These gregarious little birds like a chit-chat with their neighbours.
When I was a lad, (yeah yeah, I know…….a very long time ago!), there used to be lots of sparrows. They were by far the most common garden birds but these days I rarely see them. In the UK we have house sparrows and tree sparrows, but both species are really struggling. There are probably various reasons for their decline, including changes in agriculture, the way we garden and nesting opportunities. Here’s where you can help!
These social little birds like to nest around other sparrows. It’s amazing the see and hear the commotion of sparrows nesting on-mass in the spring. The chitter-chatter, squabbling, chirping and singing is nothing short of spiritually uplifting on a spring morning. They make one almighty of a din for such a little bird, but I love to see and hear their antics. Such great little characters.
I had a load of oak off-cuts laying around having built various other structures. I’d be deeply flattered if you checked out my gallery page to see my bird tables, bug hotels, hedgehog houses etc. Ordinarily, short off-cuts end up being seasoned as kindling to light my wood-burner. This lot were a bit warped and some had sap-wood edges, but just long enough to make a couple sparrow homes. I’ve made a block of sparrow flats and a row of terraced houses for them.
My oak planks are rough sawn, 20cm wide and 2 cm thick in various lengths. Some are a bit bent and twisted which is why they are rejects, but they should be perfectly ok for sparrow boxes.
First I made a block of sparrow flats.
The back of my box is 110cm long. It’s a good 20cm longer than the sides are to allow for fixings to be drilled through it to attach it to a building or a tree. I’ve attached a couple of battens to the back which will support my roof and screwed on sides and the ground floor. My sides are 80 cm long.
Then I divided the length into four compartments and screwed in the dividers. Each sparrow flat is approximately 20cm x 20cm x 20cm. Next I cut two 45 degree angles at the top of the front and attached that.
Last on was the roof with a good overhang to the front and sides to shed the worst of the rain. Finally I drilled 32mm holes into the front of each flat for the sparrows to come and go and hammered in a little nail as a perch under each hole.
This one is a bit trickier to make due to more bits of wood needing to be cut at an angle.
I started with the floor first with this one. I’m aiming for the next boxes to be approximately 20cm x 20cm x 20cm so the floor is a smidge over 80cm long so it can accommodate four nest boxes.
I then cut my sides and dividers. They are higher at the back (17cm), and lower at the front (15cm), so there’s a slight slope from back to front to shed the rainwater.
Next on is the back of the nest boxes. I cut my plank down to 120cm so it’s a fair bit wider than the nest boxes. This means I can use the ends to drill and screw through when I attach it to a building. I planed the top edge at the same angle as the ends and dividers so the roof will sit snug. I also planed the front plank at the same angle for the same reasons. I don’t want my sparrows to complain about draughts!
Screw on the back and the front and drill your 32mm holes for sparrow access.
All you’ve got left to attach is the roof. You’ll want your roof to have a good overhang on the front and sides, so ideally it’ll need to be 30cm deep and have a good 5cm overhang on the sides. I didn’t have a 30cm wide plank so I improvised. I attached the front plank first with the overhang I wanted. Then I butted up another behind it cut to length and width. Even though the planks were butted up pretty tightly, that crack could allow leaks into the box, particularly if the wood shrinks a bit as it dries. To keep my feathery friends dry and cosy, I attached another plank along the full length to cover the join.
These boxes will last 25 years plus, so hopefully a few sparrows will find it and I’ll have the chitter-chatter of sparrows to enjoy. If not, I’m sure the other small birds won’t miss an opportunity to nest is such a des-res pad, and they’ll have an amazing choice of flat or terrace.
A sparrow next box flanked by Kent bat boxes. I’ve also written a blog on how to make those if you’re interested.