How to Install Bluebird Nest Boxes
Little Piney hosts a healthy population of Eastern Bluebirds. They are encouraged to settle here by good habitat and available real estate. We have 7 bluebird nest boxes put in place several years ago by previous owners. Recently, I removed all nest boxes for cleaning and fresh paint, and added predator-discouraging baffles to each mounting pole. In preparation, I read many sources on Bluebird nest boxes and predator baffles, but I still felt confused. Now that I have figured it out, here’s my simple step by step guide–Bluebird Nest Boxes for Total Beginners–to make it easier for you.
I’m not handy with a saw, and nest boxes are available on Ebay and Etsy for as little as $15.00 apiece. So my step one is order nest boxes specifically made for Eastern Bluebirds. Texas Bluebird Society also sells nest boxes and shares all the specifications and building plans if you prefer that route. Basically, the box should have a 1 1/2″ opening with a square wood predator guard, be made of untreated wood, have cross ventilation, and open in the front or side (with a screw or fastener) for monitoring and cleaning. If painted, the boxes should be a light neutral color to help with heat control in the summer.
Here are some of my nest boxes, cleaned up and painted just enough to lighten the color while preserving the weathered patina that gives them character:
Blue Bird boxes are attached to posts of 1″ diameter or less. (Mine are larger.) PVC conduit is slipped over rebar pounded into the ground. The posts should be about 6′ high.
Locate the posts in open areas a hundred feet away from brush and trees if possible, about one box per acre.
Attach predator baffles to keep out the snakes and raccoons. Don’t skip this step! It is heartbreaking to open the box and find it ransacked. Vaseline on the pole does not work, by the way. A diagram for building the Kingston Predator Baffle can be found at the Texas Bluebird Society website. Baffles can be constructed for about $10.00 apiece, or you can purchase a raccoon baffle made by Woodlink.
Until I had all the pieces, I couldn’t figure out how the baffle was attached to the pole. The baffle has to go on before the birdhouse is mounted, and it has to be able to swing freely so animals can’t climb it. The baffle is mounted using a hose clamp and two pieces of galvanized metal perforated plumber’s tape bent and bolted together.
Plumber’s tape is cut into 6-9″ pieces. Using two pieces, form a circle in the middle just large enough to slip over the pole and bolt the pieces together. Bend as shown below and place above the hose clamp
The baffle has a round opening in the screen at the top. The opening should be a little wider than the pole so that it fits loosely enough to allow the baffle to swing, but tightly enough to keep a snake from crawling through. I snipped mine with directress. The baffle goes on over the plumber’s tape and rests on top.
Next the nest box is attached to the pole. My boxes are attached with long screws that go through the inside back toward the bottom and at the top. I use a battery powered drill to make a hole through the box and pipe and switch to a screw driver to attach. If the box doesn’t have a board that extends above the roof you will have to take the door off to mount with two screws.
All done and ready for occupants!
Happy Nest Watching
I carry a stool, cordless drill/screwdriver, wire cutters, and the next boxes and baffle materials in my big wagon. Also I have my Ryobi string trimmer for trimming tall grass. It’s light weight, forty volts, rechargeable, and takes a brush cutting attachment that works well on woody stemmed weeds. Both attachments make my chores much easier at Little Piney.
I hope Bluebird Nest Boxes for Total Beginners helps people who want to host bluebirds understand what hose clamps and plumber’s tape have to do with predator proofing. Nest boxes may seem like a lot of trouble but what a great feeling I have when I open a nest box and see a neat pine needle nest cradling tiny blue eggs or featherless newborns. Best of luck with your Bluebirds! Feel free to ask questions or post photos of your own nest boxes here at Lost Pines Life! And please report your results to NestWatch.org.