How to build a Den

There are many ways to build a den, but here are some tips to get you started.

Mini dens are a great way to learn the craft of den building. You also need fewer materials so why not make a den for a mini beast, or perhaps for your favourite toy.

  1. The first thing to do is to find the right den spot. Think Location, Location Location. You don’t want a den in a ditch. You might get flooded out when it rains. Its also always good to look up. Is there anything above like hanging dead wood in the tree, that could fall down on top of you if it gets windy? Do you want a south facing patio to make the most of the sunshine?
  2. Whether you are in your garden or in a local woodland, it’s useful to use support structures already in place. You might like to look for a good sturdy tree to start with. Find a tree with nooks or low branches. You can then lean a main pole against the tree wedging it into the nook so it won’t move.
  3. Other things to consider are who are you making the den for and where would they prefer to live. Where are you going to put the door? Big dens are colder and less stable than smaller ones so how much room do you need. Once you have decided on all of this, it’s time to gather materials for den building.
  4. You will need some sturdy sticks –When looking for your building materials its important you never break or damage living branches on trees. There is often lots of deadwood on the ground. That said, you do need to find some strong sticks that are not rotten or too heavy for the main frame. You don’t want your den to collapse or for wood to fall on inhabitants when inside.
  5. Be careful when handling sticks. The safest way to carry them is to hold one end and drag the other end along the floor so you don’t poke anyone else with them.
  6. Y sticks are sticks shaped like the letter Y and are really useful in den making, so look out for some of these. It’s also good to have some thinner bendy sticks and leaves for thatching and weaving.
  7. Once you have found your strong support, the easiest den to make is called a lean to. This is where you lean your sticks against the support
  8. If you can’t find an appropriate tree where you want to locate your den. How about a free-standing tepee? This where our Y sticks come in handy. You could tie your tepee at the top, but I like to use 3 Y sticks. 
  9. You can interlace these to create a solid tripod frame, and then continue adding more sticks until you have the structure you want.
  10. Now why not practice your weaving. Find some thinner bendy sticks, or long grass and weave them in and out of the tepee skeleton. You can also use leaves and even mud to fill in the gaps if you want.
  11. For a bigger den, use two tripods or find two trees with low branches that you can wedge a sturdy pole across. then prop large sticks along both sides of the ridgepole and interlace finer sticks across the ribs, weaving in other materials to keep out the wind and rain.
  12. When you have finished building there are always more home improvement projects to embark on to make your den comfortable. Consider both interior design and exterior features.
  13. When you are finished, don’t forget to tidy up. 
  14. Leave the woods as you found them and take any litter home.

Although Bracken (a fern) seems like the perfect thatching material, I tend to avoid using this as it can be home to ticks which sometimes bite and can carry an infection called Lyme disease.
These are also sometimes found when walking through long grass and vegetation in the countryside. Whilst we shouldn’t be afraid of venturing outdoors, please take sensible precautions, such as wearing long sleeves and trousers tucked into socks and applying insect repellent to exposed skin.  Also, make sure you check yourself over for ticks, at the end of the day.
If you develop a circular, target-shaped rash around a bite or develop flu-like symptoms, such as aching joints, fatigue and head-aches, then see your G.P. as soon as possible.