Nest Box Plans
Here are some easy to construct plans for bluebird nesting boxes that have been proven to work from years of field-testing. The plans are compliments of the Bluebirds Across Nebraska (BAN) organization.
Click each box design title below to download the PDF file with a building plan. NOTE: You must have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer to open these files. If you don't have it, go to Adobe's site for the free download.
This is a great, simple nesting box design developed by Tom Comfort of Antrim County and a committee of national bluebird house experts. Early testing results show the bluebirds really prefer it over many other designs. It features a 1 9/16" hole, slightly larger than the traditional 1 1/2" hole size. It is designed to be mounted using 1/2" electrical conduit and rebar. See below for details. It is easy to build and can be constructed with either cedar or pine. However, cedar will be more expensive and it may be hard to find wide enough lumber for the roof at your local building store.
For more information about the Xbox, read this article from our newsletter.
Here are some basic general tips on constructing nestboxes for bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds:
- Use 3/4" thick wood. It holds up better and provides better insulation ability on cold nights.
- Cedar is the best exterior wood to use, but can be expensive. Pine is OK though too. Cypress is also a good wood to use, but is not available everywhere.
- Providing holes or gaps near the top of the box for ventilation and cooling can be a good idea, especially if the box is located in a hot climate area..
- On the inside front of the nest box, provide some sort of ladder for young birds to climb up and out of the box. You can put saw grooves in the wood (about 1/4" to 3/8" apart) or affix some hardware cloth.
- Wood screws are better than nails in general, because they hold the wood together better over time. If you do use nails, the ring-shank type is best. Also, use either stainless steel (expensive) or galvanized.
- ALWAYS build nest boxes that can be opened up for monitoring and for cleanout at the end of the nesting cycle or season. Follow the direction on the included plans.
- Do NOT stain or paint the interior of the nest box. You can stain/paint the exterior, but always use non-toxic water based products.
- If possible, ALWAYS provide a large overhanging roof that provides a lot of shelter on the front and sides of the box.
- The diameter of the entrance hole can be either 1 1/2" or 1 9/16". The latter makes it a little easier to enter and is best for the slightly larger bluebird species out west Also, make sure the hole is smooth without burrs and splinters sticking out.
How To Mount Your Nesting Box
It is STRONGLY recommended that you mount your nest box on a metal pole, and NOT locations like fences, trees, sides of buildings, and hanging from a tree or crook pole. Poles put in the ground out in the open are the most preferred nesting sites by bluebirds and they're the easiest to protect from predators.
The nest box should be mounted so that the bottom of the house is approximately 5 feet above the ground. This can be adjusted a little lower depending on the height of the person monitoring the boxes. The actual pole length will need to be longer depending on how far into the ground you need to drive it in order that the pole is stable and not leaning easily The soil type (clay, loam, sand, etc.), weight of the box, and stiffness of the pole will dictate the length somewhat.
You can buy a pole at either a home center, hardware store, or specialty birdfeeding store. The first two will usually be cheaper sources. But, the birdfeeding stores have poles and mounting hardware custom-made for nesting boxes. Here are some common types of poles you can buy:
- Electrical conduit 1/2" (the plans above use this size)
- Electrical conduit 3/4"
- Galvanized steel piping - either 1/2" or 3/4"
- PVC piping
NOTE: Wooden posts CAN be used, but it is harder to get them into the ground (more digging) and predators can climb them more easily.
There are a number of ways to secure your nestbox to the pole. The first two designs above make this easy. Here is another way used frequently with conduit or piping straps:
You need to size the strap with the diameter pole you're using.
A good method recommended by Steve Gilbertson with 1/2 conduit is to get a length of 1/2" rebar at the home center to use as a ground anchor. 4 or 5 feet is a good length. Since it comes in 10' lengths, you can cut it in two for two nest boxes. Drive the rebar 24" into the ground with a large hammer or sledge. Then, a 5' long 1/2" conduit will fit snugly over the exposed 36" section of rebar providing a secure mount for your bluebird house.
Here is a downloadable diagram showing the Gilbertson mounting system. (Note: you must have Acrobat Reader software installed on your computer to open this PDF file)