Winter is the perfect time to start thinking about adding nest boxes to your yard. By watching the birds that come to your feeders, you already have a great idea of the different species that frequent your yard. With a little research as to which of these species nest in boxes and where to place them, you will be ready for a spring and summer full of enjoyment watching these birds raise their young.
Many birds will readily nest in a properly placed box, but the key is to make sure they are up by early spring. That is why it is best to use the winter months to plan what species, and where would be a great location for them to nest. Wrens, woodpeckers and chickadees are all species that waste no time finding a new nest box in your yard. If you are like me you will get great enjoyment from making the nest boxes yourself. Building nest boxes is a great winter activity to pass time when you are not out birding. If building them yourself isn’t your thing, than they can be purchased from the same local independent retailer you purchase your seed from.
Nest boxes are quick and easy to build, with only a few tools and materials required. Pretty much any type of wood can be used for nest boxes, except pressure treated, or others that contain chemicals to preserve them. My personal preference is cedar because it is inexpensive and naturally weather resistant so the nest boxes will last many years. A 1″ x 6″ x 6′ cedar fence board will work for most songbird nest boxes and can be purchased for about $5.00. Add a package of #6 1 1/4″ screws and you are ready to start building. Many of the plans available call for a hinge on the top, so the boxes can be easily cleaned out at the end of each year. I have learned a trick over the years to save a couple bucks on hinges and makes cleaning the boxes just as easy. Before fastening one side, drill the top two holes in that side piece where the front and back pieces fasten one size larger than the screws. This will allow that side to pivot on those screws and swing out for easy cleaning. When assembling the box, place only one screw in the bottom of the front piece through that side to hold it in place. This will keep predators like raccoons and squirrels from opening it. In the fall remove the bottom screw, swing the side piece out, clean out the box, then place the screw back in and the box is ready for the following season. Building multiple boxes at once makes the process much faster as several pieces can be cut at the same time. I always make a few extras because friends, family and neighbours always appreciate receiving one of my homemade boxes. Children love helping make the boxes, so it is a great activity for the whole family.
If you are thinking about adding a nest box to your yard, buy one or build one now. It’s never too early to put one up, and birds will have lots of time to find it come breeding season. My favourite place to find plans to build nest boxes for 70 species of birds as well as tips on where and how high to place them can be found here.