Introduction: Plywood Wood Duck Boxes and Plans
Thanks to these plans, we will donate our 300th duck box this year with plans to make it to 500 before our kids are out of scouts!
Wood Ducks were driven nearly to the point of extinction by the turn of the 20th century. As with many animals, Wood Ducks were hunted extensively and their habitats were destroyed to make way for farming and development.
Wood Ducks are one of a few waterfowl who happen to be cavity nesting birds. That means that these birds nest in hollow trunks. Old trees routinely rot from the inside and when a branch breaks off, it can leave a hole which the birds can use to enter the tree.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 helped Wood Duck populations rebound by setting limits on what sort of birds can be hunted. Unfortunately, the Act could not replace the old trees that the birds would nest in. This box design was found to be an optimal artificial replacement for Wood Duck nesting needs.
Three years ago, we decided to make duck boxes and donate them as a service project with our Cub Scout group. Building 60 boxes from 1"x10"x12' was prohibitively expensive but I remembered building them out of plywood and painting them as a kid.
These plans are designed to build groups of 15 boxes out of four sheets of plywood. They are changed from other plywood plans to minimize wasteful cuts and wood.
(If you are interested in learning more, this resource from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is terrific: https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00406/wdfw00406.p...
Step 1: Materials and Plans
Manufacturing 105 duck boxes is no easy task so we have done our best to minimize all waste. We removed at least two cuts per box which really speeds up your cutting day (and it will take a day with just two people).
We have also switched from untreated to treated plywood. We had a source at Lowe's who would sell us plywood for dirt cheap but she left. So, because we have to pay closer to full price AND buy paint then paint the boxes, we decided to switch to pressure treated. It costs $2 more per sheet but we don't have to buy paint, glue, or use time to paint them all.
You will need 4 sheets of pressure treated plywood for every 15 boxes that you want to make.
1lb - galvanized 4d nails (per 15 boxes)
1 -extra sheet of plywood for mistakes and the jig
Jigsaw or CNC
Drill and/or drill press (preferably)
Get the biggest table saw that you can get your hands on. We used the cheapest Craftsman saw for the first 200+ boxes and it was down right dangerous. We had to weigh the legs down and it was still unstable for the bigger cuts (any cut over 36" we used a circular saw for).
Step 2: Production Notes
Sorry, we don't have many photos of this part because it just isn't interesting.
We have found that the best way to cut all the necessary pieces is to start with the backs. Start by ripping the backs along the 32" line. Then feed them through the table saw along the 9.5" cut. Do the same for the side, roof, and floor cuts.
Once your floors have been cut, drill the drainage holes and set them aside. This is mostly easily done on a drill press but any old drill will do.
If you have a lot of inexperienced builders, label each part with an alphabetical letter at this time. It will help the build day go more smoothly.
Kerf cuts (the ladder for the baby ducks) can be done at any time. I just eyeball it and try to make a cut every 3/4" or so.
Step 3: Entrance Hole, Jig, and Kerf Cuts
THE ENTRANCE HOLE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT - if it is too large, predators will get in and eat the chicks.
The most simple way to make a lot of holes quickly is to make a jig. The template will wear out and need replacing. This design allows that to easily happen.
Cut two extra sides. In one, cut a large hole with your circular saw. It should be roughly 5"x4" and be where your hole will end up. Box that board in with 2" strips. This is your jig base.
Then, CAREFULLY cut your 4.5"x3.5" entrance hole. Make it as nice as possible. Screw that to the jig base with a 1" drywall screw or two.
This should leave you with a 1/2" deep frame that you can put your unfinished fronts into.
Hole and Kerf Cuts:
Secure your jig to a table with some clamps. Put a blank in your jig. Then, start by drilling a 5/8" hole. Use your router to cut out the hole. The bearings should keep you following the correct path. Check your hole dimensions periodically to make certain that they aren't getting bigger.
Depending on how your jig is secured, you can also make your kerf cuts now. You may have to remove the board from the jig and do the cuts at a later time. I just eyeball it and try to make a cut every 3/4" or so. These cuts allow baby ducks to climb out of the box.
Step 4: Attach the Side to the Back
Start with any side and the back. You'll want to put the side in the middle of the back.
Nail THROUGH the BACK and into the side.
Step 5: Add the Face
Nail through the face and into the side.
Step 6: Add the Door
Building this way may not be intuitive but it allows you to ensure the door is function and flush before adding the roof and floor. I have had to rebuild many boxes when people put the floor or roof in place before the door. A lot of times you will have a gap (or no gap) and if you put the roof or floor in place now, that problem can't be fixed without disassembling the box.
To put the door in:
Make a mark 2" down from the top where your roof would go on both the face and the back. Put your door in and then sink a nail through each mark. This will act as a hing allowing for easy cleaning.
Step 7: Add Your Roof
Add your roof. DO NOT nail on the side with the door. If you do that, you won't be able to open your door. I like to add a few nails from the back of the box into the roof for extra stability.
Step 8: Add Your Floor
Nail your floor in place. Again, DO NOT nail through your door. (again, I like to add a few nails from the back of the box into the floor for extra stability.)
Step 9: Finish
If you used pressure treated wood, you won't need a finish. If you didn't, put a good coat of neutral colored exterior pain on the outside of the box. Be sure to coat every area where you can see the plies in the plywood. If water gets into that spot, the box will rot quickly.
Use a 1" exterior screw through the front of the box and into the door to prevent it from opening accidentally.
Hang them securely 12-15' in the air. It is beneficial to install a predator guard below the box. Traditionally, this is either a cone or just a sheet of metal wrapped around the tree. Don't forget to add bedding (wood chips, not sawdust) to the box each spring as Wood Ducks do not bring nesting material to the box.