I love seeing all the birds in our yard every spring; it’s such a nice sign that the warm weather is here, plus I love listening to them talk to each other. I’ve made bird feeders before to try to attract them to the yard (you can see tutorials on how to make a teacup bird feeder and how to turn a toilet paper roll into a bird feeder, which is a great one for the kids to help with!), but this year I wanted to try something new. Now is the time when birds are building their nests, so I figured I could give them a hand by providing nesting material for them. I grabbed an empty cigar box and turned it into a DIY bird nesting material holder in just under an hour. Hopefully it will attract some birds in their search for soft stuff to line their nests with!
The liquor store near us sells cigars, and once the boxes are empty, they sell them for $1 each. My husband doesn’t smoke, but he loves cigar boxes and uses them to store pens and all sorts of other stuff, so I had him stop in and pick up an empty box for this project, and it turned out great!
I used a twig from our yard and a little bit of leftover chicken wire from the DIY compost bin I made, plus tools and glue I already had, and then I filled the box with fabric and ribbon scraps, so this entire project cost $1!!!! And it took less than an hour to get the whole thing put together, filled with nesting material, and hung up out in the yard!
(If you want to see another great way to use up fabric scraps, check out this fun toddler activity I set up. All you need is fabric scraps and an empty wipes container!)
How To Make A DIY Nesting Bird Material Holder From A Cigar Box
- 45 minutes (time spent doing stuff)
- 10 minutes (time spent waiting around)
- 55 minutes (total project time)
- cigar box
- a scrap of chicken wire
- skinny wooden dowel or a straight twig
- wood glue
- 2 small scraps of wood (I used 4” pieces of a 2×2)
- 2 cup hooks
- 1” wood screws
- twine, for hanging
- bird nesting material (see below for some great ideas!)
Start by drilling a hole in the center of the lid of your cigar box so that you can get the jigsaw blade in to start cutting.
Using your jigsaw, carefully cut a hole out of the center of the cigar box lid. (No photo for this part, sorry! It’s hard to get a photo of yourself using power tools!) It helps to draw the outline of the circle before you start cutting so you have a line to trace with your saw.
Once the center of the lid is gone, sand the edges of the hole with sand paper. I used 80 grit paper to knock off the big, rough splinters, and then 220 to smooth everything down.
The dowel or twig is going to be a perch for the birds. Find a drill bit that’s the same size as your dowel or twig and drill two holes in the lid of the cigar box. I put my perches on either side of the large hole, near the bottom.
Open the cigar box and cut a piece of chicken wire so that it covers almost the entire inside of the lid. Grab your two scrap pieces of wood and put glue on one side of the scrap, then sandwich the chicken wire between the lid and the scrap of wood, and clamp the scrap down to hold it tight.
Flip the box over so that the top of the lid is facing up, and drive two wood screws through the lid and into the scrap of wood below. Repeat for the scrap of wood on the other side of the lid. Then you can release the clamps; the screws will hold the scrap piece of wood in place, which will hold the chicken wire in place. (The glue is just extra reassurance; I’m a firm believer in overbuilding stuff just in case!)
Close the lid of the cigar box and grab your dowel or twig. Cut it to about 4”-6” long, then cover one end with wood glue. Stick that end into one of the holes in the cigar box lid that you drilled previously. You can hammer the stick into the hole if you need to.
Wipe away any extra wood glue that squeezes out the front or the back of the lid, then repeat on the other side.
Let the glue dry for a few minutes.
Stand the cigar box up on edge so that the chicken wire faces forward and the sticks are near the bottom. Drill two small holes into the top of the box (not the lid, the top now that the box is standing up) about six inches apart, then screw in two small cup hooks so you can easily hang the box from a tree.
And then you’re ready to fill the box with nesting material!
What to use for bird nesting materials
There are tons of things you can put in the box to provide nesting materials for birds! Just make sure that everything you put in there is natural (like cotton, wool, and burlap) and not synthetic (like polyester or nylon). Also, cut everything down so that it is no longer than 4″-5″ and no wider than about 3/4″; any longer and it can get tangled up or wrapped around the birds, and any wider than that and it could be too heavy for them to carry.
- strips of fabric (washcloths or hand towels are perfect if they’re 100% cotton!)
- yarn or string
- grass clippings
- plant fluff (like cottonwood or cattail)
- twigs, stems, straw, pine needles, etc. from your yard
- animal fur (so soft, and a great excuse to brush the dog!)
What NOT to use for bird nesting materials
- anything synthetic (synthetic fabric, synthetic string or yarn, synthetic batting, etc.)
- dryer lint (it seems soft to us, but it soaks up water, then hardens and falls apart)
- anything that’s been treated with chemicals (if you just did a flea treatment on your dog, don’t put dog fur out for the birds!)
- human hair (it’s too fine and can easily get wrapped around them and tangled)
Once your box is filled with nesting material, close the lid, grab some twine, and head outside to find a place to hang it!
I hung ours in a large tree in our yard by looping some twine over a tree branch and through the cup hooks.
If you’d prefer, you can attach the entire box directly to a wall or a fence by screwing it in through the back of the box. Then you don’t need to deal with cup hooks and twine for hanging.
If you love having birds in your yard, spring is the perfect time to put out nesting materials to help them build their nests! And if you don’t have an empty cigar box to turn into a DIY bird nesting material holder, you can always grab a suet feeder like this one and put the nesting material inside of that!
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