Backyard Wildlife: Building the Bluebird Nesting Box

Backyard Wildlife: Building the Bluebird Nesting Box


One of the most rewarding ways to engage wildlife is with wildlife near one’s home.  Trips to exotic locations are unnecessary, and the ability to engage the young and parenting practices of backyard wildlife make the local experience quite intimate.  Additionally, the ability and opportunity to interact with the backyard wildlife parenting activities provide excellent photographic opportunities that are not available on vacations and trips abroad.

This is a “how-to” presentation about building a Bluebird nesting box, and that is how Roger Chilson captured the photos in the YouTube presentation located at

Wood Needed:

  • About two feet of 1” x 8” material
  • About three feet of 1” x 6” material 

Materials Needed:

  • Exterior glue
  • Finish nails or wood screws or air gun nails
  • 5-10 small one inch brads
  • One 6D nail

Tools Needed:

  • A sharp hand saw
  • **Access to a table saw, a miter saw or skill saw with a runner for only one cut
  • Wood clamps if available
  • A small hammer
  • A Screwdriver
  • A Worktable
  • A Drill with several small bits and one matching entrance hole size (1 & 1/2 inches)

House Cuts:

  • 3 Sides & Front 1x6x9 inches *
  • 1 Bottom 1x4x5.5 inches
  • 2 outside runners
  • one 8 inches long from 3/4 inch material 1.5 inches wide
  • 2 inside runners
  • Both 3/4 x 3/8 x1 inch
  • Remove sharp edges from both pieces
  • 1 spacer 3/8 x 3/8 by 8 inches
  • 1 Top 1 x 8 x 8 inches **
  • 1 Back 1x8x14.5 inches
  • *Some people will score the front to facilitate fledgling behaviors.


**The top represents the most difficult cut in the project & does require a table, miter saw or skill saw with a guide system.  Since the top is slanted ever so slightly, a small angle must be cut in one end of the top.  It doesn’t have to be cut exactly to match the angle as long as the top corner of the roof edge contacts the back first when assembled.  Sufficient glue should fill any gap between the back and any exaggerated slant cut.  Additionally, caulk should be used on the back where the roof end contacts the back.  This connection will be covered thoroughly under the assembly section

Drill Holes:

  • Drill Holes:Front: Drill 1 1/4 inch hole in the front, centered from each side; initiate the hole center two inches from the top.
  • Clamp scrap wood to back when drilling to prevent tear-out
  • Entrance Pad: Drill 1 1/4 inch hole in entrance pad, centered
  • ** Draw a light line from each corner to the opposite corner; crossing point is center
  • ** Clamp scrap wood to back when drilling to prevent tear-out
  • Bottom: Drill five 1/4 inch drainage holes in the bottom: one in each corner and one in middle
  • Back: Drill two 1/4 inch holes; 1 at top and 1 at the bottom of the back for mounting purposes
  • **Both holes should be centered and 3/4 inch from top and bottom ends
  • * Clamp scrap wood to back when drilling to prevent tear-out

Sliding Side:

I should address the concept of a sliding side at this point. We have previously referenced 3 sides that were of the same dimension.  There will be a front and one side that will be of the same dimension and they will be permanently attached.  The other side will be attached by way of a latch, and when it is unlatched it can slide open.  Consequently, when we reference runners and sliding side, that’s what we will be talking about.  Incidentally, the purpose of the sliding side will be for observation and cleanout.


Mount The Bottom To The Back

  • Near the bottom & with square, mark horizontal line 2” off the bottom
  • Mark a point on the horizontal line 1.5 inches from the edge on the sliding door side 
  • After marking another 1.5” point toward the top, connect the two forming a vertical line that will intersect with the horizontal line
  • Mark a point on the horizontal line 1.5 inches from the edge on the sliding door side 
  • After marking another 1.5” point toward the top, connect the two forming a vertical line that will intersect with the horizontal line
  • Next place a bead of glue on one of the short sides to the bottom
  • Now place the bottom to the back with a side flush to the horizontal line and an edge flush to the vertical one
  • Lastly, attach the two with nails or screws and glue.
  • * If you choose screws drill pilot holes first

Attach the Outside Runner to the Back:

Now we need to mount the outside runner to the sliding door side of the box. If you have not already figured it out, this side of the box is not permanently mounted and will be attached by a nail latch. The first thing to do is to draw another vertical line parallel to the previously drawn verticle line 3/4 of an inch outside. Start brads into the outside runner for the back and apply glue to the underside. Place the runner on the appropriate line and attach it with the brads. Note that the bottom will serve as the bottom inside runner.

