Repost: How I install a nest box

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      Originally posted by bigmattblue in the old forum.
      If its ok with the mods I am re-posting here as it is such a useful post and I have not see it re-created here. I am always worried things will disappear, theoretically the old forum will remain but I still worry…also think it may get more views moved over to the new forum.
      So as posted by bigmattblue on April 11th, 2010: How I install a nest box

      You will need a 10 foot stick of 1 inch EMT conduit($5.85). If you go to Home Depot, they will cut it for you in the pipe cutting area for free. Have them cut it at 7foot 3inch. Take both pieces home.

      You will also need a 6″x24″vent pipe($3.89) a 6″ round cap($4.87)and a conduit clamp for 1″EMT conduit($1.97)as seen below.

      You will also need a few self tapping sheet metal screws, the one I use are about 3/8″ long, and( 2) 1/4-20 bolts 2″long, with matching nuts and 4 flat washers, screws and bolts about $3( not shown)

      Select your location, take your drop off piece, drive it in to the ground about 1/2 way in, as shown above.

      Now give it a twist back and forth a few times while pulling it out of the ground. The dirt should remain inside the pipe, leaving you a nice starter hole. As shown above.

      Now take your 7″3″ pipe and stick it in the hole you just made, push it down as far as you can, you should now be able to reach the top of the pole without standing on a latter. Using a sledge hammer finish pounding the pipe to a comfortable working level. As shown above.

      Now hold your box up to pole about where you want it mounted, mark the pole were the bottom of the box is, now go down about 4 or 5 inches and put a mark. Take the conduit clamp and place it around the pole, at that mark, tighten the clamp using a 7/16 wrench or socket. It should look like the photo above.

      Snap your 24″x 6″ vent pipe together at the seams, and add the 6″ cap to the fluted end, and put a few self tapping screws in to hold the cap on. I use 2, one on each side. As shown above.

      Using a 1-1/4 hole saw($4.98) drill a hole through the center of the cap as shown above.

      Slide your baffle over the pole, and let it hang on the conduit clamp. Your baffle is now installed, should look like the above photo.

      Now hold your box up and mark 2 places were the bolts can go through to secure the box, being sure they will not interfere with the opening of the door, etc. Also make sure you have the box facing in the direction you want. Now drill out the 2 holes using a 5/16 drill bit. Should look like the above photo.

      Now hold the box up and drill the top hole through the back of the box, install one of the 2″ long bolts with washers and nut. Once the top one is installed, repeat for the bottom one, tighten both bolts, being careful not to over tighten as the wood may split. The photo above shows the top bolt installed.
      Your box install is now finished.

      Make sure your nest box is installed in suitable Bluebird habitat.

      This guy showed up as we were cleaning up. As they say, build it and they will come. Good luck!!

      Baltimore MD


        A response on alternative mounting from dzyg:
        Tammy, here is a photo of the back of one of our nestboxes, this is how all our nestboxes are mounted onto the conduit, easier than drilling a hole through the box and into the conduit. No clue what these clamps are called, my husband is a carpenter so he would know what these are called, he made and mounted all ten of our nestboxes. Oh and you can get these clamps where you can put a screw on both sides of the clamp too. I am sure they have all different sizes of these clamps so you would need to get the right size depending on what size conduit you use. I think ours are 3/4inch.

        Donna in WI

        Response from pgrfw:

        Best I can tell the version in the picture is a “one hole EMT clamp”. I have been using the two hole versions, but I have the same problem someone else mentioned: they don’t provide enough clamping force to keep the box from spinning in the wind. I’ve tried two solutions. One is to cut a strip out of an aluminum drink can and wrap it around the EMT under the clamp. That gives the clamp a bit more to hang on to. The other is to drill a hole through the center of the clamp and into the tube, then put a screw in it. That’s super duper secure. You only need to do that to one of the clamps on each box.

        I think all in all the one holes are a better approach. The ones I have used fit tight enough to hold things in place on their own.

        I also quit driving the pipe directly into the ground. I bought some four foot long 1/2 inch rebar. I drive that two feet into the ground and slip the EMT over it. The tube has two sheet metal screws to hold the pipe to the rebar. That way I’m not beating on the tubes, I don’t have to allow for the amount driven into the ground when cutting the tube (so I can have a full ten footer for the TRES), and I can swap poles out in a flash with just a screwdriver.

        Yeah, I have to drill a lot of holes.

        Response from dzyg:

        Hmmm, we have never had the nestboxes move/spin with this type of clamp and we have 13 mounted this way, even during the cold very windy Winter months none of them move. Maybe using the one screw version like we do with one screwed on one side at the top and the other the other way at the bottom makes it a little more stable. Not sure but they hold tight here. Some of these nestboxes have been up this way since 2005 and they are holding tight.

