Create a sparrow street

Activity time:
2-4 hours
Difficulty level:
Suitable for:
Balcony, Small garden, Large garden, Neighbourhood
To help:

Give social house sparrows somewhere to colonise and raise their chicks by introducing a nestbox or two! (Sparrows like having friends nearby).

House sparrows are in trouble – overall populations have halved because there are fewer places for them to live and feed. These sociable birds like to nest in colonies, so you can help by providing a nestbox (or several), high-up in trees or on houses.  


You can build a sparrow box whenever you like, but its a job that can be done indoors on rainy days when there's not as much to do in the garden.


You should see the males proudly chirping from nearby, or even from the roof of the box. Don’t worry if sparrows don't move in right away – it may take a while for a colony to start where you live. But you'll be ready when they do!

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What you will need

  • A plank of wood 150 mm x 1400 mm x 15-18mm thick 
  • Pencil and tape measure
  • Saw
  • Nails
  • Strip of waterproof rubber
  • Drill
  • Optional: a special drill bit for making 32 mm holes
  • Ladder 
  • Screws

Sparrow terrace nestbox

Thick timber for insulation, roof designed to prevent rain water running down the inside of the box and 32 mm entrance hole

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Step-by-step guide

How to cut the wood for your house sparrow nestbox.  Two sides: 150 mm wide, with one side 200 mm high and the opposite side 250 mm high. This means that the roof will slope down towards the front. Front: 150 mm wide by 200 mm. Cut a round hole, 32 mm in diameter, 150 mm up from the bottom. Roof: 150 mm by 210 mm. Base: 150 mm by 120 mm. Drill five drainage holes into this piece. Back: 150 mm by 350 mm.  The roof of the box should start 60 mm from the top of the back piece. The base of the box should be 50 mm up from the bottom of the back piece. When assembled, a strip of rubber covering the join between the back and roof will make the box waterproof.

  1. Make sure you have a suitable place for your nestbox. Ideally, it will be under the eaves of your house or high on a wall, and you’ll need to have permission before erecting any box on a property. 

    The box will need to be at least 3 m (10 feet) from the ground, facing somewhere between north and east to avoid it getting too hot or wet. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, and don't put it over a doorway or well used path. 

  2. Buy a sparrow box. If you’re short on time or DIY skills you can buy a sparrow nestbox, but check it’s the correct size. The round entrance hole should be 32 mm in diameter, and it should be at least 150 mm from the floor of the box. It shouldn’t have a perch directly below the hole – that would be an open invitation to predators.

  3. Make sure you have the right wood. The thickness is importance to insulate the box from cold and heat and to stop the box warping). You can use exterior-quality plywood (for a light box) or, for something more sturdy, hardwoods (such as oak and beech) or soft wood (such as pine, but this will deteriorate more quickly). Buy timber approved by the Forest Stewardship Council – look for the FSC label.

  4. Measure and cut your wood. Mark your plank of timber with your pencil first. Then saw your plank according to the diagram. 

    If you don't have the special drill bit for making the 32 mm round hole, you can use a jigsaw to cut a square or wedge-shaped hole at the top of the front, as in the diagram.

  5. Nail all the pieces, except the roof, together. The sides, back and front 'wrap around' the base.

  6. Attach the roof. By using screws, you’ll be able to get into the box at a later stage to clean it out. 

    Use a waterproof strip to make a hinge between the top edge of the roof and the backing board. Try a piece of bicycle tyre inner tube or roofing felt.

  7. Put your box up. Drill guide holes at the top and bottom of the box. Taking care, fix to a wall using a ladder, screws and Rawlplugs. 

    Sparrows are sensitive to disturbance at the nest and protected by law. So watch and enjoy from a distance. You may be lucky to see them raising several broods in there in a season.

Marking up wood
Sawing wood

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