Maybe they figure the birds have to do the housekeeping and maintenance. Well, while that is true up to a point, you do need to take some steps in keeping your birds’ homes neat and in good shape.

Pick the Right Spot

To attract the most birds, you have to know where to place your birdhouse or nesting box. You also want to place it in an area where you will be able to get to it when you need to do maintenance. Different types of birds have different requirements and preferences so you have to know what kind of birds are in your area and what type you want to place a house for. For example, Purple Martins like double-decker homes on tall poles in the middle of a field or yard. Chickadees like small houses hidden in the middle of the trees or bushes. Bluebird homes are most popular if you place them facing open fields.

Choosing the Best One for Your Needs

You have to choose the best birdhouse or nesting box for the type of birds you are trying to attract and how much time you plan to spend on caring for the boxes. It is best to have a hinged lid so you can clean it out after every season. You should make sure to have at least a two-inch overhang on the roof to keep cats from reaching inside. There should also be small holes drilled in the bottom to let the birdhouse drain. To prevent Starlings and Brown-headed Cowbirds from invading the birdhouses, keep the hole less than one inch in diameter. These types of birds can be a nuisance because the Starling will eat the eggs and the Brown-headed Cowbird will lay her eggs with other bird’s eggs so she does not have to take care of them herself.

Nesting Boxes

If you are trying to attract birds that do not like nesting in cavities such as Cardinals and Robins, you will need to provide nesting boxes or other partially enclosed space. While Cardinals like partially enclosed boxes nestled in the bushes or trees, Robins would rather sleep on an open platform that is protected by an overhang. No matter which kind you choose, make sure it is made of untreated wood with thick walls, a sloped roof, and drain holes. Some of the birds that use nesting boxes include:

Owls and Kestrels

The Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Kestrel, Jackdaw, and even Doves need large nesting boxes that are at least 15 feet high. Owls and Kestrels do not make nests but rather lay their eggs right there in the box. Jackdaws and Doves will use sticks and some type of soft material to make their nest inside the box.

Sparrows and Tits

The nesting boxes for Sparrows and Tits are small boxes with a hole of about 25-32mm diameter. It should be at least 10 feet off the ground with a clear flight path. Sparrows usually make their nests out of anything from hair to grass. Tits tend to make their nests from moss and hair.

Nuthatches and Flycatchers

Both Nuthatches and Flycatchers prefer a small nesting box with a hole of about 32mm that is approximately 10 feet high. The Nuthatch likes their nesting box to be lined with leaves and wood chips while the Flycatcher will use just about anything, including spider webs and hair.


Swifts use medium sized nesting boxes with oval entrance holes that are as high as possible and prefer them on buildings with a clear drop area in front. They make a cuplike nest with plant materials glued together with saliva.

Woodpeckers and Starlings

The Great Spotted Woodpecker uses a large nesting box with a hole of about 50mm. It has to be between 10 and 12 feet off the ground. They do not make a nest but lay their eggs right in the nesting box. The Starling needs an entrance hole of about 45 mm at the height of about 10 feet from the ground. They make a messy nest that looks like a pile of feathers, plants, and wool.


During the breeding season, which is usually in the spring depending on the species and your climate, you should not mess with the birdhouses or nesting boxes. You do not want to disturb the nest once the birds have started nesting inside. At the end of spring or beginning of summer, start watching the house for signs that the babies have all flown the coop, so to speak. Tap on the birdhouse to make sure there are no birds (or squirrels) inside before you open the house and remove the old nesting material after thoroughly checking for eggs or babies. Be sure to wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterward. Check for splinters or loose screws or anything else that can hurt a bird. Look for any cracking or chew marks that may need repair or replacement. Then, close it up and you are ready for new tenants.

If you have any tips or want to tell us about the birds that visit your birdhouses or nest boxes, feel free to comment below.