As bird lovers, we love to watch wild birds build their nests, lay eggs, and raise their chicks. To invite these beautiful creatures into our yards or gardens, we often hang birdhouses in strategic locations around our property. However, as much as we adore these feathered friends, we must be careful not to overlook the importance of cleaning their birdhouses. Cleaning a birdhouse is crucial to ensuring the safety and well-being of the birds. In this blog, we will discuss why it is important to clean birdhouses when to clean them and how.
Why is it Important to Clean Birdhouses?
Birds are very picky about their habitats, and they prefer clean and hygienic surroundings. A dirty or unclean birdhouse can quickly become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and parasites, which can sicken or even kill the birds living within it. The accumulation of waste materials such as feathers, feces, and leftover food can also attract unwanted pests like flies or rodents, which can harm or even eat bird eggs or chicks. This is particularly important when multiple broods are raised in a single season, as leftover debris provides an easy passageway for infections to spread. Moreover, cleaning birdhouses is the best way to ensure that they are structurally sound. Over time, birdhouses may become damaged due to harsh weather conditions or natural wear and tear. If left unchecked, these damages can make it difficult for birds to enter and exit the birdhouse safely, leaving them vulnerable to predators or injury.
When to Clean Your Birdhouse?
Spring is the breeding season for birds, and it is essential to clean their birdhouses before this time of year. A clean birdhouse promotes good health and safety for the birds during their nesting period, as well as ensures successful breeding. You should make sure to clean the birdhouse thoroughly once a year, preferably before spring arrives. By doing so, they are providing a healthy environment for birds to breed, and they will be more likely to return to the same location in subsequent years. Wild birds don’t clean or disinfect their nests after their hatchlings fly away, and nor will they use them again. The best time to clean the birdhouse is after all the birds have fledged and left the nest after winter, so you can prepare it for the next brood. Check inside your birdhouse if there is no activity within a week (a bird box camera can be of great use to check out if the birds leave or not). If there are still birds inside, wait for another week.
How to Clean Your Birdhouse?
Cleaning birdhouses is essential if you want to attract nesting birds. But before that, you need to put your gloves and mask on to prevent infection. The nesting materials can be filled with wastes, bacteria, mites, parasites, etc., causing respiratory problems and other health issues.
Suggested Cleaning Supplies
This list of birdhouse cleaning supplies might include but is not limited to:
• Gloves – Use for all aspects of nest removal and cleaning
• Mask – Wear a mask or cover your face with a tissue when cleaning the birdhouse
• Brushes – To remove the old nesting material & scrub the birdhouse
• Small Bucket – Great for holding cleaning solution and soaking brushes.
• Spray Bottle – Ideal for spraying cleaning solutions
• Screwdriver and Hammer- The best tools to dissemble your birdhouse and make any repairs
• Garbage Bag – Used to contain and dispose of nesting debris and loose hinges or nails
1. Choose the Right Cleaning Solution
When it comes to cleaning birdhouses, it is essential to use the right cleaning solution. Avoid using harsh chemicals or detergents as they can be toxic to birds. Instead, opt for a mild solution of water and mild soap or vinegar. These solutions are safe, non-toxic, and effective in cleaning the birdhouse.
You wash the birdhouse simply by using boiling water. If you do this, our suggestion is to use a large pot to boil the water and dunk the birdhouse directly in it to neutralize everything. While this is a chemical-free option, this won’t be the easiest approach since you have to do a few drain cycles.
Over the years, vinegar has gained the reputation of being an all-around cleaner. It can physically remove dirt, debris, and even germs located on different surfaces. And since contains 5% acetic acid, which is known for dissolving various types of dirt, debris, and grime, it can even kill certain types of pathogens like E. Coli. You can create a vinegar disinfecting solution by mixing 80% water and 20% white vinegar. Soak the birdhouse for about 10 minutes minimum to maximize the effect. Once the disinfection is finished, rinse the birdhouse with water.
It’s your absolute best option to really disinfect your nest boxes. The general formula for making a bleach solution for cleaning birdhouses is to mix 1-part bleach with 9 parts water. Stir the mixture well and pour the bleach solution into a spray bottle. You can apply the solution onto the birdhouse surfaces and leave it there for 5-10 minutes before washing it away. Since bleach is an abrasive chemical, always follow the instructions on the label and wear rubber gloves and eye protection.
2. Disassemble the Birdhouse
To properly clean the birdhouse, you need to disassemble it first. Remove any screws or nails holding the birdhouse together, which may require a hammer or screwdriver. Then carefully detach any glued or fastened parts using pliers. When disassembling the birdhouse, always remember to wear protective gear such as gloves and safety goggles. But if your birdhouse has a swinging side, a hinged roof or a removable front for easy access, you can unscrew these parts for thorough cleaning.
3. Remove the Old Nesting Material
Once you have your cleaning solution and disassembled panels ready, you should the old nesting material from the birdhouse. It’s an essential task that should be done after each brood, provided that old nesting material can harbor harmful parasites, bacteria, and fungi, which can be detrimental to the health of birds. You can use a long-handled brush or scraper to get rid of any debris or leftover food that may have accumulated inside the house. Once you have removed the bulk of the waste, use a used toothbrush to get into corners and crevices. If there is any stubborn debris that won’t come off, use a damp cloth to gently wipe them away. Most importantly, you should collect all the old nesting material in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash.
4. Scrub the Birdhouse
After removing the old nesting material, it’s time to scrub the birdhouse with your cleaning solution. Dip a cleaning brush or sponge into the solution and gently scrub the interior walls, floor, and roof of the birdhouse. Be sure to clean all corners and crevices thoroughly, as this is where bacteria and parasites tend to accumulate. Don’t forget to scrub the entrance hole and drainage and ventilation holes to remove all debris and contamination.
5. Rinse and Dry
Once you have finished the scrubbing, rinse it thoroughly with clean water for several minutes. A thorough rinse will remove most of the cleaning solution and any dirt left in your birdhouse. If you are using the bleach solution, you should keep rinsing the birdhouse for at least 5 minutes to get most of the bleach traces off. After that, let the birdhouse dry in the sun for several hours to ensure that no water is inside. This will break down any bleach leftover and prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
6. Inspect the Birdhouse, Repair & Reassemble
After the birdhouse is clean and dry, give it a thorough inspection. Examine the hinges for any loose screws, damaged or broken parts, or signs of wear and tear. Apply wood glue to any cracked or damaged areas of the hinges or replace them with new ones. If nails are sticking out, pound them back into place or remove them with a hammer. Moreover, sand down any sharp edges you find, which could be dangerous for hatchlings. Also, take a minute to inspect your birdhouse’s drainage and ventilation holes. If needed, you can drill extra holes for extra ventilation. After the inspection, reassemble the birdhouse and make sure every part is tightly secured. Before you reattach the birdhouse to its mounting or post, you should remove any lingering pests or debris from the post.