How to Make a Bird Nesting Basket in 5 Easy Steps
Want to help your backyard birds along this spring? Add a hanging basket and share it with your birds to keep their babies hidden from predators.
What You Will Need
- Large semi-open hanging basket with good drainage
- Coir or moss for lining basket
- Potting soil
- Moss or light mulching material
- 4” diameter shallow container or saucer
- Plant material as desired
I like to use trailing ivy and geraniums. The ivy is easy to grow as are the geraniums, which tend to hide the nest. Any combination is fine just so long as there is room for a nest in the middle of the pot, and you choose plants that will thrive in the location you have selected.
Line your hanging basket with the coir or moss. You can use more coir or moss to cover the drainage hole; that keeps the potting soil from falling out, but also allows for good drainage.
Then add enough potting soil to fill about 2/3 to ¾ of the container, depending upon how large your plants are.
Place the 4” container in the center of your basket on top of the potting soil. This will be removed in a later step. Right now it serves as a planting guide, while also making a slight depression in the top layer of your potting soil.
Add your plants from the saucer out and cover with potting soil as you go. Remember that birds like to hide their nests as a precaution against predators. That's why you need to choose plants that grow tall as well as spill over the sides. Try mixing and matching trailing vines and tall grasses for a fun, beautiful basket. Experiment to see what works best for your particular hanging planter.
Once the plants are all installed, remove the container from the center. The depression it leaves should be about ½” to 1” deep. If necessary, add potting soil to achieve that center depth.
If your backyard birds like what they see, they will most likely use the center depression for their nest. After the baby birds have hatched and flown away, you can add another plant to the center of your basket. It's up to you.
Water your basket thoroughly. Then arrange a layer of moss or light mulch on top of the potting soil, including the depression for your bird's nest. Make sure to add just a very light covering over the nesting area. You want to preserve the depression you made.
Keep in mind the placement of your basket. Nesting birds can be messy! It’s best to hang your basket in a somewhat sheltered spot that is easily accessible to your birds. Nestlings soon become overheated and suffer in direct sunlight or strong afternoon sun. If your basket is hanging from a porch ceiling, be sure there is no furniture in the target zone below. You might also want to cover your porch floor with newspapers or a small tarp until the nestlings are on their own.
Here in the Northeast the birds start nesting in late March right through early July. Choose plants that are tough enough to take some wear and tear while Mom and Pop are feeding and tending to their young. Once birds lay their eggs, you can count on about 2 weeks before they hatch and another 2 weeks for the baby birds to fledge.
Your hanging basket most likely will need some TLC after all this bird activity. And don’t neglect your watering schedule even if there is a nest. Just approach carefully and quietly, and water with the same care. You do not want to soak the nest or its contents! My solution is to water around the perimeter of the hanging basket only. After your baby birds have left their nest, you might want to give the foliage in your basket a good washing. Then apply fertilizer to revitalize any plants that may be in need of some help.
Even though this seems like it might be inconvenient to you, your baby birds will benefit by the protection of your home. Predators like hawks, ravens, owls, crows, and 4-footed wild animals that might otherwise find nestlings or eggs an easy meal will not be approaching so close to a human habitat!
Moreover, if you regularly feed birds in your yard, or have bird-friendly shrubs and seed-bearing trees that also harbor lots of insects, Mom and Pop will be showing their babies all the treasures your property has to offer. The bird population will increase, while the insect and weed seed population will decrease!
It’s also fun to watch from a distance as the parents feed and nurture their youngsters. You’ll feel like proud parents too when the little birds take flight for the first time. Enjoy their first halting flights to and from the various plants, bushes and trees. I love to watch Mom and Pop feed the fledglings after they leave the nest. The young birds use a wing-fluttering routine, as well as a special ‘feed me’ call that the parents instinctively respond to. But after a couple of weeks, that routine has to be broken. It’s harsh, but it’s the only way the little ones learn to fend for themselves. After their parents teach them where the food is and how to obtain it, they are on their own!
If it happens that birds do not choose your basket as a nesting spot, be patient. Wild birds are very opportunistic, but also are very picky. Most of them won’t use a nest site that is less than 5 feet off the ground, so bear that in mind. Sooner or later the odds are that a very clever bird will find your basket irresistible. Even if they don’t, you’ll have a beautiful hanging basket to show for your efforts!