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How to Build a Nest Box for Robins From Scrap Timber

Eugene has a keen interest in DIY and gardening. Over a 30 year period he has also become self taught in garden power tool maintenance.

building-a-birdhouse-for-robins-from-scrap-timber

In this guide I'm going to make a nesting box suitable for European robins, although it can be sized down a little to make it suitable for finches, wrens or similar small songbirds. You can make a birdhouse like this from any waste timber (lumber) that comes to hand such as cladding, fascia or soffit, baseboard (skirting board), palette timber or ply.

building-a-birdhouse-for-robins-from-scrap-timber

Construction Time

45 minute to 1 1/2 hour depending on what power tools you have access to.

Materials Required for Nest Box

  • New or waste timber. About 7" (175 mm) wide and 1/2" to 3/4" (12 mm to 18 mm) thick. A piece about 5' (1.5 m) long should be sufficient.
  • Nails. 2 dozen, 16 to 18 gauge light nail gun nails or 1 1/2" 4d (40 mm) oval wire nails.
  • String or wire or a 4" (100 mm) nail for hanging the box in place.

Tools Needed for Construction

You can make do with the following:

  • Pencil or sharpie (marker)
  • Measuring tape or rule
  • Saw
  • Hammer

If possible and to speed things up, you can use the following tools for cutting timber and attaching the sections of the box together:

  • Circular saw or table saw
  • Miter saw
  • Nail gun
  • Power drill
  • 1/2" or 10 mm drill bit
  • 2" to 2 1/2" (50 to 60 mm) Hole saw

Step 1. Find Some Suitable Timber

As I mentioned earlier, you can use any waste timber as long as it isn't treated and is about 1/2" to 3/4" thick and 7" wide. Fascia or soffit timber is suitable if you reduce its width, but you can also use ply. I found this piece of 3/4" shutter ply in my workshop loft, left over from construction during the summer. This won't last longer than a year or two in my climate (Ireland), but the boxes I make are pretty much disposable, constructed from scrap materials and I just build new ones when they fall apart. If you want your boxes to last, you can of course use better quality timber and/or give them a coat of bird friendly timber preservative and paint.

This piece of waste 3/4" (18 mm) ply should do nicely!

This piece of waste 3/4" (18 mm) ply should do nicely!

Step 2. Cut the Timber to the Correct Width

All of the pieces of the birdbox are the same width, but different lengths, so it's easier to cut a strip first, then cut sections off this for the walls, roof and bottom. So first I cut my ply down to size, reducing it to a board measuring 7" (175 mm) wide.

Mark the amount that has to be trimmed off.

Mark the amount that has to be trimmed off.

Adjusting the fence on my circular saw.

Adjusting the fence on my circular saw.

Reducing the ply down to 7" wide.

Reducing the ply down to 7" wide.

Step 3. Cut the Individual Components for the Box

The box has four walls, a bottom and a roof. The back wall was made slightly longer so that it projected above the roof, allowing a mounting hole to be drilled in it.

Dimensions

All timber is 3/4" (18 mm) thick. 1/2" (12.5 mm) can be used as an alternative

  • Back wall. 10" x 7" (250 mm x 175 mm)
  • Two side walls. 7" x 7" (175 mm x 175 mm.) The top of the walls is sloped, from 7" at the back to 6" at the front.
  • Front wall. 6" x 7" (150 mm x 175 mm)
  • Roof. 8 1/2" x 7" (212 mm x 175mm)
  • Bottom. 5 1/2" x 7" (137 mm x 175 mm). This fits between the left and right wall, so it's reduced in width by the thickness of the two walls.
Dimensions can be adjusted as required. If you want, you can reduce the width of the side wall by 1.5" to make the box square.

Dimensions can be adjusted as required. If you want, you can reduce the width of the side wall by 1.5" to make the box square.

Measuring the individual parts for the bird box.

Measuring the individual parts for the bird box.

