Photo by Rick Wetherbee
Make it easy for birds to set up shop by providing nesting materials.
Build a nesting materials
box for birds
Make your yard more attractive by offering
easy access to nesting material
Birds spend a lot of time and energy searching for nesting material and then flying back and forth, as they carry each beakfull to nesting sites. You can give birds an assist by providing a variety of materials in a customized container you can build with your kids.
Different birds gather different nesting materials, and many backyard birds use several different types of material in constructing their nests. The more selection you offer, the more bird varieties you'll attract.
Much of the nesting material can be gathered in your own outdoor space, such as dried grasses, moss or lichen, pine needles, and various yard trimmings or debris from garden cleanup. Some birds use bark or pebbles. Additional sources from nature include straw or hay, feathers, spider web silk, milkweed silk, cattail fluff or any fluff or downy material from plants.
Think about supplemental sources found in your home or outdoor building. Cotton balls or leftover cotton batting, shredded paper, broom bristles or thin strips of
cloth from a sewing project are all nest-worthy items. Hair from people, animals or pets can be added to the nesting materials feeder. (One favorite material for the birds in our area is sheep wool.) Used dental floss or leftover yarn, twine or string also works well, as long as the pieces are less than 8 inches long.
By offering a wide range of items birds use to build their nests, you will help lighten their load and encourage more bird activity in your yard. — Kris Wetherbee
- untreated 1" x 6" board, cut as follows:
- (1) 6" piece (for the sides)
- (1) 8" piece (for the back)
- (1) 2" piece (for the bottom)
- (1) 3¼" x 8" piece (for the top)
* The actual size of a 1" x 6" is ¾" x 5½".
- wood glue
- 1½" brad nails (for nail gun) or finishing nails (for hammer)
- dowel rod, ¼" diameter, cut into (3) 6¼" pieces
- nontoxic glue (for coconut fiber roof)
- coconut fiber liner
- assorted nesting materials: string, yarn, dried grass, feathers, cotton balls, etc.
- two 1" hinges
- handsaw or power saw
- electric drill with 5⁄16" bit
- nail gun or hammer
- Cut the 6" sidepiece in half lengthwise, leaving you with two pieces that are 2¾" x 6". Trim the top of each piece so it measures 6" long in back and 5" long in front.
- Mark spots on the inside of each sidepiece to drill three 5⁄16" holes for the dowels. The position of the holes must be identical on each piece. Space the marks about 1¼" inches apart, starting 1" from the bottom. Drill 3⁄8"-deep holes at the marks.
- Use wood glue and then nails to assemble the wood pieces. First, attach one of the sidepieces so that it is flush with the edge of the back piece; place the sidepiece so the back extends 1" below it. Next, attach the bottom by sliding it against the side and the back, keeping the bottom flush with the end of the sidepiece.
- Use wood glue to secure the dowels as you place them into the holes of the constructed side. Flip the box on its side and attach the remaining sidepiece, putting it in place on the dowels.
- Center the top piece over the sides. Use two hinges to secure the top to the back so that it can be opened for easy filling of nesting materials. To finish, cut a piece of coconut liner to fit the top and use nontoxic glue to adhere it to the roof. Fill the box with assorted nesting materials.
- Use untreated wood. Pine or fir will work, but high-resin woods such as redwood, cypress or cedar last longer.
- Use galvanized or brass nails when building the box.
- Make sure you use only water-based stains, paints and protective finishes if painting the box exterior. The petrochemicals used in oil-based paints are harmful to birds if they should happen to peck on painted or stained surfaces.