If you are an arts and crafts enthusiast or doing woodwork in school and you need some Christmas gift ideas, a bird box might be the way to go.

This job will involve using tools like a saw and a hammer, so you will need some help and supervision, but it could be a project the whole family can enjoy.

What you will need:

  • Pencil.
  • Measuring tape.
  • Scissors.
  • Rough timber or plywood.
  • A small hinge.
  • 20mm nails or screws.
  • Saw.
  • Hammer.
  • Screw driver.
  • Drill.
  • How to make a bird box

    Bird Watch Ireland has a handy measurement guide to follow and we have outlined it in the diagram below. The measurements in red are for starling boxes, while all other species will follow the measurements written in black.

    You will need a pencil and a measuring tape to mark out where the timber is to be cut. You should also mark the pieces before they are cut with labels for the side, base, back, front and roof. If you have an adult in the family who is handy with a saw, they could even cut the required pieces for a number of boxes all at the one time.

    Different bird species require different entrances to the box. A box for a robin has an open front, for example.

    The diameters of the entrance required for different bird species

  • Blue tit – 25mm.
  • Great tit/Wren – 28mm.
  • Sparrow – 38mm.
  • Starling – 45mm.
  • For a robin, the front panel of the box should be cut at 130mm to make an open-fronted box.
  • An adult should drill the entrance before the bird box is assembled. Nails or screws can be used to assemble the box together, or if you’re practicing for your school woodwork project, you might add in a few joints. The roof should be able to open, so screw a small hinge to the roof.

    You can paint a water-based preservative on the outside of the box to protect it from the elements, but not to the inside of the box.

    Where to put the box

    If you are giving away your box as a gift, it might be an idea to include a note with some advice on where to place the box.

  • The box should be placed in a sheltered area.
  • It should be 2-5m above the ground.
  • A robin’s box should not be more than 2m above the ground.
  • If no shelter is available, Bird Watch Ireland advises people to face the box between south-east and north. This should avoid strong direct sunlight and the heaviest rain.
  • You might also suggest that the gift recipient takes part in the garden bird survey between December and February. You can log bird counts and details on the Bird Watch Ireland website.

    Bird Detectives is a magazine from Bird Watch Ireland for young bird enthusiasts that comes out to members every quarter. You can become a member by visiting www.birdwatchireland.ie and signing up for a membership subscription.