DIY Bird Box for Robins, Wrens, Pied Wagtails, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Flickers and Purple Martins.

Spring is the time when birds begin to look for good nesting sites. They may try many possibilities and even actually start the makings of a nest before they actually make their final choice. You can help them and attract many of these birds to your garden by providing them with a good choice of homes. In the last blog we looked at one design to attract a specific group. Now I'm going to proffer this design to attract some others. Over the decades the natural nesting sites, cracks in old buildings and garden walls and shakes in ancient trees, have become rarer. Our aim is also to create something which would blend into the background to attract these often shy birds.

As a rule, in Europe these boxes are expected to attract mainly robins, wrens and wagtails. In the USA there are over 50 species who prefer to use an open-fronted cavity nest. However, wherever you live you should research the individual habits and volumes needed for any specific  bird. Martins, for example, prefer to nest in colonies so you should provide either 5 or 6 boxes placed closely together or one large box with separate nesting chambers. Blackbirds may also use this type of box but would need it to be enlarged by around 50%.

The materials and construction are the same as for our previous box but I will repeat them here in case you have not read the post. If you have, then please continue down the page until you come to the section on the positioning of the front planks.


The box is based on the same design as my Apple House but is formed around a larger 140 mm - 5½" pallet block. You will need 1 or 2, 100 mm - 4" wide pallet wood planks and the wood strips from a fruit crate or orange box. We decorated it with water-based acrylic varnish and tinted it with earth and mineral pigments. For information on mixing these:



For the four sides, mark out the first length, which corresponds to the length of the block plus plank thickness. Cut four sides to this length.


Pre-nail the planks, if the wood splits at this juncture, then drill a pilot hole at a slightly smaller diameter than the nail shank and then nail. 

Position and nail front.



Cut base to make a platform suitable for nest building, 100 mm x 100 mm - 4" x 4" and mitred at 45°. 

Mark the position of the shelf from the inside.


Drill pilot hole and screw the shelf in position.


Trim the edges. 

You now have something which looks like this.



Select wood for back of box and trace round the box as a guide for drilling pilot holes for nailing the back and screwing in the shelf.

Nail back wall and screw shelf into place.


Drill pilot holes for wall mounting box at bottom...

...and top.


Drill a drainage hole. This is very important with an open-fronted design.


Cut fruit crate wood to length to make shingles. Due to the open aspect, these should project well over the front of the box to protect it from rain, sun and to give more privacy.


To finish, we use earth and mineral paints and acrylic water-based varnish... 

...with a design which mimicked the golden hearted ivy growing on the wall where we were going to site it. 

We made another to fit snugly under the eaves of the pallet wood hen house.

Now, if you'd like to, sit back and enjoy he film.

The previous post has another nesting box - a design for blue tits, chickadees and pied fly catchers

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All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014


  1. Hello,

    I don't know if you'll see this comment as it's on an older post, but I'll try anyway!

    Firstly, thank you both for writing your various blogs! I found the Holistic Hen site while looking for information about quail keeping that doesn't involve packing them into crates like sardines. I've spent the last couple of days absorbing all the information I can from your blogs (it's going to take a while!).

    I was wondering whether you have any more detailed info/pictures on the small box in the above picture, the 'quail bedroom' I think you called it in another post. I'm trying to design a quail coop and run and would like to see whether it's possible to make one out of reclaimed pallet wood (I'm lucky to have an endless supply of them from work!).

    If you have a tutorial kicking about somewhere that I haven't found yet, that would be great!

    Thanks very much and all the best,


    1. Hi Carrie,
      Thanks for your comments, much appreciated. By a strange co-incidence your question came just in the run up to the holidays. We go back to Scotland and our neighbours look after our birds. Last year they had big trouble with the quail as we had a mini-hurricane, which took the side off the greenhouse they were quartering in for the Winter. So Sue decided to make a special new inclusive house and run so that if a storm hit and our neighbour was worried she could put them in there for the duration, this in fact happened, so it worked out well! It is made from two large orange crates (as per photo above) and pallet wood. It has soft netting for the roof of the run and a wire base filled with dry soil for the house. This makes it both rat-proof and quail-friendly, as we have found the quail prefer to dig them selves little 'forms' in dry soil rather than burrow into straw and hay. She will be writing it up on Holistic Hen in the next few days and also making a film. We have just returned from a couple of weeks in a beautiful computer-free zone in the Highlands of Scotland so have a lot of catching up to do! All the very best for 2015! Andy and Sue