Birds Blog

Nesting Season Part V: Set Up

How to set up your nesting boxes.

Setting up nesting boxes is easy! No experience required — that’s what I’m here for!

Putting up a nesting box (or 30) around your home is a mutually beneficial activity for you and the wild birds that visit your home. There are several reasons why setting up a nesting habitat in your yard is a great great idea, but this is a post about putting up the Gilbertson Box.

Getting Started

(Please Note: If you’re planning to sneak a peak at the nesting cycle, or if you are planning to participate in NestWatch, you will need a nesting box that is easy to open. Please see, “Nesting Season Part III: The Right Box for You” for more details on why.)

The best nesting box for the job is the Gilbertson Box. I monitor over 80 nesting boxes, not including the 30 around my home, and I promise you, this is the most durable and easy-to-use nesting box. I would never finish my rounds or have my data entered if I had to stop and unscrew every box, or if I had to unlatch the sides and prevent nestlings from falling out.

Prepping the Boxes

Applying two coats of Thompson WaterSeal ON TOP of the wooden part (only ON TOP) of the nesting boxes is a good idea.

This will help with weathering. Again, only ON TOP.


I put out the tops and sprayed them twice.


Buy Dr. Bronner’s BABY UNSCENTED bar soap.

Do not use scented soap, or soaps with harsh ingredients. This is the best soap to use.


Rub the soap on the top of the underside of the wooden part of the nesting box as seen below.

Gilbertson Nesting Box. Underside view.

This will leave behind a nice waxy and smooth finish. You want to do this to every box in order to discourage wasps from building nests in the boxes.

Checking boxes with wasps nests is not fun.

Being surprised by wasps is also not fun.

I always carry a bar with me and reapply when necessary. This is not harmful to the wasps or the birds.

Last Year’s Bar. Still in Rotation. 

While applying the soap to older boxes, or checking nesting boxes that have been standing for a while, be sure to keep an eye out for ootheca.

Ootheca are native praying mantis egg casings. These are not harmful and should be left alone.


There it is. A nicely prepared Gilbertson nesting box.

(The box below has had extra wood mounted to the top and backside. This is optional and not necessary. It will impact how you mount the boxes.)

Gilbertson Nesting Box. 

Mounting Pole

After your Gilbertson boxes arrive, you will need to buy 5-6 ft conduit (it can be cut), 4 ft rebar, and liquid nails. The conduit will need to match the hole size on the back panel of the nesting box.

For the Gilbertson boxes that I’ve linked to in these posts, you will need to buy 1/2″ electrical conduit. You can purchase it at any hardware store — it’s super cheap and a standard material.

The conduit will need to be at least 5-6 ft. tall. This is just one way how to do it:

  1. Pound a 4 ft section of 1/2″ steel rebar into the ground leaving 2 ft of it sticking out of the ground.
  2. Mount the 5-6 ft 1/2″ electrical conduit on top of the rebar. Fasten with a 1/2″ EMT coupler.
  3. Place the back panel of the bird box on top of the conduit sticking out of the ground. It should fit snug, but using liquid nails is helpful to secure it.

After you have mounted your box, you will need to treat the pole with car wax or attach a predator guard. Car wax will keep the pole slippery to discourage animals from climbing up and a predator guard will do the same.

Stay tuned for the next posts on nesting season!

Don’t forget to follow Animal Perspectives on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Also read…

Nesting Season Part I: NestWatch is On!

Nesting Season Part II: Determining Habitat

Nesting Season Part III: The Right Box for You

Wordless Wednesday: Red-Winged Blackbird

Where the Screech Owl Wasn’t

5 Birds to Know in the Northeast this Spring

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