Proper care for bird houses and nest boxes is critical for creating a safe space for baby birds to hatch and grow. Learn how to construct an optimal nesting environment!
While many species use nest boxes, this article has a distinct focus on popular cavity-nesting species that also face population declines. Most tips provided here are for bluebirds, martins, and chickadees. The NestWatch resource is linked later in this article if you have questions about other species.
Won't you be my neighbor?
We all have an unusual neighbor. From the overly nosy to the loud garage band, our neighborhoods can be filled with our closest friends or worst enemies. What if we could build our own private cul-de-sac? A community full of feathered friends that serenade us, care for our yards, and take tropical vacations with us!
How can you achieve this homegrown Eden? Build a housing development for the birds! Learn how to place, monitor, and provide maintenance for your colorful tenants.
This property won't last long.
Luckily, this statement is not accurate for a well-built birdhouse. If properly cared for and maintained, untreated cedar and recycled HDPE plastic can last from ten years to a lifetime for your local bluebirds, swallows, wrens, and chickadees. Building for a Purple Martin colony? Our aluminum housing options are a proven-safe option. Choosing a birdhouse built from proper materials is critical for birds to have a comfortable and safe nesting experience. Water-resistant materials made of thick planking keep chicks cool and dry during all summer conditions.
What materials should you avoid using in your birdhouse development? It depends. Most recommendations avoid a nest box made of pressure-treated plywood, paper, cardboard, metal, clay, or ceramic for bluebirds and the species that utilize bluebird houses. These materials might have toxins that can leach out, be too flimsy, or retain too much heat during the peak of summer.
If you want to paint or treat a wooden nest box, use only non-toxic products such as water-based latex paint or raw Linseed oils. These can extend the life of your cedar nestbox, but they are not a critical need in Birds Choice bird houses. For Purple Martins, white-colored houses are the most attractive options, but do not paint the interior!
Wisely selecting your birdhouse materials will ensure that this property WILL last.
Location, location, location
This is critical for any development, human or bird. For our new avian neighbors, the location of your bird house depends on which neighbor will be moving in! Here are a few suggestions for familiar nest box users.
Eastern Bluebird: Place your bluebird nest box on a pole or post, preferably at 4 feet high or greater, facing east towards open habitat, at least 60 feet from brushy habitat. If you are building a bluebird cul-de-sac, place the boxes 300-900 feet apart. If you have swallows attempting to move in, place a second house about 10-20 feet apart.
Purple Martin: Place your Purple Martin hotel on a 10-15 feet high telescoping pole. While this species nests in colonies, keep each hotel approximately 10 feet apart, giving each colony some airspace. Face the house entrance to the south or west, and keep the settlement unobstructed by trees or buildings for over 60 feet. Keep the area below the house clear of shrubs and brush. Want to prevent predators or competitors from attempting a hostile takeover? Mount your martin house on a pole in the water, with a 2-foot clearance.
House Wren: Attach your House Wren box to a pole or live tree between 5-10 feet up. Ensure the tree or pole is within 100 feet of woody vegetation, as these wrens like to have cover nearby when departing their nest. These nest boxes can face any direction, but if you are going to offer multiple homes for House Wrens, keep each box a minimum of 100 feet from the next. House Wrens are very territorial and will often construct a "dummy" nest in a nearby location.
Black-capped Chickadee: Want to be besties with your chickadee neighbor? You can attach a chickadee box to your house, a pole, a post, or a tree! Place the box between 5 and 15 feet high with a minimum spacing of 650 feet apart. During their breeding season, chickadees are far less social. Face the box away from the prevailing summer winds.
Picking the proper location for your chirpy neighbors will keep them safe and happy!
Don’t blinks home security
Being a nosy neighbor is not often a quality trait. However, a close watch on your birdhouses can prevent eviction by invasive species or predators. Common pests can also prevent native birds from properly enjoying a nest box. Using a Birds Choice house means you have built-in access for removing wasps, mice, House Sparrows, and starlings via a pivoting access door. Predator guards can also aid in predator and invasive species prevention. Still, close monitoring is key to protecting your bird box! Provide premium home security by combining a predator guard, like a baffle or collar, with your devoted diligence. You will be thanked at the end of the summer with a family of healthy birds.
What else can monitoring provide for birds? A better understanding of the status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds. Researchers can use data collected by nest watchers to learn when nesting occurs, the number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive. Want to contribute to this community science project for individuals and families? Join the NestWatch!
This home is low maintenance!
Human homes can require a lot of maintenance. Luckily, bird homes do not. At the end of each nesting season, clean out the interior of the nesting box. This reduces parasite problems for future nesting attempts. After mounting a nesting box, periodically check for the following:
- the size of the entrance hole has not been enlarged
- the house is still water-resistant
- there are no cracks or other major issues
Perform these periodical checks throughout the season, but make no significant changes until all chicks have left the nest!
Some birdhouses, like martins, require a more intense cleaning with a 10% bleach and water solution. Use a spray bottle, let the bleach kill germs, and then air dry the house. During the non-nesting season, removing bird boxes will keep invasives or pests from moving in. Store these boxes in dry, safe locations.
Welcome to the neighborhood!
Are birds the best neighbors on the block? That is your question to answer. However, birds benefit health, home, and garden. Your neighbor might make a mean burger, but do they control pests in your yard? Do they serenade you in the morning? Do they pollinate your favorite flowers? Do they improve mental health? Do they increase home value? Probably not. Though, if they do, you are one lucky person! While your human neighbors may not provide ALL these benefits, birds do. And creating a bird-friendly neighborhood guarantees a safe space for birds to live.
Creating a larger living space by providing nest boxes ensures that birds can provide benefits for us while benefitting from a protected living space. We must protect and care for our wildlife and the environment that we have altered for human use.