        Oh and we had a few nestboxes mounted with the rebar in the ground and then the conduit just over the top, they spun in the wind when we had them mounted that way though even if we tried pushing the conduit in the ground a little too and they wobbled much more this way too. We quickly changed that to pounding the conduit in the ground, much more stable and no more turning.


        Response from Tamessa

        April 13th, 2010
        I’ve had the same problem as some of you with the box rotating in the past. So my husband put this on.

        Matt, I have a new assignment for you. How to attach a sparrow spooker. Do most of you just use a emt strap clamp to attach it to the box?

        We thought we would try something new so that we wouldn’t have to be screwing and unscrewing from the box. So we tried this but it didn’t work so well because it rotates.

        Any other suggestions out there?

        Response from pgrfw
        April 13th, 2010

        I use hose clamps.

        Next time I’m going to drill holes through my PVC water pipe spooker, then through the EMT, and attach it all with 2 inch machine screws and nuts.

        Yeah, I’m going to have even more holes in my EMT. My drill press gets a workout.

        Response from bigmattblue
        April 14th, 2010

        I have never used the 1 hole straps,Only the 2 holed ones,they are the ones that allow the box to spin.I really prefer the nut and bolt now, I have used the rebar method in the past also,You are right the pole is always wobbly ,I will never mount a box using that again,too much maintenance.

        I make my own spookers from wood,On most of my boxes I just stick it in the top of the conduit,But so many of my boxes are different from each other,and the way they are mounted is different and the roof overhangs are different,etc.I have been known to just screw it right to the back of the box,sometimes I have to make a wood spacer so the spooker will clear the rear roof overhang.I really am working on standardizing all my boxes.I am really like your idea with the conduit clamp,I am not sure how I would use it ,but I will figure something out.
        Baltimore MD

        response from Ray.bluebirdnutcafe
        April 14th, 2010,

        If your birdhouse is spinning on a conduit post, the best way to stop it from spinning is drill a hole in the conduit and stick a long piece of rhubarb through the hole. make sure the post is underground with the rhubarb. I don’t have any use for a conduit post anyway. conduit is cheap and looks nice but it wont make a strong post. I like the green shaped T-post you can get at home depot for 5.49 for 7′ if you want to put on a predator guard use a piece of 3 inch or 4 inch plastic pipe. just slide it over the T-shaped fence post.

        Response from tamsea
        April 15th, 2010

        Thanks Matt and Ray.
        Matt, so if you screw the wood sparrow spooker (which is how mine is made) right into the nestbox then after the nesting season you just unscrew it? and keep screwing and unscrewing?
        Tammy – The HOSP Fighting Heroine
        NW Ohio

        Response from River
        April 15th, 2010

        Anyone using this method to attach the box? I picked this up from Gary Springer’s Chalet, and I noticed a few bluebird societies have adopted it as their standard. This is my first time trying this so if anyone has experience with it I’d like to know what you think. I’m telescoping a 1/2″ tube inside a 3/4″ for strength. I’ve also changed all of the floors in my nestboxes to 1 1/2″ thick to give the EMT fitting some extra bite.

        By the way, Matt, great job on your tutorial.

        Waleska, Georgia

        Response from pgrfw
        April 15th, 2010

        I use that method for my suet feeder. It’s nicer looking and doesn’t put the bending load on the tube because the mass center is directly over the tube rather than off to the side. I used the kind with a side setscrew, though, so I can easily take it down.

        The EMT goes into a set screw EMT to NPT coupling, which screws into a floor flange. The extra underslung basket is for BOSS. I just fill an old suet tray with them. I wish the cardinals would properly dispose of their shells. They just throw them back in the basket, so I can’t tell when I need to re-fill it.

        The wires hold the roof on because this was meant to be a hanging suet feeder. The raccoons would tear the trays out every night, so I put the wires on. Then they just knocked the whole thing out of the tree and cleaned it out on the ground. So I put up the EMT. They knocked it over. So now it’s on a pole with a stovepipe predator guard, and they haven’t been able to take it out in nearly two years. The wooden extensions were to help the redbellies and flickers find a better foothold.

        And now that I look at that picture, yikes, there’s only one screw holding the flange to the bottom of the wood structure.

        Response from bigmattblue
        April 16th, 2010
        On the boxes where I screw to the box,yes that is correct, I just unscrew it at the end of the nesting, and screw it back on the next nesting. Its nothing fancy, I just try not to over tighten. Last year I posted this mock photo of how I do it when the box has a rear overhang. If I get a Blue using a box, I kinda just figure it out. I really don’t have a standard way of doing it. When I get a egg, I will take some photos of how I do it on that box.
        Thanks Fred.


