About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Should I Clean Out My Birdhouse?

I have a couple of bird houses that wrens nested in last year. Will they come back to nest in the same place and is now a good time to clean out the old nest?

If you haven’t already cleaned out your birdhouses, that should be done as soon as possible. To clean the nest box I usually place a plastic bag over the nest and just sweep everything in and twist the bag shut. You can rinse out the house with a water hose or diluted bleach spray. Make sure the drainage holes are unplugged and leave the house open to dry for a couple days. Finally dispose of the old nest in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly.

Whether the same bird comes back to your nest is determined by several factors. Is the nest box clean and still in good condition, did they have a successful breeding season last year, and did they get there early enough to claim the nesting sight again and defend the territory? It’s possible to have the same wren family move in the same house year after year or a wily chickadee or sparrow may spot the house and try to claim it first.

Please remove all winter wreaths from your doors. We get calls every spring about birds making their nests in holiday wreaths. Anyone who places hanging plants on a covered porch in the spring or leaves a holiday wreath hanging on the door may find that by April a female House Finch has begun to build a nest in it.

Once a House Finch pair has built a nest in a hanging plant, on a wreath, or over a light fixture, etc., there is little to do but enjoy the experience and wait for the young to fledge (three to four weeks). You can continue to use the door or water the plants but the nest should not be relocated.


Anonymous said...

Thank you. This was very helpful. The last of two sparrows left the bird house yesterday. It was wonderful watching them, and bitter sweet to see the leave (miss the sound of them talking to each other but loved to watch the male teach the first one to fly - second one left with mom yesterday)

I was not sure what to do but this gives very clear direction.

I had also heard that the bird house, once clean, should be put in the freezer for a few days...any truth to that?

Larry Launstein Jr said...

I bought my mom a birdhouse for Christmas that has everything screwed shut - no door to open to clean out the birdhouse. Would I have to unscrew the roof to get at the nesting material and clean out the birdhouse? When I replace the screws after cleaning, what can I do to make it so I can keep the screws tight when I unscrew them for cleaning and then put the screws back in? Any other ideas?