This article comes from the BTO’s Nestboxes: Your Complete Guide. Learn more.
© British Trust for Ornithology. Used with permission.
Make your own open-fronted nestbox
This open-fronted box is the best way to attract Robins and Wrens to your garden. Also see our plans for building Britain's most popular box for hole-nesting species.
Open-fronted nestboxes need to be placed in well-concealed locations to prevent eggs and chicks being exposed to the threat of predators and bad weather.
Overall dimensions for open-fronted boxes are identical to those with small hole entrances. The big difference concerns the front panel, which can be cut at one of three different heights, depending on which species you hope to attract.
The medium height option (approx 100mm deep) will attract the widest range of birds, including the ever-popular Robin
The high front (approx 140mm) is best for Wren
The low front (approx 60mm) is best suited to Spotted Flycatchers
Access holes on the low and medium height fronts are large enough that nests can be inspected and cleaned without the need to remove the roof, so secure it firmly with nails or screws. In contrast, the high front option requires a removeable roof, particularly if the nestbox has been positioned in a hard-to-reach spot.
If you opt to build the standard design with the roof higher at the back, make sure the overhang is large enough to deflect a lot of rain from entering the box.
Another design option, which is better at keeping the box interior dry, is to vary the heights of the side walls so that the roof slopes to one side. This may test your carpentry skills slightly more than the standard design, but it removes any danger of rain draining into the entrance.
Eggs and chicks inside open-fronted boxes are at greater risk of being plundered by predators such as Magpies, Grey Squirrels and cats, so think carefully about the placement of your nestbox to minimise accessibility. Hiding a box inside or behind a shrub is one defence, or you could fix the box to a high wall that is out of reach of many predators.
If those options are not open to you, then consider fixing a stiff wire guard in front of the entrance. The gaps need to be large enough for the parent birds to enter freely, but small enough to exclude the hunters.
Robins are noted for picking nest sites that are well hidden, but Spotted Flycatchers prefer an open site to enable the sitting bird to have a good view of the surrounding area. Bear this in mind when siting your nestbox.