Keeping Your Bird Houses In Good Shape

Now that nesting season is over in most areas of the country, you can take down your bird houses and bring them inside.  Fall Bird House maintenanceThat will help them last longer by not exposing them to winter weather.   While you’re doing this task, it’s a great time to do some maintenance work on the nesting boxes.  Plus, it will be easier in the spring when you’re ready to put them back out.   So, here are some good tips on maintaining bird houses.

The most obvious thing to do is clean out all nesting material, droppings, bird feathers, etc. that may still be in the box.  This is best done right after the brood of birds leave.  Often you will need to scrub the box out with a brush and water.  I like to use a garden hose set on jet stream along with a stiff bristled brush.  You can also use a 10% bleach/90% water solution to disinfect the box if you’d like.  After thoroughly rinsing the box out, let it dry in the sun before storing it in the garage or basement.

In addition to cleaning, most nesting boxes will start showing signs of wear that need attention after several years outside.  By doing a little maintenance each year, you can extend the life of your houses.  Here are a few simple things you can do to keep nest boxes in tip-top shape:

   Tighten all screws that may have started to back out.  If nails were used to build the house, consider replacing some of them with galvanized or coated screws.  These hold the wood together better.
•   Dirt on the outside of the box can be scrubbed off and also sanded
•   If you find any holes from knots that fell out or woodpecker damage, fill them in with exterior grade putty or caulk.  You can probably even find colors that match the wood.
•   If the entrance hole has become rough at any point around the edge, use a round file or sandpaper to smooth it out.
   Extremely warped roofs should be replaced with new wood.
•   Make sure drainage holes or gaps in the bottom of the nest box have not become plugged.
   Cracks can be filled in with putty to prevent enlargement.  Cracks that have become too severe may require the piece of wood to be replaced.
•   You CAN stain or paint the exterior of the box to extend its life by using non-toxic, water based paints or stains.  However, do not apply these to the inside of the box.

That’s it.  Keeping your bird houses in good repair will help them last a lot longer and it’s better for the birds too.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology