Tom Gerrard

Create a Pallet Nesting Box on a Budget

Did you know that with just a few materials, you can help birds thrive within your area by creating nesting boxes? This guide will help you look at how you can create a nest box at a low cost.

‌With the cold, dark days of winter becoming warmer and brighter, signs of spring are becoming more abundant. One of these signs are sounds of birds returning to our gardens and woodlands. A great way to welcome birds back to our gardens is to feed them and also make nest boxes too.

Instructions for Creating a Nest Box

Step 1: Equipment & Materials

You can build cost effective nesting boxes from pieces of wood, recycled from old pallets.

To build your nest box you will need:

  • A plank of pallet wood approx. 1200mm long, 80mm wide, & 15mm thick
  • Wood saw, preferably with a 45/90 degree handle
  • Hammer/assorted size nails
  • Tape measure/pencil
  • Outdoor wood paint/brush
  • String (about 2m)
  • Bike inner tube (width of pallet wood)
  • Drill/ drill bits for wood (6mm/25 to 45mm - depending on specie of bird)
  • A suitable 6mm stick or dowel/glue
  • Table or work bench (something to work on)

‌Step 2: Marking Out

Mark out where to cut each section of the box on the wood. The following template will give you an idea of how to lay out your design.

  • Back - 300mm long
  • Base - width of wood + thickness of wood e.g. 80mm + 15mm = 95mm long
  • Sides x2 - 100mm long on shortest edge (cut at 45 degrees across wood)
  • Front – 100mm on longest face (cut at 45 degrees through wood as opposed to across it)
  • Lid/Roof – approx. 140mm long

The wood is marked out and some dimensions will need to be marked so that 45 degree cuts can be made to make the front and lid of the box.

Marking out straight lines and 45 degree angles can be best explained by clicking on this link: How to cut with a handsaw like a pro!

Step 3: Cutting Out

Before you start cutting, remember this phrase “measure twice, cut once”. If you need help when cutting, re-watch the link, How to cut with a handsaw like a pro .

Step 4: Drilling

When drilling holes for the perch and cord, 6mm is advised. To create the entrance hole for the box, you can use this following guide from the RSPB to see which birds in your garden would best suit the box.

The entrance hole size depends on the species you hope to attract:

  • 25 mm for blue, coal and marsh tits
  • 28 mm for great tits, tree sparrows and pied flycatchers
  • 32 mm for house sparrows and nuthatches
  • 45 mm for starlings

Step 5: Painting

It is recommended that you paint the wood with some form of outdoor paint, which will help to protect and preserve it for you to enjoy for longer. You may need to apply several coats to achieve an even finish, as wood absorbs depending on how dense the grain is. A piece of old paper or card is a good idea to stop the paint from making a mess on any surfaces like tables or floors.

Step 6: Assembling Nest Box

Assembling your box can be done by using either screws or nails, but nails seem to give the best finish and are less likely to split the wood.

Step 7: Attaching the Lid

The lid is attached to the back of the box with the piece of innertube, held in place with short nails. The lid needs to be left off, allowing you to clean out the box at the end of the season and also to observe the nests of the birds after the hatchlings have left.

Step 8: Adding a Perch

To allow birds to enter and exit with ease, add a perch to your box.

  • Dowel - Apply glue before pushing into the predrilled hole
  • Stick (Correctly sized) - it shouldn’t need to be glued

Step 9: Attaching Box to Tree

Using string to mount the box to a tree is good practice, as it’s noninvasive (doesn’t cause harm to the tree) and allows you to move the box to a different tree, should there be a need.

Helping your local bird community find nest boxes is great, but they also need to eat. Here are some activities that will help birds find food easily:

Tom Gerrard

Educator, guide, and outdoor leader for almost 20 years.

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