Do Birdhouses Need To Be Cleaned Out? (ANSWERED! + FAQs)

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Birdhouses that have been vacated by previous birds often leave it really dirty. Then you may be thinking: “Do birdhouses need to be cleaned out?” I did some research on this topic and found a definitive answer. Here’s what I found:

Birdhouses do need to be cleaned out. Most birdhouses need to be cleaned out because birds often leave bird droppings, feathers, and sometimes even bird-bourne diseases that can cause great harm to birds that use the birdhouses after. Cleaning out birdhouses ensures that new bird residents do not die from diseases.

Now you know some basic reasons why birdhouses need to be cleaned out! But wait, there are some caveats when it comes to cleaning out birdhouses. Read on to find out more!

Do Birdhouses Need To Be Cleaned Out? (FULL Answer!)

Okay, so you know the simple answer, and the answer is yes! Let me explain to you why:

When birds live in birdhouses, the space is often limited, and therefore there tends to be a build-up of nasty stuff inside.

Here’s what birds leave behind when they leave the nest for good:

  • Food scraps
  • Bird droppings
  • Feathers
  • Dirt from outside environment
  • Nesting materials (twigs & leaves)
  • Bird-bourne diseases

With so many different items that clutter the birdhouse, the next pair of birds simply cannot make use of the space.

Think of it as like an Airbnb, where you as the owner need to make the space liveable for a tenant to come live inside. Hygiene is important!

Here are 2 reasons why birdhouses need to be cleaned out:

1) Dirty Birdhouses Spread Diseases

A dirty birdhouse

Unclean birdhouses can be really nasty.

Birds leave behind harmful bacteria, fungi, bird mites, and insects when they abandon birdhouses for good.

These bird-bourne pathogens that remain can cause birds that use the birdhouse next to fall sick and die.

What’s worse is that if there are any pathogens that are harmful to humans, they can be retained there, causing infection to humans too!

2) Clean Birdhouses Are More Attractive To Birds

In addition to being hygienic, a birdhouse that has been cleaned out is actually more attractive to birds!

By keeping your birdhouse clean, you never lose the opportunity of having a bird stay in your birdhouse at all times! Even during the off-peak periods.

It’s already difficult for birds to find a clean, safe and conducive home, so do the birds a favor and clean it out!

Oh, if you’re still figuring out why birds won’t come to your birdhouse, check out an article that I wrote here for it. It contains 13 reasons why they won’t use your birdhouse!

When Should You Clean A Bird house?

Of course, you wouldn’t want to clean out a birdhouse when it is already occupied.

But sometimes, it may be difficult to determine whether you should be cleaning out a birdhouse in mind.

With that in mind, let me offer you some quick tips on when you should clean out a birdhouse:

Tip 1: After The Breeding Season

wooden bird house

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 birdhouse will be occupied by a resident during the course of the breeding season to grow their young, bird families tend to abandon the birdhouses 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 birdhouse again.

Tip 2: Check If The Birdhouse 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.

However, only do this if you aren’t sure there are birds in the house!

If birds are already using it, try not to disturb the birdhouse as it can cause unnecessary stress to the bird parents!

Tip 3: Monitor The Birdhouse

Some of you may choose to set up your own mini birdhouse monitoring cameras to observe any occupants.

If you do have one already set up, then simply check if there are any occupants.

Instead of tip 2, where we try to manually check the birdhouse, monitoring the birdhouse using a bird box camera can really help you gauge if birds are using it in real-time.

Furthermore, you get to enjoy the real-time happenings inside the birdhouse when birds occupy it!

Here’s a video of how your birdhouse monitoring camera can look like!

How To Clean A Birdhouse

You now know when and why to clean a birdhouse, but we will now cover HOW you can go about it!

Excited? Let’s start!

Items you’ll need:

  • A pair of gloves
  • A bucket
  • Water
  • Bleach
  • Trash bag

Steps To Clean Your Birdhouse:

  1. Gently lower the bird house and open the lid. Most bird houses have a hatch or lid in which you can have full access to the insides of the bird house.
  2. 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.
  3. Use your trowel/small shovel to dig and scrape out any fecal matter and gunk that may remain.
  4. Mix your water with the bleach. (1 part bleach, 9 parts water, 1 : 9 ratio)
  5. 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.
  6. Rinse the bird house completely with water.
  7. Leave the bird house in direct sunlight until fully dry.
  8. Inspect the bird house to check if it’s functioning well. (Take note of any damage, loose bolts, or fungi growing.)
  9. Install your bird house back at its original position.

If you want to know more details on how to claim your bird bath well, check out an article I wrote wholly on it here:

That’s it!

If you need to check back at these cleaning steps, feel free to save this page in your bookmarks so you can refer to it later!

How Often to Change Bird Bath Water?

Bird bath water should be changed 1 – 2 times a week. However, how often the water in a bird bath should be changed can vary depending on a few factors such as seasonality, bird bath location, the number of birds using the birdbath, and how often the water appears to be discolored.

Check out this article to learn more about how often you should change bird bath water!

More Bird House Tips

Since you’re now a birdhouse cleanliness pro, here are more tips you can take note of which will enhance your experience with bird watching birds in birdhouses.

Tip 1: Opt for birdhouse 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

My Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binoculars: It’s a great budget pair for beginner birders. Highly valued for its price! Read my review.

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 Chia

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.

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