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How, Why & When to Clean Out Your Bird House

Adding the perfectly designed bird house to your garden is the best way to get an up-close and personal glimpse of nature. But the installation is just the beginning!

Since you are providing a safe haven in your backyard for the local birds, it's your responsibility to ensure it is kept clean at all times. After all, it's a dangerous world out there for these birds. So, let's do our best to give them someplace safe they can rely on.

This article will break down all of the basics of how, why, and when to clean out your bird house to ensure you are providing a healthy home all year round.

How to Clean Out Bird Houses

A crucial element of being an owner of a bird house is making sure it is thoroughly cleaned each year. While there is minimal maintenance between broods, it is still important to upkeep your bird house as best as you can to avoid any bacterial or fungal growth.

Even if you're pretty confident that a bird family did not use your bird house during the spring, you should still go through with the cleaning process to be on the safe side.

Protect Yourself

It's always a good idea to use a pair of gardening gloves or rubber dish-washing gloves anytime you handle old nest materials. Since nests can contain bacteria and mites, keeping your hands protected is in your best interest.

Between Broods

In between broods, the best way to clean out your birdhouse is to remove the old nest material and scrub down the interior with a stiff brush.

Check the entrance hole or open the roof carefully as you do not want to disrupt any eggs or other occupants of the box accidentally. You can use a putty knife, as needed, to scrape off any dried-on waste.

When removing old nesting material, one key thing to remember is to ensure you are disposing of it far away from the box. The scent from the old nest might end up attracting an unwanted predator, who will go searching for the bird house if it is nearby.

While the scent might still attract predators to search around, at least you can rest easy knowing your young bird family will be free from harm's way.

End of Season

When the nesting period ends, do a full-fledged deep cleaning of your beloved birdhouses. And be sure to use a sanitizing solution so no bacteria survive the cold, dormant months of the year.


While it is not always necessary between broods, you always want to complete your deep clean at the end of each season. Using hot soapy water or even a light bleach solution, give it a really good scrub.

Combing nine parts of water to one part bleach to help stop mold in its tracks—otherwise, standard, unscented dish soap and warm water work just fine. Always be careful to rinse multiple times to rid the box of cleaning solutions.

One particular area of your birdhouse you'll want to pay special attention to is the mesh lining at the base or any drainage holes. Give this portion a good soaking and scrubbing to remove any leftover, built-up residue.

Whichever cleaning solution you choose, make sure your bird house has been completely air dried before returning it to your garden.

When to Clean Bluebird Birdhouses

For bluebirds, in particular, nesting tends to wrap up in August. So that’s the best time to clean out birdhouses used by bluebirds. After all, you wouldn’t want to disrupt any feathered friends! 

Other Birdhouses

Depending on the nest in your birdhouse, you'll want to do some research to determine when the birds-in-residence should be done nesting. That way, you will never accidentally remove eggs from birdhouses.

Repeat Annually

As previously mentioned, you'll want to be sure to clean out your nest boxes on an annual basis. Once you get it cleaned out and dried, you'll be ready to go until the next year.

In the cold months of winter, birds prefer to use the birdhouse roost rather than nest, so you'll absolutely want to ensure it is thoroughly cleaned beforehand.

Thankfully, come March, your birds are likely to return to re-use your bird house for nesting. Be sure to set the stage for a successful spring and summer season for the birds by providing them with a freshly cleaned home.

Once everything has been cleaned out, you can inspect the house for any damages. Small cracks won't mess with the function of your birdhouse, but larger cracks might need addressing. You can fill large cracks with a wood sealant to help prevent moisture from entering.

Now is also a good time to check any screws or other mechanisms. Ensure all the screws are nice and tight, as they can loosen over the course of a year. While the birds won't notice a loose screw, it's still nice to ensure that you provide them with a safe habitat.

Keeping your birdhouse clean will not only keep birds returning and healthy but will help to preserve the longevity of your birdhouse as well.

Why It's Important to Clean Out Bird Houses

large white birdhouse

Research shows that some species of birds are more likely to nest in a pre-existing nest. While you might think leaving old nests in your bird house is the best option to encourage a plentiful nesting season, this couldn't be further from the truth.

The reason it's important to clean out birdhouses because bacteria can easily accumulate in the nesting material or food brought to hatchling from parent birds. Properly cleaning your birdhouse will ensure that you do not get birds sick.

Although parent birds are good about keeping their house clean and removing waste residue as it accumulates, there is still inevitably going to be leftover matter in the birdhouse.

You may also be interested in our "How To Clean A Hummingbird Feeder" article.

Removing Old Nesting Material

Old nests are the perfect breeding ground for different parasites and bacteria. As such, it is a good idea to remove the nests as soon as you are able.

Since most nests are made from dried grass, straw, and other perishable materials, they can begin rotting within the house when it gets damp. Even further, if the birdhouse itself is wood, the house can begin rotting from the moisture.

When to Clean Out Bird Houses

Since you want to be careful not to disrupt any baby birds still bound to the nest, figuring out when to clean out your birdhouse can be tricky. You'll want to wait until you notice that the young birds have left for the nesting season before removing it.

Be careful when removing the house from the tree or post it is secured on. You'll also want to clean any residual waste (you know, bird poop) from the surrounding area.

Shop the Happy Gardens Store for Bird Houses


If you need the perfect birdhouse, the Happy Gardens store is the one-stop shop for you.

Shop through our online collection, where you can find a wide assortment of artistically constructed garden decor and merchandise to fill any outdoor space. All of our pieces have been handcrafted and selected with love on our site.

Stay up to date with the latest and greatest at Happy Gardens by joining our mailing list. If you're looking to add some garden inspiration tips and tricks to your newsfeed, follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.

Don't worry if you're not quite sure where to start. We've got you covered. If you require assistance in selecting the quintessential birdhouse for your garden, reach out to us via chat. We're happy to help!

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