USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Homemade Nest Boxes For Cavity-Nesting Ducks

Single Comparment Wood Nest Box

The single compartment wood nest box shown (Figure 1) is simple and easy to make. Sufficient lumber for one nest box is contained in a 1-inch x 12-inch x 12-foot board. The wood should be well-seasoned and can be either dressed or rough-cut. The box should be made of good lumber to avoid light and water leaking in through knotholes and cracks. Redwood and cedar are considered best but fir, pine and other kinds of lumber are satisfactory even though they may not be as weather resistant. It may be desirable to treat the wood with some type of non-toxic wood preservative. Treated structures should be dried for several weeks before they are put out for ducks to use. In addition to treating the wood, the outside can be painted or stained with a natural color to blend in with the environment. The inside should not be painted.

GIF-Single compartment wood nest box

Figure 1. The single compartment wood nest box is easy to build. If properly placed and maintained, these boxes can provide secure nest sites for the cavity nesters in your area for many years.
Materials needed

one 1 inch x 12-inch x 12-foot board or suitably sized pieces
25 8- or 10-penny, ribbed or hot dipped galvanized
Hardware cloth
one 14-inch strip 1/4-inch mesh cut at least 3 inches wide (smaller nails or staples can be used to attach the cloth)
Nest material
enough sawdust, wood shavings, woodchips,or similar type material to form a 3- to 5-inch deep nest base in box.


When constructing the nest box (Figure 2), it is advisable to use nails that are long enough to hold securely despite rough handling and weathering. Hot dipped or ringed galvanized 8-penny or 10-penny nails are best. Depending on the condition of the wood used, it may be necessary to drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood.

It is important to bore four 1/4-inch drain holes through the bottom of the nest box. The floor of the box should be recessed 1/4-inch up from the lower edge of the sides to retard rotting.

Figure 3 shows four design variations which can be used to provide easy access for inspection, cleaning and general maintenance. These variations are a top hinge, a top cleat, a side hinge and a side pivot design. The two variations employing side door opening designs should be used in situations where it would be either difficult or impractical to service the nest box from above.

As shown in the plan, the entrance hole should be an oval, 3 inches high and 4 inches wide for wood ducks, hooded mergansers and buffleheads, and 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches for common goldeneyes. This hole excludes most raccoons. The hole should be centered about 19 inches above the floor. A 3- to 4-inch x 14-inch strip of 1/4-inch hardware cloth mesh should be attached inside the box under the entrance to function as a ladder when the newly hatched ducklings leave the box (Figure 4).

GIF-Hardware cloth ladder for ducklings

Figure 4. A 3- to 4-inch x 14-inch strip of 1/4-inch hardware cloth mesh attached to the inside of the box under the entrance hole serves as a ladder to assist newly hatched ducklings in leaving the box.

Previous Section -- Homemade Nest Boxes
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Double Compartment Wood Nest Box

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Friday, 01-Feb-2013 19:38:12 EST
Sioux Falls, SD [sdww54]