          (my responce from 2013) I use a slightly different way to attach the stovepipe baffle: 1/4 inch wire fence/mesh and fold down a few small parts to hold it in place (instead of the solid cap). Like this: In theory I can just cut the wire mesh and zip tie it back together, then put the stovepipe on and close it. I purposely have not ‘closed’ the stovepipe so I could do this. (one of the existing, very old, boxes at my office is already occupied but has no baffle). I find the wire hardware cloth/mesh prevents any wasp nests (The solid cap design becomes a attractive spot for wasps to make a nest under the baffle).

          It successfully worked. I installed the stovepipe baffle on an existing (very old) nest box today. Worked like a charm.

          Just before closing the stovepipe:

          (edit: actually just before I realized I forgot to attach the hanger and such…but you get the idea…it worked well just cutting the wire then zip-tying back together. I also punch a hole in the flaps on top of the stovepipe and put the zip tie through it and the hanger too, so the whole thing is attached securely to the post…but can still wobble)

          • This reply was modified 5 years, 7 months ago by BrendaV.

            If you are in an area that also has Tree Swallows (TRES) then you should be “pairing” your boxes so there is room for both species. (personally I actually find Tree Swallows MORE entertaining than the blues. TRES do all kinds of interesting behaviors and I see them more often than I see my bluebirds). It is illegal (and unnecessary) to destroy the nest of any of our native birds. It is unnecessary to see any conflict between species. They co-exsist very well together. Many landlords find the TRES are a great early warning system for when a predator (hawk) may be in the area. Conflicts with House Wrens only come when boxes are placed to close to shrubs, which are prime House Wren habitat. Place nestboxes 30 metre (98 feet) or more away from shrubs or forests and you should not have any House Wren incursions or conflicts (I found a study on this, and my personal experiences seem to match). If Eastern Bluebirds (EABL) or Tree Swallows (TRES) are your “target” preferred species then you should be placing nestboxes in open areas. TRES like very open meadows or fields. EABL like to have a mature tree or wires nearby to perch above their nest and keep watch but will also nest in wide open fields too. If you wish to have bluebirds but have TRES using your nestbox all you need to do is “pair” two boxes together.

            Below is an example set up of paired boxes.
            Boxes placed more than 30 m (98 feet) from the forests or hedgerows = no House Wren incursions
            Boxes paired with another about 2 m (7 feet) from each other = one TRES nest, they will defend the second box as part of their territory, leaving it empty for the EABL if the blues want it.
            Bluebird territories are very large. A male bluebird will chase away any others within 90 m (~300 feet) of his nest.

            I have never had any House Wren incursions at the site this was based off off. I have always had at least one pair of EABL nesting and one box free when we had the four boxes like this. My blues always get the box they want. They start nesting before the TRES arrive and they can kick the TRES out if they so wish. (In fact one year for the second brood the EABL chose to nest on TOP of the TRES eggs, just days away from hatching, rather than use the empty box on the other side of the property or the same box they just has the first brood in. There was lots of fighting but the blues had no trouble taking and keeping the box from the TRES… day or so later the TRES moved on)

            I chose to place the “paired” boxes very close together as I have seen TRES nest quite close together. There always seems to be more adults than there are nestboxes so competition can be intense. At one site, improperly spaced swallow grid, we do have swallows nesting withing 4 or 5 m (13-16 feet) from each other. There are LOTS of fights but they do nest. If pairs are placed 10 metre (32 feet) or more apart I can pretty much guarantee you will have two TRES nests (thats about what I use in the swallow grid I set up; 10 to 15 m [32 – 50 feet]). Keep paired boxes CLOSE if you want one TRES and one EABL. Then place the next pair of boxes over 90 metres (300 feet) away.


              Some notes on placement:

              Incidence of House Wren interference can be prevented by placing nestboxes away from shrubs. 20 metres or more will not be used for nesting and over 30 metres should not have any egg piercing. Note the nestboxes in this study did not have any predator protection! A properly installed stovepipe baffle will prevent raccoon or snake depredation.

              Tree Swallows chose nestboxes as far from trees or shrubs as available.
              Eastern Bluebirds seem to like being within 20 or 30 metres of trees (but will nest in open space too).

              These two charts come from the study “Influence of Forest Edge on Nest-site Selection by Tree Swallows” by Wallace Rendell and Raleigh Robertson (published in 1990).


                I still give this link out when someone needs to know how to attach nestboxes or make a baffle!


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