Attach the Upper Inside Runner To The Back:

INR looking at this view of the back and the sliding door, it is obvious that we are using a small metal bracket as the inside runner.  With the OSR mounted and the SS in its channel, the ideal way to mount the runner/bracket is to place it against the door and mark the hole center with a punch.  Replace the bracket and attach the runner/bracket with the screw.  Make sure there is a micro amount of space between the bracket and ss.

Attach the Front Outside Runner to the Front:

  • Lay front flat on a table, front side down
  • Put a bead of glue on the appropriate edge of the outside runner
  • Fit runner against the front edge and flush to the bottom.

Attach the Upper Inside Runner to the Front:

Again the bottom will serve as the bottom inside runner for the front as it did on the back. A small cabinet bracket serves best as the upper inside runner. Place the front flat on a table with the inside up. Place the side on its edge and adjacent to the outside runner. Place the bracket against the side, which is used as a spacer, and mark the center of the bracket hole with a punch. Attach the bracket with a screw.

Entrance Pad

  • Apply a bead of glue around on the EP & around the entrance hole
  • Put the second bead of glue around the 4 edges of the pad
  • Clamp the entrance pad to the front with two wood clamps
  • Attach the entrance pad to the front with nails or screws
  • With finger remove the glue that emerged from the compressed edges

Mount the Permanent Side to The Back

  • Lay the back flat on a table
  • Place the permanent side with no glue against the back and flush to the bottom
  • Position permanent side same distance from the edge of back at top/bottom
  • Mark the vertical line on the outside edge of permanent side
  • Remove side and apply a bead of glue where the side will contact back & bottom
  • Replace the side and attach it with screws or nails.  Use clamps if needed.

Attach the front to the top edge of the permanent side and top edge of the bottom

  • Apply a bead of glue to the front edge of the mounted side and bottom
  • Lay the front flush against the mounted side and bottom
  • Attach the front to the side and bottom with screws or nails. If using screws, drill pilot holes before number two above.

Prepare the Sliding Door Nail Latch

  • Get a 6D nail, clip the sharp end to leave about 1.5 inches
  • Drill a hole into the end of the door opposite the entrance hole, centered and 3/8 inch from the bottom
  • ** the hole should allow the nail to enter with minimal resistance
  • Insert the sliding door into the runners until it is flush to the bottom
  • Press the nail into the hole and tap firmly with a small hammer to mark the second wood layer
  • Remove the door and drill a hole into the bottom on the mark
  • ** The hole should be smaller than the nail 
  • Reinsert the door and tap the nail through the sliding door and into the bottom about 1/4 inch
  • Remove the nail with pliers and reinsert it until it will secure the door with little resistance

Attach the Sliding Door Handle

Mount door handle on the opposite end, 2 inches from the top, centered

Attach top spacer With glue & brads attach top spacer on top of the box and against back.

Attach Top

Place the top over the spacer and against the back. 
* Note the small open gap over the top—back connection.  Since rain and moisture will collect in this area, it will eventually rot the wood; Consequently, this must be corrected and presents the most complex cut of the project.  The cut is best performed on a table saw, and the 90-degree angle must be reduced to make it functional.  This joint does not have to be perfectly flush, but the top edge must make the first contact or be perfectly flush.  If the angle cut is slightly too much, it will reverse the open gap, but that can be filled with exterior glue, and the upper part of the top-back connection can be protected with caulk.


The ideal amount for the bluebird box is an eight-foot square post.  The post should be buried about 2-2.5 feet, and the nest should be mounted to the post from 5-7 feet above ground level.  Two to three-inch screws are ideal and a pilot hole should be drilled into the post.

The ideal placement will be near locations adjacent to open spaces with telephone lines or fence lines for the bird to perch on.  Additionally, the preferred direction for the box to face is east.  Secondly, the box can face north or northeasterly.  Make sure that food (mealworms) and water are also available. If cats and snakes are an issue, a baffle should also be included below the box.


Great opportunities are available to observe wildlife in our own backyard, and an excellent way of doing that is to provide nesting boxes for local birds that access cavity nests. Additionally, those same circumstances provide excellent photographic opportunities.

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