Bad Nesting Material

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 is likely to be infused with harmful residues from detergents, soaps and fabric softeners making it highly toxic to baby birds.

When wet, dryer lint will crumble so a nest made from it 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.

Wet grass can quickly go mouldy 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 7 cm long.

Long pieces of string can get tangled up and wrap around chicks in their nests resulting in choking, cuts or even amputations. Do not put out nylon string or netting either as birds can get tangled up in it.

Chemically Treated Hair

Human hair makes great nesting material for birds but if it has been highlighted or permed or washed in strong smelling shampoo and conditioner it may be toxic to birds.

Birds can also get tangled up in long strands of hair so cut it up before you leave it out for them.

Similarly any pet hair that has been chemically treated for fleas or ticks should not be left out.


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 with 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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