National Nest Box Week: how to help birds in your garden

Bird lovers are encouraged to give a bird a home during National Nest Box Week, which runs from 14 February to the 21 February.

Blue tit feeding young

National Nest Box Week is back, giving you the chance to get involved with bird conservation in your local neighbourhood, in turn aiding nationwide efforts to bolster populations across the UK. 

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Natural nest sites – such as holes in trees, old buildings and unkempt hedgerows – are rapidly disappearing, making the need for nest boxes  even more pertinent.

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It’s easy to get involved, whether you’re a teacher, part of a local wildlife group, or interested in boosting bird numbers in your garden. Buy a bird box from your local garden centre, or build one yourself by joining a workshop or following a step-by-step online. bto.org/about-birds/nnbw

How to take part

Organised by The British Trust for Ornithology, the charity is calling on the public to create natural nest sites by putting up nest boxes in their gardens. Various events, from box building to nest trails, are taking place around the country in support of the cause. To find out more about which birds use which boxes and for instructions on making a box visit www.bto.org 

Last week, the BTO’s National Nest Box Week reminded us that it’s important to give nesting birds a helping hand in our gardens and green spaces – and that nest boxes are really valuable in doing so.


Nest box guide

Watching garden birds using nest boxes can bring plenty of joy, but we have a responsibility to make sure they are fit for their intended purpose and hardy enough to give baby birds a fighting chance at life. And with species such as house sparrows and starlings in decline, every little helps.

Robin feeding young (Getty)
Robin feeding young (Getty)

So here are some simple tips from the RSPB to follow if you’re considering buying or making your own nest box.

Nest boxes should:

  • Be robust – they are out in all weather and need to be strong and fit for purpose.
  • Be waterproof – they need to be treated with a water-based preservative.
  • Have the correct hole-size – if too large predators will easily get inside and rain/wind will get into the box.
  • Be safe – no dangerous sharp edges, protruding nails or staples or unnecessary fixtures or small gaps which may harm or trap birds.
  • Have good insulation – wood or woodcrete is usually the best material.
  • Have no perches.

Nest boxes should not:

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  • Be brightly coloured – the more inconspicuous the better.
  • Be made from flimsy material – many boxes fall apart when any weight is put inside.
  • Be too shallow – young birds could leave prematurely by falling out.
  • Be too deep – young birds may have problems getting out when they are ready.
  • Be too smooth on the inside – slippery material will also make it difficult for young birds to get out.
  • Have gaps – rain and cold air will get in and cause young birds to get cold and damp.