Everyone likes coming home to a clean home, including birds. Besides, leaving it dirty may attract unwelcome guests, from rodents to parasites.
But timing your birdhouse cleaning is crucial. When to clean out birdhouses? You want to do it between guest families. Targeting to do it twice a year, at the end of nesting season and winter, is ideal.
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When to Clean Out Bird Houses
Cleaning out bird houses is extremely important. Aside from attracting more avian visitors, keeping it clean is vital to ensure your guests don’t catch potentially left-behind diseases. The question is, when?
Following The Seasons
1. At the end of the nesting season
The best time to clean out a birdhouse is at the end of nesting season, which usually aligns with the summer end between October and November.
This is to prepare it for wintering birds such as chickadees and woodpeckers if they live in your neighborhood. This also ensures bacteria and pests won’t simply lie dormant as they wait out the coming cold months.
2. At the end of winter
Aside from that, it’s also recommended to clean out bird boxes at the beginning of the nesting season–that is, at the end of winter–sometime in early March.
This is to clear out anything left by winter birds, and to ensure your bird box is fresh and ready to welcome birds home for spring!
3. Tricky scheduling
While all this sounds relatively straightforward, it very rarely is. Different birds have different schedules, and the weather patterns of each year can be different.
For example, while most lay their eggs in the spring, others, such as American goldfinches, don’t build their nests until the fall.
Studies have also shown how global warming is changing birds’ nesting patterns. Some birds in Chicago, for instance, lay their eggs an entire month earlier than they used to because of the shortening winters!
In short, most birdhouses are very rarely empty and ready for cleaning.
The trouble is, if you clean your birdhouse too early, you risk accidentally kicking out the current family. But if you give it a few more weeks, it may be too late to clean out the birdhouses since new guests may move in already!
Adjusting To Your Bird House Guests
Another thing to consider when cleaning birdhouses is your guests’ varying preferences and bird house maintenance standards.
Different birds look for other things when it comes to moving in. Therefore, it’s beneficial to identify what species you are looking to attract or are in your vicinity so you can adjust accordingly.
For example, while most prefer moving into a home that feels brand new, bluebirds prefer houses with a basic nest already inside. This does not mean you should leave old nests inside forever, though: only leave the current nest if it seems mostly unused.
Wrens and chickadees, meanwhile, are known for their tidying skills. Those two species will happily remove old nest from the bird box on their own before officially moving in.
You will also never need to remember to clean out a wren house – they’ll do it for you before “checking out.”
Can I Clean My Birdhouse Yet?
To check if you can clean a bird house, experts suggest lightly tapping the birdhouse’s sides or roof and listening for little cheeps inside at the appropriate months.
They also strongly suggest never sticking your hands inside to check for inhabitants. You never know what could be inside and could potentially find wasps, rodents, or, if you’re lucky, harmless empty eggshells!
Why Should You Clean Your Bird House?
It’s essential to clean your birdhouse regularly for a few reasons:
The most important reason to clean out your bluebird house regularly is to ensure they are clean and sanitary for all your bird visitors.
Bird houses with abandoned, worn nests may become breeding grounds for parasites, pests, and bacteria that you don’t want to pass on to the next bluebird family!
If left unattended, bird boxes may also become houses for squirrels, opossums, bats, snakes, raccoons, and other wild animals.
2. Chick Safety
Aside from wrens and chickadees, most birds build their nest on top of whatever materials are left uncleaned inside birdhouses.
As bird boxes fill up with the sticks and leaves of many families, young birds find themselves closer and closer to the entrance of the birdhouse. This puts them in a vulnerable position within easy reach of predators.
3. Bird House Longevity
Most bird houses are made out of wood. Aside from being more comfortable, the material is better at regulating temperatures than plastic or metal.
However, the wood itself can rot when damp for a long time. Regularly maintaining and cleaning out your birdhouse will keep it in top condition and extend its lifespan.
Ways to Clean Out Bird House
Things to prepare:
- Rubber gloves
- Toothbrush, or some cleaning brush
- Hot water
- Hammer, screwdriver
- Nails and screws
As a safety precaution, wear rubber gloves when cleaning your birdhouse.
1 . After ensuring your birdhouse is vacant, the easiest way to clean it is by taking it apart as much as possible. Once you remove all the debris inside, from old nests to broken eggshells, you are ready for deep cleaning.
2 . Make a solution of nine parts hot water and one part bleach, and scrub the house and all its accessories (poles, hooks, etc.) as thoroughly as possible. Make sure to get to each of the corners, too.
3. Afterward, leave the birdhouse under the sun to air dry thoroughly. Lastly, take the opportunity to make any necessary repairs before reassembling the birdhouse in your yard again.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should you clean out a birdhouse?
It’s ideal for birdhouses be cleaned out every year or even twice a year if you have the time for it. While the exact time varies per year, region, and even specific neighborhood, these two times generally occur in late October and early March.
Should birdhouses be cleaned out before winter?
Bird houses should be cleaned out before winter to avoid giving parasites time to multiply in them over the cold season.
However, if you live in a cold region, it’s also recommended to clean bird houses before winter so that wintering birds have a place to stay!
If birds had hands, they would hold their old nests in their hands and confidently say they no longer spark joy and can now be discarded.
Thankfully, unlike people, birds aren’t the hoarding type. They are okay with throwing out their nests each year to build better and newer ones.
So the question of when to clean out bird houses falls on us, homeowners. And now that we know it’s best to do it at the end of nesting season and winter, hopefully, we’ll get around to including them in our list of regular annual chores!
George and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.