Making your own nest boxes

A good nest box should be warm and compact and should prolcel the bird during poor weather conditions. It should be made to the right dimensions, which are given on pages 206 9. Planks arc one ot the best and commonest materials. In spite of all the commercially available products, home made nest boxes are (he best, provided the dimensions are appropriate for the intended species.

All descriptions of nest boxes say that the wood for the side panels must be sawn obliquely so that the roofs are sloping and water runs off rather than collccting and either rotting the wood or worse still wetting the nest inside. This of course is entirely true, but constructing such boxes is not so easy as one might imagine, and ! think that instead the wood should be sawn straight and the nest box plaecd on a trunk which is leaning slightly forwards. This produces the same results and makes the construction of nest boxes easier for those who are not so handy.

One should always work towards making ehcap, simple, and good-quality boxes which can easily be produced in large quantities. It is quantity which matters, no matter how line and intricate the nest boxes may be, and such elaboration may be unnecessarily expensive and sometimes even result in structures which are entirely unsuitable for birds. Remember that a very refined nest box may be aesthetically pleasing to humans, but inappropriate for birds. Unfortunately a certain amount of'status' has become associated with nest boxes. People who own attractive summer cottages naturally also want to have very picturesque nest boxes which will impress neighbours and visiting friends. 1 generally like to shock my acquaintances with my 'atrocious' boxes; they arc altogether excellent for the birds, but hardly likely to win any certificates in carpentry. Using the simple sketches in this book you will be able to produce a great many nest boxes, remembering that quantity is important. Building one nest box may be sufficient for your purposes, but the shortage of living quarters for hole nesting birds which use nest boxes is unprecedentedly large and by setting up lots of nest boxes you will make a significant contribution to the conservation of wild life. Birds arc territorial, so do not place the boxes too close together, otherwise the birds will only squabble and no breeding will occur.

Do not place perches near your nest boxes. These will only help predators to reach the eggs and young.

Nest boxes made from planks

If you can get hold of old wooden planks of 2 or 2.5 cm thickness, then you can start to produce nest boxes. A 2.5 cm thickness is preferable because squirrels will find it that little bit more difficult to gnaw their way through and plunder the nest.

During winter, the great spotted woodpecker may even go so far as to peck at the entrance of a nest box so that it can get inside for shelter. To overcome this you may wish to surround the entrance hole with sheet

Side o

Front

Back

Side

Bottom

Construct a box as shown right, using 2.5cm plank to prevent squirrels and woodpeckers gaining access through the timber

\ Holes drilled through ' the back to be used to fasten the nest box to the tree with aluminium nails

Nail the base in line thus

Nest box depth

\ Holes drilled through ' the back to be used to fasten the nest box to the tree with aluminium nails

Nest box depth

Nest box height above ground

If one is constructing a lot of nest boxes then the need for a removable bottom will have to be foregone In which case the base should be nailed as above. The more nest boxes the better!

Nest box height above ground metal, making sure that the metal fits closely to the wood to prevent the birds' toes and feathers becoming caught. The hole in the metal plate should be cxactly the same diameter as the entrance. Alternatively, you could use the lop of an old formica kitchen work surface, which is also resistant to squirrels and woodpeckers.

The roof should be made from hardwood so that it can withstand changeable weather. It should slightly overhang the sides and entrance to provide protection against poor weather conditions when the birds arc flying in and out. The roof can also be made from timber covered with roofing felt. Wooden nest boxes should be externally coated with Cuprinol or creosote to give better resistance to rain and wind. If creosote is used the box should be put up early to allow plenty of time for weather ing before the birds need to use it.

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