Making a miniature bird nest

Photo of a miniature bird nest for model railways
Making model bird nests.

Bird nests are a common sight in rural and even urban areas but are rarely seen on model railways. After a bit of experimentation I’ve now made them for OO gauge layouts. The first couple are already on my  White River Mills are are available in the MRE Shop.

> Note from Andy: This guide focuses on making a miniature bird nest appropriate for OO/4mm scale model railways and similar. To make a larger nest, it’s just a matter of increasing the proportions. I’ve made some up to palm size using this technique.

Initially, I tried using static grass for the nest. 4 and 6mm strands were too small and I really struggled to hold them while making the nest. 12mm static grass worked better but the end result just didn’t look right. The individual strands disappear when viewed from more than a few inches away and it just looked like a brown blur.

In also tried bristles from brushes and tooth brushes. These looked better at a distance but they were a total pain to shape into the form of an oval and circle for the nest shape. Thr springiness of the bristles was too strong the the glue to hold.

In the end, I’ve gone with the fibres from the husk of a coconut, otherwise known as coir, found in rugs and rope.

Coconuts from which the fibres can be cut can be found on coconut stalls in fairs grounds but if there doesn’t happen to be a fairground near you, bags containing just the hair (and sterilised) can be bought online.

What you’ll need

To make a model bird replica nest from coconut fibre, I used the following materials and tools:

Hot glue gun
Wire cutters
– Scissors
– Wire

Once you have your materials, it’s a simple matter to make the nest.

5 Steps to making a bird nest

Making a miniature birds nest

Making a nest from a ball of coir.

  1. Cut a clump of the coconut fibre and roll it into a ball roughly 3mm in diameter and place a blob of Hot glue in the centre. (This is to build a large nest suitable for 4mm scale; those for smaller birds could be made but wouldn’t be very visible at this scale, for other scales larger sizes should be used). As a word of warning, hot glue can, not surprisingly, be hot. Be careful when applying it to the nest that you’re holding.
  2. Cut off a short strip of the wire and using the hot glue attach the wire to the base of the coconut fibre ball, this will help to keep the nest in shape and allow you to hold it more easily.
  3. Use the scissors to trim the coconut fibre and matting so that it forms a nest-like shape. Take a pencil and push it into the centre of the fibre, creating a cup shape for the bird to sit in.
  4. Add a few more pieces of thinner strands of coconut fibre to the inside of the nest to make it more realistic.
  5. Place the miniature replica of the nest in your model railway. The wire that the nest is attached to can be used to secure it to a tree branch. If you want to position it in a tight spot of a building, such as the light in the photo above, just clip the wire off. Realistic location depends on the type of bird, added next.

Adding birds

I found a 3D printed model of pigeons in 4mm scale that I use elsewhere on the layout and painted it but suitable ready-made, pre-painted, birds are available from Noch and Langley Models others. A further dab of hot glue will hold it in place.

For positioning, it should be high up or out of the way. In trees for corvids (crows, etc) nests, rocky cliff faces for seagulls and in river or lakeside plants for swans and mallard ducks.

On my 4mm 009 layout, I have an engine shed with a light at the back. This was the perfect spot for the nest to be perched on, providing a very natural location for the nest but also very visible to anyone looking at the layout.

I’m pleased with the result, the nest is a subtle and tiny detail that adds realism to the layout.

The nest was easy and fun to make but if you don’t fancy getting your hands dirty, I’m selling them made to order (with nesting bird) on my Etsy store the Little World Workshop or eBay.

> This post is part of a series on the construction of a lifelike model railway for exhibitions. To read other posts in the series covering its development, track work, scenery and model building making, see building an exhibition model railway.





Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

Add Comment

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.