How to build a nest box

Updated February 21, 2017

A nest box is a small, wooden box that can be mounted on a pole or against the trunk of a tree that provides shelter for small birds. Nest boxes are extremely popular with bird watchers, who like to offer birds incentive to nest in their yards for easy observation. Making a nest box is fairly simple, and you can assemble a nest box using only a few basic tools and some wood glue.

Make a pattern for your nest box. Drawing the front, sides, bottom and back of the nest box on the piece of cardboard and then cut them out. Especially for beginners, large and simple is best. Use one piece of cardboard to trace the outline for both sides to make sure that they are exactly identical. You can make the top of each side slanted or straight, depending on whether you want a flat or a slanted roof. The bottom of the nest box should be slightly longer than the bottom of the sides so that it extends out and makes a lip for the birds to sit on. The back of the nest box should be as tall as the back end of the sides, and the top of the nest box should be the same length as the top of the sides, and the same width as the bottom of the box. If you are using a 2-inch-by-4-inch boards, instead of just a large piece of wood, everything will need to be the width of the 2-inch-by-4-inch boards, or less.

Trace your pattern onto the wood. This will provide a guideline for you when you cut out your nest box pieces.

Cut out all the pieces. Before refining the cuts, cut the pieces out of the wood so that each piece can be handled on its own. Then, cut exactly on the lines that you drew around the pattern pieces. You should have two sides, a bottom, a top and a back for your nest box. Watch your fingers while you are sawing.

Assemble the nest box. Use the wood glue to attach the bottom of the nest box to the bottom of each side of the box. The back of each side should be flush with the back of the bottom, and the front of the bottom will extend past the edge of each side. Attach the back piece to the back of the two sides. It should match up with the bottom and top of each side, and you will see the enclosed, protective area of the nest box start to form. Lay the roof piece across the top of the two side pieces so that it lines up with the front and back of the side pieces. The only opening for the box should now be in the front, and it will look rather like a tiny bus shelter. As you glue the pieces in place, you may need to hold them steady for about 45 seconds to a few minutes while the glue sets.

Let your nest box dry. Keep it in a warm, dry place until it has completely dried. Then, you are ready to nail it to a tree or mount it on top of a pole or fence post.


If you want to enclose the interior of the nest box entirely to protect the nest from larger flying and climbing predators, as well as the elements, add a front piece to the box. Make sure you leave a slit large enough for your birds to get in and out of. You can paint or stain your nest box, but natural wood often attracts birds more effectively.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Wood or a 2-inch-by-4-inch board
  • Hand saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood glue
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