Nest Box (Birdhouse) Plans

I have put together a variety of birdhouse plans for you so that you can make your own birdhouses and enjoy watching birds breed and raise their young in your own backyard.  If you want a detailed, step-by-step instruction book on how to build, mount, place and protect birdhouses, along with a nest box specification table and everything else you need to know to have baby birds hatching and growing up in your yard, you can download my free ebook here.  Please place predator guards on any posts, poles or trees where you mount your nest boxes.  They will help keep out cats, raccoons and other climbing predators.  There are instructions at the bottom of this page to make your own or you can purchase them here. You can also download my Nest Box Specifications PDF file that will give you the dimensions and information on all the cavity nesting species nest box sizes, entrance hole sizes and height to mount the boxes.

Basic Bluebird Nest Box

You can use a round hole 1 1/2″ diameter entrance hole for this Bluebird House and it will also be used by Tree Swallows and the Titmouse.

Alternative Bluebird Nest Box

This is my favorite plan for a bluebird nest box.

Alternative Bluebird Nest Box 2

Screech Owl or American Kestrel Nest Box

Kinney Swallow Nest Box

This nest box should be at least 10″ long and at least 7″ wide with the backboard at least 6″ high and the front board 8 or 9″ high.  The main entrance hole (for the adults) is 1 1/2″ and the other three (for the chicks) are each 1″ in diameter.  This allows 3 or 4 chicks to beg for food at the same time making for more even food distribution among them.  You can remove the porch if you want to and I made mine to open from the side which made it much easier to access the nest.  You can also remove the extra “foothold” pieces on the top of the box and the perch as the Swallows don’t need them.  This is an old style nest box from the 50’s that is a bit more difficult to build due to the sloped roof angle.

The Wren Nest Box

Here are two versions of this nest box, one with the typical round entrance hole and the other with a slotted entrance.  Wrens prefer the slotted entrance because it allows them easier access to bring in the long twigs they use to build their nests.  The round hole is 1″ in diameter and the slotted entrance is 1″ X 3″.

Wren Cube Hanging Nest Box

Side Hole Nest Box

This is a perfect design for nuthatches and chickadees that like to enter their nest boxes from the trunk of the tree right into the side of the box.  I used a hinged top and hook on the front to make it easier to check in on the nestlings.  Notice that the panel opposite the entrance hole is cut square at the top for ventilation. This design comes from where you can get the plans and instructions on how to build it!

Robin or Phoebe Nest Box

Wood Duck Nest Box Plan

Wood Duck Nest Box

wood duck nest box plan


The entrance hole on this Wood Duck box is a 3″ high and 4″ wide oval opening.  If you are serious about putting up Wood Duck nest boxes, please download and read this excellent booklet by Paul Fielder entitled “Guidelines for Managing Wood Duck Nest Boxes in Washington State” before embarking on this journey.  This guide will give you all the information you need for a successful Wood Duck program.

Northern Flicker Nest Box

Northern Flicker Nest Box

Northern Flicker Nest Box

Flickers are excavators and are most likely to use a nestbox if it is packed full of sawdust, simulating a dead snag.  This will also keep other birds like European Starlings from using it.  This is made from a 12 foot 2X8 inch board.  If you can find rough cut cedar, it’s the best.  Place the box 6 to 20 feet above the ground at the transition of forest and open ground.

Burrowing Owl Nest Box

Click on the image below to go to my You Tube page with the 3 part video.

You may also want to read my post on these incredible little owls here: Burrowing Owls

This is the plan I used to construct my Burrowing Owl nestbox.  The irrigation valve box is 17″ long by 12″ high and 12″ wide.  I tried to make the slope of the pipe (Corex) as shallow as possible from the nestbox to the surface.  I also drilled a hole in the cover and fitted it with a 2″ diameter PVC pipe to the surface so that I could drop a Hawk Eye Nature Cam into the box from the surface to view the interior without having to dig down and open it up.  Here’s what it looks when it’s done.  I covered the PVC pipe with rocks rather than dirt simply because they were available and the owls can use them for a vantage point rather than installing a perch.

Barn Owl Nest Box

Predator Guards

Please place predator guards of some kind on the posts or trees you use to mount your birdhouses!

