Zero Effort Birdboxes





Introduction: Zero Effort Birdboxes

About: I made a beer mug with only a knife & a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

Finding a spot to raise your children isn't easy these days. You want them being protected & safe, at proximity of food sources and far from evil & dark forces.

Being a tit, or a wren, a starling or owl really ain't easy, these days.

All these species have one thing in common - set apart they all have feathers.

They breed in cavities, you know. All of them. And since natural cavities are scarce in Times Like These every spring they're in deep trouble. Old & dead trees with rotten out branches are removed, old bricks renewed and mainstream rules the world since mainstream does buy.

Learning To Fly is even not the problem, when you don't have a spot to drop your eggs.

And so, instead of building 'new' boxes for my light friends I decided to upgrade some old, natural, stuff.

Talking about a grateful winter project.

Step 1: Gather Old Stuff

A while ago our neighbour gave me the remains of an old cherry tree he'd just removed from it's garden since - of course - it was 'old' and - from his point of view - equal tu ugly.

He saw a problem. I smelled an opportunity.

Point of views can be fascinating.

Step 2: Starting Slowly

The first piece of cherry I converted was the easiest. It was a central piece of the tree, completely hollow and with a beautiful opening in the side.

Some plywood on the top, some on the bottom, a heavy support beam on the back and zero creativity.

That was last year, already.

It's been used by a couple of starlings and they raised 4 or 5 yelling babies.

I know it, since they just couldn't stop pooping on my van.

I loved it, really.

Step 3: Raising the Level

Next piece looked like nothing, from most angles: a fork, partially hollow, 'ready to burn in your stove!'.

The birdbox was just there. Just a question of getting the right angle.

So I kept the birdbox-piece and burned only the rest.

Step 4: Raising the Effort

The good thing about this cherrypiece was the entrance, which was already hollow.

The bad thing about it was the nesting chamber, which was entirely solid.

Solution: a heavy sds-drill on a heavy HILTI. From one hole to the next.

Result: a nice spaceful chamber that needed just a bit chiseling and sanding to get it perfect.

Never remove the safety of a sander, btw.

Even not to gain space.

Don't be stupid.

Step 5: Back Panel, Make It

A + B, you know.

Step 6: Size Does Matter

There's one rule in birdboxbuilding: the size of the entrance determines the species you'll favorize.

Small birds can nest in cavities with big entrances. But small birds are often chased from it by bigger birds. Or eaten by rats, cats, squirrels or other predators.

I wanted to make this one useful for blue tits & wrens. Small things, you know.

So I made a nice custom panel to reduce the initial opening and drilled a 32mm nice hole in it.

Blue tits & wrens. Welcome you are.

Step 7: Closing the Bottom

No need to explain why, I guess.

Gravity, you know.

Custom panel. To build.

Step 8: Up It Goes, the Level

The third piece of cherry was the most tricky.

In a shortcut: it was 1/4 of the main stem and there was a hole in it.

So to make a box of it, the only thing I had to do was build the other 3/4 of the circle.

For that, it had to be flattened at both sides.

A plane & a table. No need more.

Step 9: Back Panel. and Chickens.

With a few floor deck panels you really can make nice straight-forward back panels.

Plank + pen + jigsaw = custom side panel.

Screw them together, all of them.

Step 10: Size, You Know

What to do if you have two holes right next to each other?

You close the small, close the big and drill a hole in the big?

Or you just close the big one and keep the keep the almost invisible small one?

Don't worry, those birds will find out.

Step 11: Roofing

To complete the whole I used a few leftovers to build a roof.

To avoid rainwater washing in I used the sander to cut a groove and fixed a small plank tight in it.

When it rains the small will swell and form a watertight seal.

Logic, it's everywhere.

Step 12: Sealing

To seal some imperfections in the whole I decided to use clay.

Holes mean potential water infiltrations and air currents.

The first give you mushrooms & molds and a dirty environment, the second give you loss of warmth.

A dry, warm nest, that's what those chicks need.

Make balls out of clay & squeeze them where needed.

I see you coming, Caitlinsdad.

Use some water and a brush to finish.

Once this maconry is dry it's time for some sloshing.

Make a really fluidy mud, poor it in the boxes and watch this video to understand what I mean.

It's like sloshed casting, but without the casting.

After that, you can be sure you made a nicely sealed nesting chamber.

Step 13: Diatomaceous Earth

Place those boxes out of the rain & oriented opposite to the main wind direction.

In Western Europe: opening to the east - aka opposite to the west.

If you want, you can elaborate this project by making removable parts to 'clean the interior every year' but, know that in nature there's no-one to do that job, neither.

The only thing I do is blowing a teaspoon of diatomaceous earth into the holes, every autumn. This stuff will kill flees and other parasits and prefent others to come in.


I'm looking forward to our next neighbours.



    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest
    • Casting Contest

      Casting Contest
    • Woodworking Contest

      Woodworking Contest

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    Gorgeous! I'm inspired to build some birdhouses now.

    Great idea! I will have to give this a shot.

    hai - having to move "house" - at this place a swifts nest . Should hear the little sods argueing and ( presumably ) the "old lady" laying down the law . With proximity - it IS a language - now there is a challenge - communicating with such ""alien"" beings . Hence listened to cats dogs and other animals - all have a language

    hai - having to move "house" - at this place a swifts nest . Should hear the little sods argueing and ( presumably ) the "old lady" laying down the law . With proximity - it IS a language - now there is a challenge - communicating with such ""alien"" beings . Hence listened to cats dogs and other animals - all have a language

    Thanks, I run into these weird pieces of hollow wood and now I know what to do with them!

    Here in Southern California my wife set up feeders for Finch, Sparrows and humming birds. What is the right size opening for Humming birds to nest?

    And thank you very much for your ideas!

    3 replies

    Looks like a trapped question - like asking 'how many penguins a polar bear can eat in one week'.

    It IS a trapped question, no?

    If not: hummingbirds don't breed in cavities, they build their tiny nest on tree branches - just like finches btw..

    Nice birding!

    Sorry but it wasn't meant to be a trick question. Having moved from Seattle down here to California I had no idea where humming birds nest. You sure got on the defense fast. Sorry for asking you any questions.

    I should have put smileys! No defence at all from mine since I really thought you were kidding, I'm very sorry. This could have been my kind of humor and so I went the same direction. Keep on asking and sorry for giving you a bad moment...

    Humming birds nest in the open branches, they use lichen and moss held together with spider web thread so their nest will stretch as their young grow. I have never heard of them nesting in a tree. Follow your hummers, their nest will look like a knob on the tree and actually blends right in with the tree.

    Really cool. I like the more natural feel to them. The next time I see a hollowed out log, I know what to do with it now.

    Quick question, why did you grind out the drill groves? I doubt the birds would care and would keep it closer to zero effort.

    1 reply

    They won't care, at all. I just felt guilty by giving them such a battlefield-ish present - so that grinder softened my consciousness more than it helped them further in life, in fact...

    Wow this seems really cool. I'll definitely have to try this sometime to bring more birds to my yard. Does it matter what kind of wood you use?

    1 reply

    Thanx! Wood species doesn't matter, at all. Those birds only want their cocoon, the better isolated (thicker wood walls) the better - that's why I don't like those flower-pot-birdhouse-hacks..

    This is so awesome! Thanks for sharing! What happened with the sander :D ?

    1 reply

    Thanx! Sander's still alive still kicking - but removing the safety and blocking the power handle with duct tape is asking for a disaster - which I didn't get btw but it's definitely not the way to do it...

    You just inspired me, Bricobart. Thanks for sharing your clever idea!