Roost boxes are an excellent addition to any bird lovers yard. They are similar to a birdhouse, but serve a different purpose altogether. Instead of building a nest inside them and raising their young, birds use a roost box to provide them with shelter and warmth during winter. I’ve watched Chickadees enter mine during freezing rain, and heavy snowfalls. Birds will also roost in them at night. When you look at a roost box you will notice the entrance hole is at the bottom, this is to prevent the warm air that rises inside them from escaping. They also have fewer ventilation holes to conserve heat. The inside of a roost box will generally have rows of perches to accommodate more birds, and they are usually made from rough sawn wood so birds can cling to the inside walls easier. Depending on the species and the size of the box multiple birds will use it to share body heat. Some species of birds that will use a roost box are; Downy Woodpecker, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, and Wrens.
Roost boxes should be mounted in a protected area out of prevailing winds. Some afternoon sunshine will help warm up the box so it retains more heat. Facing the box to the south will also help the box gather heat. I have my roost boxes mounted among my cedars for optimal cover. Most roost boxes have hinged sides to allow for easy cleaning. They should be checked and cleaned regularly. Droppings can accumulate quickly if several birds use it.
I made my roost boxes in my workshop with free plans I found on the internet. The fronts are removable, so they can be reversed and used as birdhouses come spring. They are quick, easy, and inexpensive to make. It is also a fun project to do on a rainy weekend, and you don’t have to be real handy to make one. If you don’t have any tools, are not real handy, or just value all ten of your fingers, they can be purchased at any local birding shop.
Cold weather is on the way, so think about adding a few roost boxes to your yard to provide the birds with shelter. Getting them up now will ensure the birds know where to find them when they really need them.