Bad Nesting Material For Bird

Putting out some material to help birds build their nests is a great way of encouraging them to visit your garden.

Tree Sparrow Nest

If you want to put out nesting material then make sure you avoid the following and try and remove any bits and pieces you might have lying around your garden during breeding season.

Dryer lint

Many people throw their dryer lint into their garden with good intentions believing that the soft, fluffy material will make an ideal lining for birds’ nests.

However, dryer lint will be infused with harmful residues from detergents, soaps and fabric softeners making it highly toxic to baby birds.

Even if you believe that your dryer lint is free from any chemicals that can harm birds, if it rains and gets wet it will lose its fluffiness and crumble. A nest made from dryer lint will be unstable and hatchlings could fall out or be vulnerable to predators.  

Chemically treated grass clippings

If you haven’t used any chemicals on your lawn such as weed killer or fertilizer then it is safe to leave your grass clippings for birds to build their nests with. However, chemically treated grass will have a high toxicity which could make birds very ill or even kill them. Put the clippings in bags and dispose of them safely. 

Wet grass can quickly go mouldy if left in a pile so only put out dry clippings and leave them somewhere where they will not get damp.

Long pieces of string

Pieces of cotton and thread are perfect for building nests but before you leave them out in your garden cut them into short lengths no more than 4 cm long.

Long pieces of string can get tangled up and wrap around chicks in their nests resulting in choking, cuts, or even amputations. 

Synthetic fibres

Unlike natural fibres, synthetic fibres, such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic, will not break down so any small scraps you leave out for birds will stay in your garden and the wider environment long after chicks have flown the nest.

Additionally microplastics that end up in lakes, rivers, and oceans are having a severe impact on their ecosystems so you don’t want to introduce any sort of plastic into the wild if you can help it.

Before putting out any material check what it’s made of, as even something as natural sounding as cotton wool is sometimes made from artificial fibres. 

Human hair

Human hair that has been cut by clippers or into very short lengths after giving yourself a trim makes great nesting material for birds. But don’t leave out long strands of hair as birds can easily get tangled in it, cutting off their circulation.

If your hair has been highlighted or permed, or washed in strong smelling shampoo and conditioner it may be toxic to birds do don’t leave it out for them to put in their nests.

Pet fur

Do not leave out any pet hair that has been treated with anti-flea, tick, or lice remedies. These are designed to stay on the fur even after washing and means the fur could be harmful to baby birds.

The very soft, fluffy hair taken from your pet’s undercoat or fine fur like rabbit hair will soak up too much water and is also unsuitable.


Anything shiny such as tinsel or metallic thread will catch the light and attract predators. Birds will sometimes pick up scraps of metallic materials such as silver foil or wire to build their nests, but the sharp edges could easily cut them. If you see any lying around your garden remove them.

When putting out nesting material for birds think natural and you can’t really go wrong. Some of the better nesting materials that you can leave out for birds include:

Horse hair
Pine Needles
Dead leaves
Spider webs
Sheep’s wool

Whatever nesting material you choose to leave out make sure that it doesn’t go mouldy or develop mildew or attract insects. Prevent this happening by leaving a cache of nesting material in a cool, dry place. And to stop nesting material blowing about your garden you could place it in a suet cage or peg it to your washing line so birds can find it easily when they visit your bird feeders.

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