Once you have decided to put up your own bluebird box, you can either build it yourself or purchase one of several commercial designs.
A good bluebird box should be easy to monitor and to clean out. It should be well ventilated but resistant to water leaking into the nesting area. Untreated cedar or redwood are preferred materials but plywood and even PVC pipe can be used. You can paint or stain the outside of your box (use a light color) but leave the inside untreated.
Building your own bluebird box can be fun and makes an excellent family or school project. Materials can be purchased from your local lumber yard for less than $10.00.
The plans in this Sam's Guide to Bluebirds include a list of materials, drawings and manufacturing instructions. The bluebird box produced is designed to conform to guidelines established by the North American Bluebird Society. If the plans have become lost or damaged you will find a copy in PDF format on the samsbirds.com Web site.
Please do not put up a bluebird box unless you are committed to monitoring it and preventing house sparrows from nesting. Choosing a box with the correct hole size will prevent starlings from using the nest box.
Dr. Ken Steigman demonstrates how to make a bluebird box.
Bluebird Box Design
There are many different designs of bluebird boxes and each one has its supporters. Almost any style will do but boxes that conform to the following guidelines are most likely to be successful.
Styles and sizes:
Commercially produced boxes are available in a variety of designs and styles. Look for houses that have been approved by the North American Bluebird Society. If the nest box does not have NABS approval, then check for the following dimensions.
- Eastern Bluebird: 1 1/2 inch round holes, 1 3/8 x 2 1/4 inch vertical oval holes, or 1 1/8 inch horizontal slot entrances.
- Western or Mountain Bluebird: 1 9/16 inch round opening.
- Where ranges overlap, use a 1 9/16 inch round opening.
- Eastern Bluebird: 4" x 4" or 5" x 5" , or 4" in diameter for circular boxes. Peterson style boxes may be slightly smaller.
- Western or Mountain Bluebird: 5" x 5" or 5 1/2" x 5 1/2"
- A design with a 5 in. front overhang will discourage predators from accessing the nesting area from above.
- Boxes should be watertight but have good ventilation.
- Boxes should be easy to open and close to allow for easy checking of the nest and removal of old nesting material.
Visit the bluebird Box Styles page for more information.