DIY Bird Nesting Box

DIY specialist and furniture maker Natasha Dickins from Little Red Industries shows how to build a weatherproofed box for birds to nest in.

 Nesting boxes are a great way to observe local birdlife and a much-needed alternative to natural hollows in trees for many species, including owls, kookaburras, parrots and pardalotes. 

Birds vary in size, so the boxes and the openings should be tailored to suit. This design is for the Grey Strike-Thrush that inhabits most parts of Australia.  

TIP While there are lots of pretty native birds, some have over-bred and don’t need encouragement to nest, so get in touch with your council to see which species that need homes. 

 

Check out Bird Life, Birds in Backyards or Nest Box Tales to find out what size home suits the wildlife in your area. They include simple diagrams with cutting lists, plus the best place to install them to avoid predators. 

There’s lots of info on how they breed and where to install the nesting boxes.

For most boxes, the roof slopes forward and overhangs to shelter the window from rain. There’s often a ladder of shallow grooves on the outside for birds to hold while feeding and the same inside so baby birds can climb out.

VIDEO LINK: https://youtu.be/0SjKR94shNs

1. Materials

The box is weatherproofed by using 12mm-thick marine plywood for the base, finished with Monocel Furniture Oil. I’ve used 18mm-thick hardwood for the roof, spacer and fixing plate at the back, with the roof sealed in Monocel Stain & Varnish in Grey for extra moisture protection. 

To avoid corrosion, choose stainless steel or galvanised screws and nails. Solid brass hinges and screws are also rustproof, although avoid brass-coated. 

TIP There’s enough material to make two boxes. You could use also 18mm hardwood offcuts for the roof and fixing plate instead of buying a full panel.

2. Cut the pieces

DIY MATERIALS

12mm x 1220mm x 610mm marine plywood panel

18mm x 1200mm x 600mm hardwood timber panel

Bondcrete Woodworking Adhesive 250ml

30mm x 2mm galvanised bullet head nails

Monocel Furniture Oil 500ml trigger pack

Monocel Stain & Varnish in Grey 250ml

Mini mohair roller with tray

50mm solid brass fixed pin butt hinges 

12mm solid brass wood screws

10G x 45mm galvanised screws

DIY TOOLS

Tape measure and pencil

Combination square

Circular saw with straight edge

Sliding mitre saw

Multitool with saw blade, or a jigsaw

Drill with driver, 2mm and 4mm bits

450mm quick-grip clamps

Cloth

Hammer

Nail punch

180-grit abrasive paper with sanding block

3. Mark the window

On the plywood, draw a vertical line 240mm from the end (the width of the side pieces), measure 315mm down one side and 295mm down the other to mark a diagonal line. 

Draw a vertical line 3mm along, measure along 210mm to draw another line, measure down 295mm and mark a line across for the front piece (the back is 315mm). Draw a line 3mm along to mark out the 196mm x 216mm base.

Make the vertical cuts first, using a circular saw with a straightedge, then make the crosscuts with a mitre saw, adjusting the blade to 11° for the diagonal line. 

From the hardwood, cut a 275mm x 280mm roof. Then cut a 600mm x 110mm piece and trim it to 420mm for the fixing plate. The remaining 180mm is the spacer.

TIP Leaving 3mm between the vertical lines allows for the kerf, which is the thickness of the saw blade. For accurate crosscuts, centre the mitre saw blade over the marked lines.

4. Cut the grooves

For the cutout on the front piece, I marked 30mm and 120mm down from the top, and 50mm in from the sides to draw a 90mm x 110mm window. I clamped the piece to a solid surface and cut with a multitool, trimming from both sides to get into the corners. 

TIP If you don’t have a multitool, use a jigsaw by first drilling into a corner with a 10mm bit so the blade can fit through it to begin the cut.

5. Attach the spacer

I used the mitre saw to make a ladder of shallow grooves on both sides of the front piece by locking the plate to adjust the depth screw so the blade cut 2-3mm deep, setting them about 10mm apart, finishing 20mm up from the base.

TIP Use a plywood offcut to check the depth of the grooves and practice bringing the blade down then releasing it for neat cuts.

6. Attach the spacer

On the base piece, I used a 4mm bit to drill holes into the corners 15mm from the edges and at the centre. I applied Bondcrete woodworking adhesive onto the spacer and centred it on the back piece, tapping in four 30mm bullet head nails near the centre.

TIP Avoid tapping nails into the corners of the spacer where the fixing plate will be attached with screws.

7. Assemble the box

To assemble the box, I glued the front and back pieces to the base, clamped and left it to dry, then glued and clamped the sides. When the adhesive was dry, I hammered in bullethead nails about 100mm apart and 6mm from the edge, tapping them just below the surface with a nail punch.

TIP Use a damp cloth to wipe away excess adhesive as it squeezes out with the pressure of the clamps. 

8. Apply oil

I sanded all over with 180-grit abrasive paper to remove any splinters and round over the edges of the window. I sprayed Monocel Furniture Oil all over, rubbing it into the joints and along the edges of the plywood with a cloth. 

TIP Seal inside and around the top, flip the box upside-down to finish outside and leave the oil to absorb. Repeat with a second coat, leaving to dry thoroughly overnight.

9. Varnish the roof & back

For extra moisture protection I applied Monocel Stain & Varnish in Grey to the fixing plate and outside the roof, leaving the underside natural so the inside of the box is fully sealed with oil.

TIP Use a mini mohair roller to apply varnish, leaving to dry for a couple of hours, then apply a second coat. When it’s completely dry, sand then seal the underside with oil.

10. Attach the roof

At the back of the roof, I measured 50mm in from either side, folded the brass hinges over the edge, predrilled holes with a 2mm bit and secured them with 12mm brass screws. Then I positioned the roof over the box to predrill and secure with the screws.

TIP Centre the roof over the box, flush with the back, using a combination square to check the overhang on the sides is even.

11. Add the back

To finish assembling the box, I centred the fixing plate with the varnished side against the spacer. Using a 4mm bit, I predrilled holes into the corners of the spacer and secured with 45mm galvanised screws. I also predrilled two holes through the fixing plate at the top and base for installation.

TIP The 45mm screws secure through the fixing plate, spacer and into the plywood.

12. Finished box 

To hang the box, I secured 45mm galvanised screws through the top and base of the fixing plate, although you may need longer screws, depending on what you’re attaching the nesting box to. This is attached two metres up from the ground, on the fence where our Grey Strike-Thrush perches.

TIP Position the box on the south or south-eastern side to avoid the hot westerly afternoon sun, and check online for guides to the best height.

Have you made nesting boxes for local wildlife? Be sure to post them on Facebook and Instagram, tagging @bondall.au, @monocel.timbercare and @littleredindustries. We love to see your projects!