8 EASY Steps to Clean Your Birdhouse (No experience needed!)
Cleaning your birdhouses is essential if you want to attract nesting birds!
I mean, would you check into a hotel room that hadn’t been cleaned yet? 🙂
- RELATED: The Best Ways to Attract Nesting Birds (AND help them thrive!)
Here are the questions we are going to answer today:
8 Steps for Cleaning Your Birdhouse:
You will need:
A dirty birdhouse 🙂
Weak bleach solution – 1 part bleach mixed with 9 parts water
An old toothbrush or scrub brush
Materials for making repairs to your birdhouse (if needed)
Step #1. Put on your mask and gloves
You don’t want to skip this step for two reasons.
A. There are things inside you don’t want to breathe in or touch.
The nesting materials can be filled with bacteria, mites, and other pathogens. Like with bird feeders, we want to be careful of spreading infection. So, it’s vital to protect your hands and the air you’re breathing while working with nesting materials.
B. Bleach is the best tool for the job, but it comes with its own risks.
When you get to the disinfecting step, you’re going to be using bleach. It can be harmful to breathe the fumes from bleach, and it irritates the skin. Wearing gloves and a mask will help protect you from these risks.
Step #2. Disassemble your birdhouse (if needed)
Depending on the birdhouse you have, this may be the easiest step. But, unfortunately, it could also be the hardest!
If you have a solid birdhouse that doesn’t open easily, you might have to take it apart entirely and rebuild it. In this case, use a hammer to pry the nails out of one side. Next, open the birdhouse, keeping as much of it intact as you can. Then, continue with the rest of the steps!
Birdhouses with roofs or sides that flip open make cleaning easy. Instead of taking it apart or removing a side or bottom, you flip open the hinged piece and clean out the birdhouse.
The bluebird house below is one of my favorites because the side opens to make cleaning and checking for birds easy. It’s also made of durable poly lumber that won’t fade, crack, or split in harsh weather.
- RELATED: Bluebird Houses: The Definitive Guide (7 FREE Plans!)
Step #3. Remove old nesting materials and debris
You should remove old nesting materials and debris when you clean your birdhouses. This will prevent pests, mites, and mold from lingering and making new birds sick. Also, if you don’t clean out the inside, it’s unlikely any birds will use the house next year.
Once you’ve removed the nest, you should throw it away in a plastic bag to prevent any bacteria or mites from spreading. Then, use your toothbrush, scrub brush, and toothpicks to remove any droppings, debris, or other material stuck to the inside. Make sure to open up any clogged ventilation or drainage holes as well.
Step #4. Scrub the house with a bleach solution
After your birdhouse is empty, you need to disinfect it.
One part chlorine bleach mixed with nine parts clean water is the best cleaner for your birdhouse. This solution will kill any bacteria or mites that are still inside.
There are two ways to apply the bleach solution to the birdhouse. First, you can use a spray bottle to cover the birdhouse with the solution and then scrub it with your brush. Or, you can dip the brush into the solution and scrub it down.
Make sure you scrub the inside and outside thoroughly, and pay special attention to cracks and crevices. These areas tend to breed bacteria and mold the most.
Step #5. Rinse your birdhouse with clean water
A thorough rinse with water will remove most of the bleach solution and any dirt left in your birdhouse.
You’ll notice the water runs clear after just a few minutes, but you should keep rinsing to get the bleach off. Rinse the inside and outside for about five minutes. You can use a hose or bucket, whichever works best for you!
Step #6. Let your birdhouse dry in the sun
There are a few reasons to let your clean birdhouse dry before you reassemble it.
First, a dry birdhouse is much safer because any moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Thoroughly drying the birdhouse will prevent mold and germs from growing.
Next, allowing the birdhouse to dry is important for ensuring any leftover bleach has evaporated. Even with a long rinse, some residue may need time to evaporate.
Finally, giving the birdhouse time to dry also gives you time to inspect it for damage, bringing us to our next step.
Step #7. Inspect your birdhouse and make any repairs or adjustments
You don’t want to spend time cleaning your birdhouse, only to have it fall apart!
If nails are sticking out, pound them back into place or remove them with a hammer. Small cracks are okay, but any large cracks might let in the rain during storms. They should be filled with wood filler. Next, sand down any sharp edges you find, which could be dangerous for hatchlings.
You can also take a minute to inspect your birdhouse’s drainage and ventilation holes. These holes are essential to allow moisture to escape and allow fresh air in. Make sure they’re all open, and there are no sharp edges or splinters.
Step #8. Decide what to do with your birdhouse in the winter
If your birdhouse is delicate or only meant for nesting, like a hanging gourd, you should store it inside in the winter. This will keep it from deteriorating in the elements so that you can use it for multiple seasons!
Some birdhouses are used as roosting boxes for the winter season. Birds use roosting boxes to stay warm and safe overnight when temperatures fall to extreme winter lows. Interestingly, birds use roosting boxes communally, unlike nesting sites. Sometimes dozens of birds will pile into a birdhouse to conserve body heat!
Boxes made of thick wood or poly lumber are great for helping keep birds safe from extreme cold and wind.
If your birdhouse can also be used as a roosting box, I highly recommend it! You will notice more birds at your feeders in the winter if you have a safe place for them to spend the night. In this case, you would want to hang your cleaned birdhouse where you usually place it.
Why should you clean your birdhouse?
This is an excellent question! After all, in nature, birds don’t clean and disinfect their nests after their hatchlings fly away. =)
The reason we need to clean out our birdhouses has to do with birds’ normal nesting behaviors. After all their babies have left the nest, a bird won’t reuse that nest again. Instead, they build a new nest for the next season with fresh materials.
In addition, when you remove the old nesting material and clean your birdhouse, you prevent insects, bacteria, fungus, and feather mites from taking over. All of these things can make nesting birds and hatchlings sick! So, by cleaning out your birdhouse, you’re doing the birds a huge favor and potentially saving their lives.
When should you clean your birdhouse?
The best time to clean your birdhouse is after all the young birds have fledged and left the nest for good.
Check inside your birdhouse if you haven’t seen activity for a week. If there are still baby birds inside, wait another week before checking again. Once you’re sure all the birds have left, it’s safe to take down the birdhouse and give it a yearly cleaning.
You’ll want to make sure you clean your birdhouse before cold weather sets in. Otherwise, you’ll risk disturbing birds that have decided to use your birdhouse as a roosting box. =) A good rule of thumb is to try and get the birdhouse cleaned before (or right after) the first frost.
How do you clean your birdhouse after nesting season?
Let us know in the comments!