole and onto freedom. This hold true for wood ducks that must climb to get out.

Besides, Rough cut is a bit more natural looking.

There's no need to paint cypress, redwood and cedar, because it has built in, its own anti-rot and anti-insect repellent. However, pine and plywood houses will last longer with a coat of water-based exterior latex paint.

White is the color for Purple martin houses.

Use water base earth tone paints and stains like tan, gray, brown or a dull green. This works best for the other cavity nesting species. The dull, light colors reflect heat and are less conspicuous to predators.

Don't paint the inside of the box or the entrance hole.

Regardless of which wood you select, gluing all the joints before you nail them will extend the life of your bird house.

Galvanized, zinc plated, or brass shank nails, hinges, and screws resist rusting and hold boxes together more tightly as they age.

Avoid using or buying houses that are using staples. These building materials may work on your indoor projects, but in the outdoor elements and as wood dries and shrinks, the staple are sure to work lose and eventually pop.

Often people want to use old license plates as a roof.

Resist the temptation to put a metal materials for a roof on your bird house.

Reflective metal makes sense for martin houses up on a sixteen-foot pole, but when it's tacked onto a roof of a wood chickadee house, the metal is more likely to attract predators and is a poor insulator.

Do building materials and hammers scare you?

How About Gourds?

Natural gourds make very attractive bird houses. They "breathe," and because they sway in the wind are less likely to be taken over by House sparrows and Starlings.

Grow your own gourds and you'll have dozens to choose from in the years ahead. If you don't have the space to grow them, a coat of polyurethane or exterior latex (on the outside only) will add years to the one you have.

Martin house

Other materials are properly designed pottery, aluminum (for purple martins only), concrete, and plastic houses will breathe and are durable, but don't drop them.

Be sure to provide ventilation, drainage, and easy access for maintenance and monitoring.

Concrete (actually a mix of concrete and sawdust) offers protection other houses cannot: squirrels cannot chew their way in.

We all want to go green, but coffee cans and other stuff aren't the way to go for bird houses.

Old coffee cans glued together with some other materials added on offer little in the way of ventilation or drainage.

If a Raccoon or chewing Squirrel really wants to get at the eggs or babies, a plastic coffee can isn't going to stop them.

Make sure one side, or the top of your new nest box swings up for easy cleaning and observation. If you want to make an observation nest box, you will need some extra building materials.

Some clear plastic cut and shaped to the opening side and design it so it can be removed for cleaning.

The clear plexiglass allows you to observe without the babies jumping out.

You are watching the babies grow, maybe even taking notes. After you close the side or top, it is wise to cover the opening for several minutes or until the young have settled down.

It's a rough life for a young bird and everyday spent in the box gives them that much more of a fighting chance

Build or buy them right and make it to last for years.

You've used the right Materials, Now Where to Place Your Nest Box

Bird Houses

Bird House Gourds

Cavity Nesting Birds

Monitor your Boxes

Maintaining Your Boxes

Native Trees for Food, Shelter and Protection.

Shrubs Offer Food and Shelter

Native Flowers Bring in the Birds

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