Make your garden the nest big thing


National Nest Box week runs every year from 14-21 February.

Robin using a teapot nester as a bird box © RSPCA

It’s the time of year when birds are beginning to pair up for the forthcoming breeding season, and the simple act of installing a nest box can have a dramatic effect on protecting Britain’s declining wild bird population.

Although Nest Box week is primarily about helping birds, all sorts of garden wildlife – from bats to dormice, hedgehogs and even frogs – benefit from access to nest boxes.

If you’re buying your nest box from a reputable dealer, they should give you all the important advice on what species it attracts and how to install it in your garden. But we’ve got a few tips and pointers to help you get started, whether you’re purchasing something ready made or building your own.

One nest doesn’t fit all

Different animals can have dramatically different nesting requirements. The type and size of box needed will vary wildly, as well as the way that you’ll need to position it – both to appeal to your target species, and to keep them safe from their natural predators.

For example, amphibians (like the frogs who may live in your garden pond), like cool, damp conditions. Their housing should include a cutaway section so that they can be in contact with a cool patch of soil during the summer. But for birds, bats and small mammals like hedgehogs, it’s essential that any nesting space is waterproof and will keep them warm and dry.

Before buying or building any kind of wildlife box, you should research the species you’re looking to attract. Here are some points to consider:

  • How much space do they need?
  • What kind of temperatures and conditions do they prefer?
  • What predators are they under threat from, and how can you protect the nest box from them?
  • Where would they naturally build their nests – do they prefer to be at ground level, or hanging high up?
  • Are they a species that hibernate, and what extra steps will you need to take to protect them over the hibernation period?
  • Do your target residents live in your area? It might be worth checking with a local wildlife group to save yourself from putting up a nest for an animal who won’t be around!

Asking the nest-issary questions

Frog using shelter designed for amphibians

There are also some things you should consider, whatever kind of animal you’re hoping to house.

All nests should be big enough for their residents to behave in the same way that they would with a naturally built habitat. That means room for them to rest comfortably, and space for them to nest, hibernate, feed and rear their young.

It’s important that the nest is made of hardy enough material that it won’t fall apart under pressure from hungry predators or extreme weather. Regardless of the material, make sure that you check for sharp edges, splinters and exposed nails inside and out.

You’re likely to want to put your nest box out during the colder months too, so you’ll need to make sure that it’s a material that will survive the frost! And you may want to make things a little easier for yourself by choosing a nest that won’t be too hard for you to spring clean between nesting seasons.

It’s also important that you look at the legislation relevant to the species you intend to cater for. Many species, including all wild birds, are legally protected in ways you need to be aware of. For example, you will need a General Licence to be allowed to remove abandoned or unsuccessful eggs from wild birds nests.

The nest step

Have you checked out the range of nest boxes and roosting pods for sale in our shop? We have boxes for birds, hedgehogs and frogs – all of them are designed to meet our welfare guidelines and come with advice on the best and safest way to place them in your garden.

We’ve got more advice on helping the wildlife around you, as well as a number of helpful fact sheets about different species that are common in England and Wales.

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