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  • Wild Bird Nest Boxes : The how-to guide!

Wild Bird Nest Boxes : The how-to guide!

on August 07, 2020

Having a nest box in your garden is a lovely addition to any outside space.  It’s made even better when a wild bird decides to occupy and make its nest in the home you’ve provided.  Watching parent birds flying in and out of the nest box during spring is a wonderful sight.

Unfortunately, it’s not always a case of ‘if you build it, they will come’.  Putting up a nest box is no guarantee of getting a resident.  However, we’ve put together a few tips to give you the best chance of getting a feathered tenant.

When to put up nest boxes in the UK?

Whilst there is no ‘best’ time to put up a nest box, any time in late summer/autumn works well.  Not only is it a more pleasant job when the weather is nice, it also means the nest box is in position well before January and February when many wild birds start seeking out a spot.  It also can provide a much needed winter refuge for roosting birds, who may decide to stay throughout the spring.

That said, there is no time like the present.  Tits have been known to create nests in April, and house martins as late as July.  So rather than gathering dust in the shed, put up your nest box this weekend!

 Squirrel on nest box

Where should I put a nest box?

Location. Location. Location.  This is much more important than when to put up your nest box.  Your nest box must provide a comfortable and safe environment for wild birds and their new hatchlings.  Not too hot, dry, and out of the reach of predators.  So before you start banging in the nails, do your best Kirsty and Phil impression, and survey your garden for the best spot. 

Here is what to look for:

  • 2m from the ground, away from predators
  • Sheltered from strong wind, rain and sun
  • Ideally north, easterly, or south-easterly facing
  • Not too close to bird feeders, or other nest boxes


Which nest boxes do I need for different bird species?

Different birds will prefer different conditions from others.  Many nest boxes, including our Johnston & Jeff range include different opening sizes.  The size of opening will attract different birds of different sizes

25mm – Blue Tit and Coal Tit

28mm – Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Great Tit and Tree Sparrow

32mm – House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Great Tit, Pied Flycatcher and Nuthatch

45mm – Starling

Open Nest Box – Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Song-thrush


Sparrows can also nest in neighbourhoods, which you can create by putting multiple nest boxes together, or buying a special nest box, just like this Johnson and Jeff Oakham Sparrow Nest Box.

Open fronted nest boxes are best positioned behind bushes or plants to help shelter and protect the entrance. 

 Nest box on tree

How long until a bird starts using a nest box

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have a nest box start to be used within the first season it is in place.  However you often have to leave it at least a year and hopefully your nest box will start being used the following breeding season.  If you still don’t have any residents at that point, it may be worth looking at a different site.


When should I clean out my nest box?

After a nest box has been used, it’s important to remove old nesting materials and give it a good brush out to remove small parasites and invertebrates.  Avoid using water as it’s important to keep the inside of the box dry.

The best time of year to clean out nest boxes is early autumn.  If you don’t remove the old bedding, species such as Blue Tits and Great Tits won’t use it again.


Which nest box should I buy?

There is such a huge range of nest boxes available to buy now, it can be confusing to know which one to purchase.  There is quite a range in terms of quality available as well, from cute novelty ones, to more heavy duty offering.  When picking a nest box, it’s best to consider the material it’s made from, and what birds you hope to attract.  Our Johnston and Jeff nest boxes are made in the UK from FSC wood, and come in a range of colours including a slate roof for extra longevity.  Multi-nester Nest Boxes come with a range of aperture sizes so you can change which birds you’d like to attract.

Ultimately, the choice is yours based on the style you’re after and your budget.

Whatever you choose, we hope you have many years of happy resident birds in your nest boxes!


Do you have any top nest box tips and tricks?  Let us know in the comments!

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