Cutting the components with a miter saw.

Cutting the components with a miter saw.

The kerf or cutting width of the teeth on a mitre saw is about 1/8" or 3mm. Cut on the waste side of the pencil line for more accurate results.

The kerf or cutting width of the teeth on a mitre saw is about 1/8" or 3mm. Cut on the waste side of the pencil line for more accurate results.

Both side walls need to slope to the front. The front edge is 1" shorter than the back, that's 6".

Both side walls need to slope to the front. The front edge is 1" shorter than the back, that's 6".

All the components cut to size.

All the components cut to size.

Step 4. Nail the Two Side Walls To the Back

Using a hammer and 1 1/2" oval nails, nail the two sides to the back of the box. Oval nails are better than round ones because there's less chance of splitting the timber. Alternatively, use a nail gun. Keep the nails about 1" (25 mm) in from the end of the timber. A nail at each end should suffice, but you can put an additional one in the middle.

Using a nail gun to attach the right wall to the back wall.

Using a nail gun to attach the right wall to the back wall.

Left and right wall in place.

Left and right wall in place.

Step 5. Attach the Bottom of the Box

This piece is narrower than all the other pieces at 5 1/2" wide.

Attaching the bottom to the sides.

Attaching the bottom to the sides.

Step 6. Nail on the Front

The front piece is 7" wide and 6" tall.

Nailing the front to the two side walls.

Nailing the front to the two side walls.

Step 7. Fit the Roof To the Top of the Box

The roof is 7" wide by 8 1/2" long so that it overhangs the front by about 1 1/2". If you want, you can chamfer the top edge of the front wall slightly so the roof sits flat on the side walls, but it's not essential. Alternatively the front wall can be made a 1/4" or so shorter.

Roof in place.

Roof in place.

Step 8. Drill a Hole for the Doorway

I used a 2 5/8" (67 mm) hole saw which was a bit on the large side for robins. It was all I had available and the next size down was too small. If the hole is too big, they might be reluctant to use the box if they think predators can see in. A 55mm saw would have been better. When using a hole saw, it's essential to use the side handle on your drill to cope with the reaction of the saw pushing against the timber while it cuts. Cut slowly and push the saw gently down into the timber, otherwise it can jam and if the drill doesn't have a clutch, it can wrench your arm. If you don't have a hole saw, you can use two pieces of timber for the front. First nail on the lower piece to the front edge of the two side walls, then cut a square notch for an opening from the upper piece of timber and then nail this on above the lower piece.

Using a power drill and hole saw to make the opening in the front wall.

Using a power drill and hole saw to make the opening in the front wall.

Step 9. Drill a Mounting Hole

Drill a mounting hole in the top of the back wall. A 1/2" or 100 mm bit is fine so you can use a nail or wire for hanging.

Completed box.

Completed box.

Step 10. Hanging the Nesting Box.

If I'm hanging boxes on the trunk of a large tree, I use a 4" (100 mm) round wire nail. Hammer the nail downwards at an angle of about 60 degrees so it slopes upwards and wind can't blow a box off it when hung. Leave about 2" of a 4" nail protruding. Alternatively you can use wire or string to tie the box to an overhead branch. It's best to recess boxes somewhat in trees or bushes so they're concealed by branches and robins will be more likely to use them. However the robins in my garden are normally hand fed and tame, so they normally haven't an issue taking up residence in an exposed box placed in the trees outside the kitchen window.

Fixing the box into place. I suspended it with some scrap electrical cable from an overhanging branch.

Fixing the box into place. I suspended it with some scrap electrical cable from an overhanging branch.

Is it Necessary to Treat the Timber?

You can treat your box with wood preservative, then paint it or alternatively use a wood stain or combined wood protection/preservative product. Check that it's animal friendly before using.

An older box I made and one of the robins.

An older box I made and one of the robins.

building-a-birdhouse-for-robins-from-scrap-timber

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Eugene Brennan

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