When to clean out bird nest boxes

When to clean out bird nest boxes

The best time to clean out bird nesting boxes is when you know there are definitely no birds living inside. To help with this, we have a few tips to ensure you don’t spook potential occupants, and we also offer some helpful advice on how to clean them and prepare them for the next family that arrives in spring.

When should you consider cleaning out nest boxes?

Most nesting box inhabitants will begin to leave in autumn, from September onwards, but not all birds leave at the same time. So, for this reason, it’s best to clean out bird nest boxes between October and December. You will be much less likely to disturb a family hanging around for a late checkout if you wait until October.

Observe the nest box before approaching it

The next step is detaching your birdhouse, but before doing so, make sure that there are no inhabitants by observing it from a distance for a week. The best time to do this is in the morning when birds will be swooping around your garden looking for food. If you see no birds entering the nesting box, that’s a good sign it is empty.

After several days of not seeing any birds entering or leaving the nesting box, you should carefully lift the lid (or open the hatch) to double-check if your nesting box allows it.

For this reason, you should avoid nesting boxes that do not have a removable lid. And if you have confirmed that no birds are living inside, you can then lift your nesting box down from its mount and start cleaning.

Clean the nest box thoroughly

We recommend wearing gloves for this part! Start by carefully removing any bedding from the interior of the nesting box. Then, use boiling water to clean the interior and kill any parasites. And if there is any stubborn dirt, you can use a wire brush or a sponge scourer to make things easier.

Since they harm birds, you must avoid using insecticides, flea powders or commercial cleaners. After you have cleaned out your bird nest box, you should let it dry out thoroughly before replacing the lid and returning it to where it was mounted before.

Now you know when and how to clean out nesting boxes

As we have outlined, it's not difficult to clean out bird nest boxes, but you must be careful not to approach them too soon in the year. We have advised waiting until October at the earliest since most bird families will usually have left by then. However, as mentioned above, approach nesting boxes slowly and cautiously while listening for any activity to ensure the occupants have left before cleaning.

We also have advice on choosing the right nesting box for your garden and where it is best to place a nesting box.