Some of our most popular posts on this website are our DIY building projects, from planter boxes to raised bed green houses. So today our contributor Thad Sperry is here to show you how to build a simple bluebird nest box! It’s the perfect project to take on this weekend.
Have you ever noticed how a bluebird catches your eye with the flash of blue as it escapes your approach? And how they often perch in plain view as if to show off their beautiful blue back, orange bib and white belly. Having these beauties close by can be accomplished by building a nest box suitable to their habits and placing it in a location to attract a nesting pair. Mine had been up for two years and this year a pair took up residence.
This simple nest box plan will set you up for just such an invite. All you need is 1 in. x 6 in. board 6 ft. long and a few simple tools. If you are new to board dimensions at the lumber yard a 1×6 is actually ¾ in. thick and 5 ½ in. wide. All you need to do is cut the pieces to length; the board width provides all the other dimensions. With an entry hole and a few screws and nails later, you’ll have the box assembled. Then you can decorate the box or just leave it natural. For a natural box it is best to use cedar, it will stand up better to the elements over time. If you plan to decorate the box, then pine will do just fine.
How to Build a Simple Bluebird Nest Box:
- Hand saw or miter saw
- Small drill bit for pilot holes (5/64 inch)
- Phillips screw driver or Phillips driver bit for the drill
- 1 ¼ in. wood screws (#8 will work just fine)
- 6D box nails
- 1 ½ in. drill bit or hole saw and chisel or jab saw or jigsaw for cutting the entry hole
- Tape measure, square and pencil to mark the dimensions
Mark the Board and Cut Each Length
- 1 – 13 inch (back)
- 2 – 9 inch (side and front)
- 1 – 8 7/8 inch (swivel side)
- 1 – 7 inch (top)
- 1 – 4 inch (bottom)
Check Your Cuts and That They Fit Together
Assemble the back to one side; the box is the width of the board so screw the back down onto the side.
- Use a bench clamp or have someone help hold the pieces.
- The bottom of the back and bottom of the side should be flush.
- Drill two pilot holes through the back and into the side. Pilot holes should be at least ½ inch from the ends to reduce the chance of splitting when screwing the piece down.
- Screw the back and side together.
Assemble the swivel side. This side will be able to swing out in order to clean the nest box after each season. The slightly shorter dimension will provide clearance for the side to swing open.
- Align the bottom of the side flush with the back.
- Drill a pilot hole for the nail about 3/8 inches in from the top of the side.
- Nail it in place.
- Don’t put a nail in the bottom or you’ll defeat the purpose of the swivel side.
Mark and drill the entrance hole in the front (1 ½ inches x 2 ½ inches).
- Mark a center line on the front, starting 1 inch from the top and extend it 2 ½ inches.
- Mark a cross ¾ inches in from each end of the center line, this is the target for the 1 ½ inch drill bit.
- Drill two holes.
- Use a chisel or jab saw to clean the edges of the two holes.
Assemble the front to the box by repeating the previous assembly steps. The shorter side will use another nail at the top only.
- Drill a pilot hole at the bottom but instead of nailing it down, bend a nail 90 degrees and use it as a pin to hold the swivel door in place. This is important to keep predators out or to prevent accidental opening during nesting season.
Assemble the bottom by opening the swivel side and sliding the bottom into place.
- Drill pilot holes from the front, side and back and screw in place.
- Assemble the top by drilling pilot holes down into the fixed side, the front, and through the back and screw it down.
- Leave the swivel side alone.
- If you have trouble with assembly or a piece splits when screwing parts in place, you should have enough board left over to cut another piece or two.
Sand and Paint If You Wish
Your box is now ready to decorate or put up. I painted mine with bluebird colors, white as a base coat then orange and finally blue. Sanding the box with 120 grit sandpaper produces a nice combination color effect.
Pick the Right Location for Your Nest Box
Location of the nest box is important for attracting Bluebirds. They like open areas with trees nearby. The location should be out in the open with the hole towards the open area rather than towards the trees. You can mount your nest box on a wood post or set it up on a metal post. A wood post has one disadvantage; predators can climb the pole and disturb the nesting birds. A predator guard is advisable if you choose to put yours on a wood post. A tall metal post is ideal. Six to eight feet of elevation is best. I used a standard one inch copper pipe from the plumbing department for mine because I like the patina that copper develops over time when exposed to the outdoors. If you want the patina right away you can force it using a variety of solutions; just look up patina on the internet and you’ll find plenty of guidance. For mounting hardware I used two ¼ inch by 2 inch carriage bolts. I drilled holes on the copper pipe about 8 inches apart and marked the location of the holes on the back of the box then drilled the holes in the box. Having the swivel side makes this method of mounting easy.
If all goes well, you’ll attract Bluebirds and can enjoy their beauty, songs and habits.