National Nestbox Week – Making a Wren/Robin Box

Last Sunday was such a sunny, beautiful day that it called for outdoor projects to keep me busy in the fresh air. The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside was the sheer volume of bird song, with blue tits, robins, dunnocks and wrens all busy singing and chasing one another in pairs around the garden. I even spotted a long-tailed tit clinging to the side of the house, plucking spiders webs from between the brickwork to build a nest. It seemed a little too early to do much in the way of gardening, but the birds were making it clear that they were making ready to nest. What better project than to build a couple of bird boxes! It is not pure coincidence that this week is National Nestbox Week.

I have to say my choice of design was limited by the tools available – I don’t have a drill bit which can make the large round holes preferred by some species such as blue tits, but fortunately the designs for wrens and robins are open fronted which means that with little more than a plank of wood, a saw and a drill (and an old inner tube for the hinge), you can make a nest box.

I actually used plans I found on the Which? website, adapted a little to suit the wood I had available. I’ve sited the wren box within an area of dense shrubs in the garden – this is the habitat favoured by the species and provides them some cover and protection from predators. I attached the box securely (imagine how bad you would feel if the box blew down when the birds had begun nesting!) using a bungee cord as this will not cause any damage to the tree as it continues to grow. The cord may need to be replaced after a few years but should certainly ensure the box is securely attached until it wears down.

The box has been up for two days and already there has been a great tit investigating. I am hoping that it won’t be long before something takes up residence – watch this space! Just for the avoidance of doubt – it’s the camera which is wonky in the video below rather than the nest box!

Below are some step-by-step photographs which show the progression of the box from planks of wood through to completion.

Why not have a go at making a nest box yourself and see what birds you can attract to breed in your garden as part of National Nestbox Week? Construction is not one of my strengths but you will be amazed at how simple and satisfying it is to make a box of your own. All of the instructions to get involved in National Nestbox Week can be found here, along with some great resources on how to build/buy and site your box. Lincolnshire Wildife Trust also have some fantastic resources for building all kinds of bird boxes including those designed for more unusual species such as kestrel. You can register your box with the National Nest Box scheme and then provide updates on the species which use the box and how they fare – all of this information provides valuable data for monitoring and research into garden birds.

Cut your plank (or planks) of wood into six pieces. This is one for the back (the longest), two for the sides (the two with angled cuts), one for the base (the small square), one for the front (the smaller of the two remaining rectangular pieces) and the lid (the last piece). Details of measurements can be found in the links provided in the text above and will vary depending on the size of box you wish to make and the species you wish to attract!
Cut your plank (or planks) of wood into six pieces. Clockwise from top left are the two sides, the square base, the long back-board, the front piece and the lid. Details of measurements can be found in the links provided in the text above and will vary depending on the size of box you wish to make and the species you wish to attract.
Attach the sides and the back to the base. You can nail your box together but I opted to drill holes and screw the pieces of wood together for a stronger end result.
Attach the sides and the back to the base. You can nail your box together but I opted to drill holes and screw the pieces of wood together for a stronger end result.
Attach the front. If you were making a box for blue tits perhaps, this would cover the entire front of the box with a hole drilled in the classic bird-box style to allow the birds to enter and leave. Sadly I don't have such a drill bit which partly influenced by decision to make one for robins or wrens - they like an open fronted box such as this but be careful to ensure the gap is the right size to allow them to hop in and out whilst still giving enough cover at the base to keep the nest safe.
Attach the front. If you were making a box for blue tits perhaps, this would cover the entire front of the box with a hole drilled in the classic bird-box style to allow the birds to enter and leave. Sadly I don’t have such a drill bit which partly influenced by decision to make one for robins or wrens – they like an open fronted box such as this but be careful to ensure the gap is the right size to allow them to hop in and out whilst still giving enough cover at the base to keep the nest safe.

 

Attach the lid. This is really simple to do - I cut a section from an old inner tube, opened it out and nailed half to the lid and the other half to the back board of the box. Voila, a hinged, waterproof lid! Make sure you use wide headed nails to attach the inner tube to the wood to make sure it doesn't sever and tear out over time.
Attach the lid. This is really simple to do – I cut a section from an old inner tube, opened it out and nailed half to the lid and the other half to the back board of the box. Voila, a hinged, waterproof lid! Make sure you use wide headed nails to attach the inner tube to the wood to make sure it doesn’t sever and tear out over time.
Here is the finished result, attached securely using a bungee cord (and utilising the shape of the bough) within an area of dense shrubs. This type of habitat is favoured by wrens and should provide some cover from predators. Unfortunately I managed a small mis-calculation in the wood sizes and so there is no overhang to my lid to keep the rain out - this situation provides natural cover from the rain and should ensure that this omission doesn't impair the suitability or acceptability of the box.
Here is the finished result, attached securely using a bungee cord (and utilising the shape of the bough) within an area of dense shrubs. This type of habitat is favoured by wrens and should provide some cover from predators. Unfortunately I managed a small mis-calculation in the wood sizes and so there is very little overhang to my lid to keep the rain out – this situation provides natural cover from the rain and should ensure that this omission doesn’t impair the suitability or acceptability of the box.

 

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