Buying a new bird box for the garden is an exciting time, waiting for the birds to arrive and to hear the chirping of the chicks – but it’s not guaranteed. If birds are not using the next box you might need to take action by moving its location or making your garden more attractive.
You need to remember that only certain types of birds use bird boxes so if those species are not already visiting your garden, your bird box won’t get any use. So you need to start by attracting the birds to the garden.
Put up bird feeders, sheltered areas for birds to hide from the weather and regular water supplies all year round, so that birds will start to flock to your garden all year round. Once they know your garden provides sources of food they will look for safe places to nest.
When to Put Up Your Bird Box
You need to think about the timing as well – don’t put your bird box up in the spring as that will be too late. One pro-tip we got from our friends from Little Peckers, an online source of bird tables – is that you need to put the box up ready in the autumn time as most birds will look for places to roost, shelter and store food in the winter months, and then come back to the same places to build their nests in the spring time.
Make sure your bird box is up and ready in the autumn so they have plenty of time to get used to it and then it will be used by the birds all year round, for shelter in the colder months and for bringing up their babies in the warmer seasons.
Boxes and Breeds
The other key is to make sure you use the right bird box for the particular breeds of bird which visit your garden. If you have lots of smaller birds like blue tits in the garden then go for a traditional bird box with a small hole entrance.
If you have larger birds like robins or blackbirds then go for a larger, open fronted bird box for them as that’s the style these larger birds will prefer. You need to make sure neither style of box is easily accessible by predators.
Make sure your box is at the right height – if you put it too high up they won’t use it but it needs to be high enough to be out of reach of cats and rats. Make sure there are shrubs and branches nearby to provide shelter and protection for the box as well.
Buy a box which has a removable lid or back because you will need to remove all the nesting material and clean the box out once the fledglings have left the nest as birds won’t re-use an old nest so you need to keep them clean and well maintained every year.
Make sure your bird box can’t be accessed by predators – if you attach it to a wall or fence, make sure a cat couldn’t reach a paw in from the top of the fence, for example, or that a squirrel couldn’t’ jump onto it from a nearby branch. If the box is vulnerable birds won’t use it.
Keep your bird box as natural as possible – don’t be tempted to paint it or use decorations on it. Firstly the paint could be toxic to birds and if it’s is brightly coloured predators can see it more easily. Ideally it should be plain wood to mimic a natural tree nesting spot.
If you keep your bird box clean and maintained all year round you will find great joy in watching the birds set up home in the winter for shelter and then return to raise their families in the spring time, maximizing its use.
If you are planning to have more than one nesting box in your garden don’t put them too close together because birds can be territorial so if you have them too close to each other it might put birds off using them.
For the same reasons, don’t place your nesting boxes too close to the bird feeders or bird baths because they constant bird activity in those areas will be disruptive to the family looking after their brood in the box, who will be looking for peace and quiet.
If you want to watch the bird activity in your nesting boxes, without disturbing the occupants, why not set up a bird box web cam – that way you can watch the eggs hatching and the chicks taking their first flight from the comfort of your own home.
It’s also a good way to make it easier to see when the birds have left the nest so that you can go in and take the box down ready for a good clean before the next occupants come along to set up home in it.