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin April 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

Thank you for taking the time to make this information available on your site. I’ll be using some of the instructions presented here for the creation of burrowing owl nest sites on a few of our Preserves in Placer County.


Larry April 11, 2009 at 8:00 pm

@Justin that is awesome! I will be doing at least one Burrowing Owl nesting site here in Shasta County to be ready by next season. I am really hoping we can enhance the Burrowing Owl population here in Northern California


Joan Dunning September 6, 2009 at 9:52 am

I have had no luck getting swallows to use the narrow, horizontal oval box opening. Do other people feel it works?


Larry September 6, 2009 at 10:54 am

@Joan I have never used the oval opening for any of my nest boxes. I have had much success with the round 1 1/2″ opening for Tree Swallows though. Let me know what species of swallow you are trying to attract and I will give you all the help I can.


Justin September 6, 2009 at 11:05 am

Joan, I have 24 bluebird/treeswallow nest boxes on our Doty Ravine Preserve and they all have a round 1 – 9/16″ opening. It seems to work well. We had 1 bluebird pair this season and 17 tree swallow pairs nested and produced eggs/fledglings this year. Are you sure it is the opening or is the box in a bad location? My preserve is about 4 miles north of Lincoln, CA. in an open grassland.


Larry September 19, 2009 at 7:53 am

@Justin this is a very good point. I will email your comment to Joan in case she didn’t get back to read it.


Amy October 28, 2009 at 6:52 am

Help with birdhouses! Actually, more like help with birds! I have 7 acres in Mariposa County and would like to attract owls to help with gopher and rodent problems. I am just not sure what owls we might have. I see from googling that there is the spotted owl but that it is endangered so there might not be any in our area. Any help on what other owls there are or birds that will help eat such rodents?


Larry October 28, 2009 at 9:29 pm

@Amy Barn Owls will take young gophers but mostly eat mice and voles. Great Horned Owls and hawks will take gophers but they don’t take to bird houses, you just have to be lucky enough to have one close by.

You could try barn owl houses but gophers are more likely to be taken by snakes, dogs or coyotes.

You can find the bird checklist for Mariposa County here:


bill hoyle March 19, 2010 at 12:57 am

Many thanks for your time and information,will put to good use here in the UK.

Best Regards………Bill


sunny May 27, 2010 at 7:37 am

I like this site


Saguaro Acres Assisted Living Home December 7, 2011 at 1:01 am

Hoping to attract owls/hawks/bats/birds for the viewing pleasure of our residents and families. We also have an abundance of rabbits and ground squirrels that need to be controlled.


Larry December 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

@Gayle and Tim I wish you the best of luck. I hope you get all kinds of birds to visit your Home!


Bob Bennett March 25, 2012 at 1:14 am

Looking for free birdhouse plans.
What would be good site for Cardinal, Chickadee, Robin, purple martin?


Larry March 26, 2012 at 8:32 pm

@Bob Northern Cardinals nest in shrubbery and vine tangles and won’t use nest boxes but I have included a link to my Nest Box Specification PDF file at the top of this page in the first paragraph that you can download. You can use most any of the above plans and modify them to the specs on the PDF file for the species you want to attract to your yard. Let me know if there is anything else you need.


jamie September 6, 2012 at 6:30 pm

hey do u have anything for duck nest box i would like to make something for ducks and if so could u email them to me thanks


Ed Duffield January 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Thankyou for the information you supply in the above . I have been seeking info for Chickadees Nestbox made from PVC Piping ; I had seen this a few years ago but just looking for news of this item has been a Nightmare , I do not require ideas on making a Boat or how to fold the sheets on the bed , because that is all that comes these days on any request . Thanks again on what you have written , I am sure I am not the only person to appreciate what you are doing . Ed.


Rich November 4, 2014 at 10:27 am

I made an effort to create those nice protective cones using a sheet of old tin ripped off my barn roof during high winds. I only succeeded in getting myself cut up a bit. Finally I just made simple cuts and creating rectangles about 28″ by 36″. I centered these on top the post and fastened the boxes directly on top. Won’t this do to keep snakes and racoons from gaining access?


Larry November 19, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Hi Rich. I would think that would do the trick!


