Why not make garden birds a home on the smallholding or allotment this spring?

If the weather is too raw to be out and about why not busy yourself by building a nest box or two to house garden birds. It won’t take long to build but it may take a while until it becomes occupied – but you will feel so rewarded when it is!

Make the box from a sheet of 15mm thick weatherproof timber that has not been pressure-treated (leachates can harm birds).

Use a saw to cut six panels to the following dimensions: back panel 45cm x 15cm, base 11cm x 15cm, front 20cm x 15cm, roof 21cm x 15cm and two side panels cut for a sloping roof, 25cm high on the back x 20cm high at the front.

Sand down the freshly sawn rough edges and drill a few holes in the base for drainage.

Choose what size you would like to make the entrance hole in the front panel. The bottom of the entrance hole must be a minimum of 12cm higher than the base to prevent young birds inadvertently falling out.

The size required for the entrance hole depends on the species you hope to attract:

25mm for blue, coal and marsh tits

28mm for great tits, tree sparrows and pied flycatchers

32mm for house sparrows and nuthatches

45mm for starlings

100 mm high open front may attract robins or pied wagtails

140mm high front panel for a wren

60 mm low front panel for spotted flycatchers

Assemble the box using galvanised nails or screws but do not nail the lid as you will need to clean in at the start of winter. Hinge the lid with a strip of rubber or leather or apply a proper hinge and a catch.

Be sure to site your nest box high in a tree or building, away from predators, strong sunlight and wind. A north-east facing spot is best and – obvious as it sounds – make sure you attach it securely.

If you would like to house larger birds such as starlings and great spotted woodpeckers scale up these dimensions accordingly. Woodpeckers like to make their own nesting cavities so if you want to attract them fill the box with a rotting log or wood chips.

One last word – don’t worry if your bird box doesn’t look altogether perfect. It’s not a beauty contest! This will be a safe and warm place to nest and bring up chicks to help the survival of the UK's bird population.