Making a miniature bird nest

Photo of a miniature bird nest for model railwaysHow I made a miniature bird nest for White River Mills.

Bird nests are a common sight in rural and even urban areas but are rarely seen on model railways. Here’s how I made one for White River Mills.

> 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.

There are many different ways to make a model bird nest, but the technique I used is one of the easiest and most realistic methods and uses 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, you’ll also need the following materials and tools:

Hot glue gun
Wire cutters
– Scissors
– Wire

Once you have your materials, it’s a simple matter t 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. (This is to build a large nest 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).

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 or building fixture, such as the light in the photo above. Realistic location depends on the type of bird, added next.

Adding birds

I found a 3D printed model bird in 4mm scale, suitable for OO gauge railways, 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.


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