Springtime is always met with a flurry of backyard birds feeding and looking for places to build their nests.
Watching nesting birds brings enjoyment to many of us, enticing us to purchase multiple bird- houses and strategically place them to watch not only nest-building techniques but also newly emerging babies.
What many birdwatchers may not know is, it is very important for birdhouses to be cleaned once or even multiple times per year. Let me explain why. Birds prefer and are attracted to clean homes, as are we.
If not cleaned properly, a birdhouse can host feather mites or bacteria, rodents may infest empty bird houses, fungi might develop and insects may invade. To keep conditions clean and safe for returning spring birds as well as year-round roosting, birdhouses should be cleaned regularly.
After birds have fledged from the nest, the birdhouse may be taken down and the old nest removed, along with any debris, and scrubbed with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. (Clean the outer surfaces and hanger as well). Then it should be rinsed with fresh water and sunned until dry and free from any bleach vapors. Then it is ready for another nesting cycle or as a roost once fall arrives.
Not all birdhouses are created equally. Cute, themed or cheap birdhouses are everywhere, but in order to make the cleaning process easier, there are a few features to look for when buying one:
Examine the house for a hinged panel or a roof that lifts off. This makes getting inside much easier. ( If you currently have a birdhouse with no way to get inside, you can always partially disassemble a panel and add a hinge for future cleanings.)
Also look for ventilation holes or slots near the top and drainage holes near the floor.
Another important feature for birdhouses is untreated wood.
Finally, look for a house with no perch, since that allows predators to have easier access to the nest inside.
Is it absolutely necessary to clean your birdhouses? Probably not.
But we all want healthy, happy birds, and providing them with a clean environment may encourage them to return year after year.
One other tidbit to increase your enjoyment: Acquire a backyard bird field guide and annotate all the species you observe each year. It will be fun to notice when new ones visit.
Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.