How to Make DIY Nesting Shelves for Birds

Updated: Mar. 21, 2024

Interested in attracting cardinals or robins to nest in your yard? This recycled crafts project creates nesting shelves for these birds!

nesting shelvesHeidi Hess
This DIY nesting shelf is easy to make with recycled materials.

Some birds are less likely to use nesting boxes, preferring instead the shelter of natural trees or even the overhang of a roof. You can still encourage these birds to nest in your yard, attracting cardinals, robins, mourning doves and more by offering open-fronted nesting shelves.

One year a pair of Carolina wrens showed interest in making a home outside our sunroom. After witnessing days of indecision and debate, I thought I might help them along by installing a nesting shelf. Rather than purchasing something, I wanted to create a DIY birdhouse that was also a recycled crafts project, so I chose a small galvanized bucket that I’d been using for years. It was perfect—not too big or too small, with angled sides and a wire handle. You can create this kind of shelter in a version that suits your style; here’s how I made mine.

Will hummingbirds use a birdhouse?

Nesting Shelf Materials:

  • Old bucket
  • Hammer and nails
  • Screwdriver and wood screw
  • Wire
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Spray paint

Step-By-Step Instructions:

Step 1

Paint the exterior. Painting is often the easiest way to transform the ordinary into something snazzy. I chose a pumpkin-orange spray paint for the outside of my bucket. Leave the inside unpainted to minimize the risk to birds.

Psst—we found wooden birdhouses your birds will love to call home.

Step 2

Prepare to hang. I knew I was going to screw this bucket directly onto our porch column (made out of a tree trunk, courtesy of Hurricane Isabel in 2003), so all I needed to do was drill a hole in the center of the bucket. But if you think you might attach your nesting shelf differently, make sure it’s ready to hang before accessorizing it with delicate objects.

Get all of your cardinal birdhouse questions answered.

Step 3

nesting shelfHeidi Hess
Closeup of metal flower details

Accessorize. The shape of this little bucket reminded me of a head, which made me want to add a hat with flower accessories. I didn’t want this topper to overwhelm the bucket, so I decided to use wire. I also like the way wire bends, and the fact that birds (unlike bigger critters) have no problem perching on it. The bucket’s wire handle gave me an easy way to attach the hat.

Welcome nesting wrens to a wren birdhouse.

Step 4

Nesting Shelf DIY BirdhouseHeidi Hess
Robins, wrens and cardinals may use nesting shelves.

Hang your nesting shelf. When choosing a location, keep in mind that Carolina wrens, cardinals, and robins are the most likely birds to take up residence in a nesting shelf. Carolina wren nests are frequently found near homes, usually 3 to 6 feet off the ground, and in odd places. Robins’ nests tend to be in the lower halves of trees, as well as in gutters or eaves, and on outdoor light fixtures and other structures. You’ll have better luck attracting cardinals if you place the nesting shelf in a very sheltered area with plenty of dense cover.

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7 More Bird Shelter Ideas

  • Baskets
  • Old Mailboxes
  • Cardboard Boxes
  • Kitchenware (pots and pans)
  • Garden Pots and Planters
  • Old Porch Lights
  • Empty Hardware Buckets

Next, learn how to make a DIY bluebird house.