How to put up a nest box

We have previously looked at the best time and place to install a nest box. Now we’d like to get down to the details, and take a look at the actual process of putting the box up.

For most situations, you will want to put the box on a tree, fence or wall, so we will address each of these individually. (If you have a box that is designed to be built into a house wall or roof, then it is likely that your builder will care of this for you).

The tips below are suitable for both bird and bat boxes.

Fixing to a tree
Tree Sparrow Nest Box

There are several things to be aware of when attaching a nest box to a living tree. The most important is that the growth of the tree will affect the fitting. This means that boxes should be checked at least once a year to make sure that they are still secure. A box which has fallen to the ground is of little use to birds, and one which falls down with a nest and eggs inside is disastrous.

The most common way to put up a nest box is using a strong nail which is at least 85mm in length. It is important to use aluminium nails, as these will not damage a chainsaw (or chainsaw user), should they be left in the tree when it is felled. Nylon, brass, copper and hardwood nails can also be used but steel nails should be avoided as they will quickly rust, making them difficult to adjust or remove.

Using a screw instead of a nail can also be a good option and means that you can loosen it by a couple of turns every year to compensate for the growth of the tree. Screws are more suitable for hardwood trees as they will be very difficult to adjust in softwood. Make sure that all nails or screws are removed from the tree if the boxes are taken down.

An alternative to using a nail or screw is to tie the box to the tree. Wire and synthetic twine both work well and, if boxes are tied loosely, they can be edged upwards as the tree grows. Boxes can also be hung from a horizontal branch if they come with a suitable hanger (e.g.  Schwegler 1B).

Fixing to a fence
Urban Bird Nest Box

Hanging a bird box on a fence poses fewer problems than siting a box on a tree, as you will not need to worry about the wood growing. Use a strong nail or screw and check it annually to make sure that it still feels secure.


Fixing to a wall
WoodStone Swift Nest Box

To fix a box to a brick wall will require a power drill with hammer action, masonry bits and a screwdriver. You will also need wall plugs and screws which are small enough to go through the hole in the box. Using the drill, make a hole which is slightly longer than your wall plug. (You can use a piece of tape around the drill bit to indicate the depth to which you need to drill). Insert the plug and then screw in the screw, first threading it through the hole in the box. Having a second person to hold the box will probably be helpful and, if you are using ladders, make sure that you take sensible steps to ensure your safety. Appropriate eye protection and clothing should always be worn.

Head over to for our full range of nest boxes, aluminium nails and ladders.

4 thoughts on “How to put up a nest box”

  1. We have an old bird house on a tree in our garden, the house is falling to pieces and we want to replace it. We would like to know (A) What screws are best to be used & (B) how do we repair the holes of the previous screws without compromising the trees health.

    1. Hi Paula, you can use either nails or screws to put up a new nest box. We generally recommend aluminium nails as these won’t cause any problems if they are left in the tree and it is ever felled by chainsaw at any point in the future. It is best to avoid steel screws/nails as these can rust and are then difficult to remove. For a secure fixing, nails should be at least 85mm in length. If you can remove the previous screws from the tree that is great! However, you shouldn’t need to repair it as a small hole of this size shouldn’t affect the health of the tree.

  2. I have a thick Devon Hedge in my garden its always is full of birds Robins Hedge Sparrow Various Tits & I would like to put a nesting box right in the hedge, I have a new one & have thought of attaching it using two large cable ties so it’s secure and I can still see it from my patio

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have some great habitat in your garden. I would imagine large, strong cables ties would be okay as long as you are sure the box is very secure – just make sure the box is out of reach of any predators such as cats. I hope you manage to attract some nesting birds!

      Many thanks,
      Antonia Peacock
      Wildlife Equipment Specialist

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