Honky Tonk March 26, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Looking at various sites for swallow bird houses. It’s been a hard 3-years with nasty flies. Noticed when the swallows were around the flies basically were minimal. I got access to plenty of wood pallets to build with, just need a viable plan to use the wood for construction. Down south, the summer heat is much, so a front vent slot just under the roof overhang of 3/8-inch and tiny base drain holes should help. The Bluebird house shown looks similar, just needs a smaller hole with no perch.


Larry March 29, 2015 at 6:40 am

@Honky Tonk I have Tree Swallows every year using the “Alternative Bluebird Nest Box” shown above. It is actually the only plan I use now because it was the plan that (1) was most often used by the birds and (2) has the best ventilation and is the easiest to open to check on the nesting progress. I have altered the original plan you see above to open from the top. To do that it is necessary to make the front, back and sides about an inch longer and recess the bottom an inch to allow the opening side panel to pivot below the floor of the box. Set the pivot nail 1/2 inch from the bottom of the front and back panels. I also now make all the bottom drain holes 1/2 inch for better drainage.


Bill W. April 27, 2016 at 4:41 pm

The wood duck box plan calls for a total length of 10.81 ft of lumber. Can’t those dimensions be adjusted so that a standard 10 ft length of 1 x 12 x 10 could be used?


Larry Jordan June 13, 2016 at 11:29 pm

Sorry for the late reply Bill. I think you could probably adjust the box a bit to make a ten footer work. If you have already done this, let me know how it came out.


Zach June 21, 2016 at 9:27 am

Thanks for the website, I loved all of these, I will be making some of these and selling them, The barn owl nest box, how would a barn owl fit in there, don’t they grow 13′ – 16′ (inches)


Larry Jordan August 7, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Hi Zach. Barn owl nest boxes only need some woodchips in the bottom but I would suggest building the larger 24 x 36 inch box 😉


Vivian Goddard December 31, 2016 at 10:30 am

Thank you for taking the trouble to illustrate the various nesting box designs. I make several each year for my garden but will now try some of the designs out that you have shown. Regards


Mitch May 13, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Your website is terrific and I really appreciate the detail plans. I am a complete newbie at both wordworking and birdhouses and just completed building my first birdhouse using plans similar to the one you have with the “Alternative #2.”

I am about to build the first alternative bluebird house with the sloped roof (“your favorite”). I have an item of confusion. It looks like the front board height of 9″ and the back board height of 10″ gives me a rise of 1″ over the course of the 5 1/2″ inch width. There is a right triangle there with a base of 5 1/2 inches and a rise of 1″ (the difference between the 10 and 9. That calls for an angle of 10 degrees, – by the formula arctangent (1/5.5) in degrees. You can see the same in the sides, the rise is 7/8″ from front to back (8 3/4 vs. 9 5/8) which would yield 9 degrees.

The plan calls for an angle of 20 degrees – my area of confusion. I want to make sure I get a nice seal. Can you help me understand???

Thanks so much!

PS Sorry for all the trigonometry – Newbie at this stuff but a mathematician!


Larry Jordan July 9, 2017 at 11:51 am

Actually the plan calls for an 80 degree (or 10 degree) slope for the sides and angle cut on the front and back pieces. Also make sure you leave a 1/4 inch gap above the sides for ventilation.

I have since modified the plan so the side panel hinges at the bottom rather than the top. This allows for seeing into the nestbox by opening the door very slightly to look into the nest from the top. To do this you must recess the floor at least an inch to allow the door to swing open. You can cut all four sides of the box an extra inch longer to accommodate for this change if you wish but it is not necessary.


David Thayer June 11, 2017 at 2:16 pm

I built a screech owl nest box based on your plans and hung it high on the side of my house here in Dallas. Owls occupied it for 3 years but they then for some reason abandoned it and last year I noticed honeycomb across the opening. Bees had taken over. The design appears ideal for a hive, giving the insects a comfortable 20 liters of living space. Since I love bees as much as owls, I have no intention of evicting them. I still see owls in the neighborhood but they obviously have made other living arrangements.


Larry Jordan July 9, 2017 at 11:54 am

Hi David. That’s awesome! You might want to build another owl box and place it in another location. That way you have the best of both worlds!


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