We’re reader-supported; we may earn a commission from links in this article.
Maybe you’ve stumbled upon some abandoned bird house that has been unoccupied by birds for a really long time, and you wonder to yourself: Do bird houses need to be cleaned out? I have wondered that myself and I took the time to do a little research online. Here’s what I found:
Birdhouses do need to be cleaned out. Birdhouses need to be cleaned out after birds abandon their nests when breeding season is over (Mid-August for Northern Hemisphere bird houses). The cleaned birdhouses will then be ready for use for its next occupant in the next breeding season.
While it is important to clean out bird houses, there are several pointers that you will need to keep in mind when clearing them out before you do so. Read on to find out more!
Why You Should Be Cleaning Vacant Bird Houses
Bird like to be clean, just like us. That’s why birds like to flock to clean bird feeders and use bird baths. Birds and dirt just don’t mix well. It is for good reason that birds avoid dirty places though.
Dirty bird houses can spread diseases
For example, dirty bird houses can also house rodents, insects, bird mites, fungi and bacteria that can cause and spread diseases. This will only bring more harm than good to a bird. By cleaning out a bird house at the right time, theses hazards are minimized, and therefore are more attractive to nesting birds.
A clean bird house can be more attractive to nesting birds
By availing a clean bird house, you will be able to encourage recurring usage of the bird house by the same bird family or for birds looking for a suitable nesting site at an off-peak period of summer. In general, this may bring more bird families into the vicinity of your backyard. Basically, a clean bird house = more birds!
When Should You Clean A Bird house?
Of course, you wouldn’t want to clean out a bird house when it is already occupied. But sometimes, it may be difficult to determine whether you should be cleaning out a bird house in mind. With that in mind, let me offer you some quick tips on when you should clean out a bird house:
Tip 1: After the breeding season
A general rule of thumb that can be agreed upon by many bird watchers everywhere would be to perform a single clean right at the end of the breeding season. As the bird house will be occupied by a resident during the course of the breeding season to grow their young, bird families tend to abandon the bird houses at the end of the season, so keep that in mind. Birds typically practice this abandonment as a precautionary measure against diseases and parasites that may retain if they return to the same bird house again.
Tip 2: Check if the bird house is occupied
Of course, even if it’s the end of the breeding season, you would still want to check if the bird house is occupied! It’s like how it’s common sense for us to knock on the door of someone’s house before entering it right? In the same way, you can tap gently on the sides or on the roof and listen out for any scuttling sounds and chirps. You can also choose to peer into the entrance of the bird house you are able to do so. If there are any birds still inside, check back again in a week or so to give them time to vacate the cozy bird house.
Tip 3: Monitor the bird house
Some of you may choose to set up your own mini bird house monitoring cameras to observe any occupants. If you do have one already setup, then simply check if there are any occupants. If one day, you realise that there are no birds or hatchlings left in the bird house, wait a week or so then check back again. If there are no more birds occupying the space after a week, it is safe to say that the birds have already decided to permanently leave the bird house for good. You can start cleaning out the house.
How To Clean A Bird House
You now know when and why to clean a bird house, but we will now cover the ‘how’ to clean a bird house.
Items you’ll need:
- A pair of gloves
- A bucket
- Trash bag
Cleaning the bird house:
- Gently lower the bird house and open it up. Most bird houses have a hatch or lid in which you can have full access to the insides of the bird house.
- Put on your gloves and physically remove all the remnants of the old nest. As the old nest may contain parasites, it is important that you ensure the nest is disposed of into a trash bag for disposal, and not just thrown onto the vegetation in the area.
- Use your trowel/small shovel to dig and scrape out any fecal matter and gunk that may remain.
- Mix your water with the bleach. (1 part bleach, 9 parts water, 1:9 ratio)
- Scrub the bird house with the solution and leave the hose running to wash away the soap. If you don’t have a hose available, you can collect water using a bucket instead and then pour water into the bird house to rinse it. Make sure the scrub job is thorough as you would not want any soapy remains.
- Rinse the bird house completely with water.
- Leave the bird house is direct sunlight until fully dry
- Inspect the bird house to check if it’s functioning well.
- Install your bird house back at its original position.
Good to go!
More Bird House Tips
Since you’re now bird house cleanliness pro, here are more tips you can take note of which will enhance your experience with bird watching birds in bird houses.
Tip 1: Opt for bird house that have hinged panels or removable lids. These will make your cleaning job much easier to reach into the insides and perform deep cleaning.
Tip 2: Clean the bird houses at the end of spring and autumn. These are the periods where birds end their breeding season. So it’s a good time to check on your bird houses.
Tip 3: Clean the stand or hook that you use to mount the bird house. This tends to be an area where many neglect. As it could still contain bacteria and pests, it’s best to give it a good cleaning job too.
Always remember that a clean bird house = more birds! Keeping a bird house also means that you will have to be responsible for its cleanliness. Also, when cleaning out your bird house, you will get the full benefits of installing one: more birds to bird watch! Happy birding!
My Recommended Birding Resources:
Hey there, Justin here!
Here’s a list of all my favorite resources, products, and brands I trust and love.
Safe Paint for Bird Baths Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting bird baths.
Safe Sealers for Bird Baths Guide: Learn which sealers are safe for bird baths.
Safe Paint for Bird Feeders Guide: Learn what special care needs to be taken to paint bird feeders with the right paint.
Safe Paint for Birdhouses Guide: Learn about non-toxic paint for painting birdhouses. (Not the same as bird baths!)
Bird Identification Apps Guide: 2 of my favorite birding apps are Merlin Bird ID, and eBird Mobile! Merlin is great for tracking and identifying birds, and eBird Mobile is great for tracking the birds sighted when birding.
Check out my resources page for the full list of resources I recommend!
Justin is the founder and author of Birding Outdoors. He is a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) alumnus with a Bachelor of Biological Sciences and a former data analyst.
Now, Justin runs the Birding Outdoors blog full-time, hoping to share his deep love for birds, birding, and nature with others.
To unwind, Justin enjoys gaming and reading.