We tend to think of putting up bird boxes in the spring when birds are in their nesting cycle and looking for a new place to bring up their young. However, if we put them up in winter the birds will investigate them and get comfortable with them in their surroundings and then be more inclined to use them when the time comes to find a favoured spot. They may also use them for shelter in harsh weather and safe night time roosting.
How to choose a bird box
Try to choose boxes without a perch – such a feature can lead to predator attack and the loss of eggs or chicks
Mix the size and nature of the boxes in your garden – that way you offer something for each different species and encourage a greater diversity of birds into your garden
Holes should be:
- 25mm for blue tits etc.
- 28mm for tree sparrows
- 32mm for house sparrow, nuthatch, great tit
- 45mm for starlings
Try to buy with metal facings on the holes as again these protect from predators.
Make sure it is solid in construction – to keep out squirrels etc. and weather proof to keep out the damp and cold
The bird box needs to be cleanable so that old bedding can be taken away to reduce the potential for infection and parasites that may cause sickness in the chicks.
Where to put your bird boxes
When you have your box/es you need to find an ideal spot, so put yourself in the mind of the bird and think what they will be looking for.
Firstly, the sun can be a killer for young birds, so the box needs to be shaded or face it north to south east so that it has limited sunlight on it.
Secondly, try to set it at least 2 metres off the ground, again for protection from predators. Also, make sure its not directly facing predominant wind or rain direction or has some cover. If you do use open boxes, e.g. for robins, then place them around prickly bushes to give the birds some extra protection.
Finally, try to place the boxes a reasonable distance from feeding areas, otherwise territorial disputes may occur and can disturb the rearing process.
With the reduction of natural habitat for some of our birds the provision of houses and nesting boxes is a great way of helping our feathered friends. Make sure to keep them provided with plenty of food and clean water too!
Other tips for happy, healthy garden birds: