You can buy a bird box from any good garden centre and many people choose to make their own for their wildlife garden. They can be simple or elaborate and some are designed and positioned to attract a particular species of bird into the garden. At their basic level however, they tend to take on two forms – one which has a front which is half-open (preferred by species such as the robin) or one which has a small round entry hole (liked by blue tits and sparrows) but there are several other designs too aimed at attracting a specific species.
Making a Bird Box
Some people build bird boxes out of any old off cuts of wood that they may have lying around yet, whilst many are built from plywood, although these tend to need replacing more often so a good quality wood is recommended as it will be better at resisting any adverse garden weather. You shouldn’t use any kind of paint or wood preservative on it though as it might be toxic to the birds. You should ensure that all the edges of your box are tight fitting to prevent rain from getting in and a sloping roof will also help with drainage. The average bird box is usually about 9 inches high but you’ll need to ensure that your box is big enough if you’re looking to attract larger bird species. If you’re building a box with a small round hole as its entrance, it’s useful to also make one side which can be removed (i.e. slid up and down) or opened on a hinge mechanism to enable you to get inside it at the end of the season to clean it out. You should also drill a few holes into the base to allow for drainage into the garden.
Positioning the Bird Box
There are a number of factors to consider when positioning your bird box. Some species of birds prefer to be higher up in the branches of trees than others so if you’re looking to attract a particular species of bird, you should find out what they prefer. You should also make sure that your box is rigidly attached to a solid object as it’s going to be at the mercy of the wind and other elements the British weather can throw at it throughout the year. You should also place it in a garden area which is relatively shaded from the afternoon sun as birds will not be attracted to a box which causes them to bake in the summer. However, it should not be facing head on to any prevailing wind currents either. Position the bird box in its location before the start of the nesting season. The months from September to January are usually the best time to do this and, if the idea of a bird box is also to allow you to observe the birds, choose a site in your wildlife garden where you can watch them comfortably without disturbing them. It should be situated high enough up to avoid being attacked by any domestic cats or other predators and a suitable height would be 6 to 15 feet from the ground depending on the design of your garden and the types of species you’re hoping to attract.
Other Considerations With Bird Boxes
If you are attaching your bird box to a tree, use a strap to minimise the damage to the tree itself. If it’s in a tree, place it close to some smaller branches where fledgling birds can perch but which would be too heavy for other predators to gain access to. You should also keep the bird box away from other busy areas of the garden such as a feeding table or bird feeders as most birds like to nest in areas which provide them with good cover. Birds, by nature, like to gather their own materials with which to line their nests so their reactions to a bird box will be just the same. Leave it to the birds to line their box – you shouldn’t do that yourself although if you’ve a pet dog, for example, leaving out some clumps of hair after brushing your dog can make for a good bird box lining and if you leave some lying around the wildlife garden, the birds will soon find it. Clean out the bird box each autumn when there should be no occupants using it. Boiling water usually suffices but you can get hold of specialised products if you prefer. By cleaning out the box at the end of each season, this prevents the transfer or spread of any diseases or parasites to the next occupiers.
If you’re buying a bird box from a store, you shouldn’t skimp on cost. A cheap bird box might be damaged within a year so always go for quality wood. And, if you’re trying to attract a particular species to your wildlife garden, do some research and look for bird boxes that are the most appropriate.
It can sometimes take perseverance to attract birds to a new bird box in the wildlife garden but if you’ve created the right environment, you stand a good chance. Also, keep it accessible over the winter months as it may provide a bird with a much needed refuge.