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Cleaning Your Bird Box

Cleaning Your Bird Box

Having Empty Nest Syndrome? You’re not alone! Most UK garden birds will have definitely flown the nest by now. These past few months, we’ve witnessed bird families from eggs and nestlings to fledgling floofs, along with moulting parents in late summer. The bird box is now empty. 

Although ..not really empty! What’s left behind in a nest box? Is it yukky? Can it stay in there? We know a bird box shouldn’t be touched if there’s a bird family in it – it’s illegal, as disturbing them can cause nest abandonment. So when can you open it up, and should you clean it? 

Find out when it’s allowed to open your bird box and read these easy steps on how to clean it. 

Is Cleaning A Bird Box Necessary?

Absolutely. In a nutshell: used up bird’s nests are kinda gross. There will be lots of fleas and other parasites living in there, happily doing their thing until a new nest of baby birds arrives in the spring. They’re sure to infest hatching young chicks, causing nestling disease and death. 

Cleaning a bird box

In general, some eggs simply don’t hatch, and a few nestlings can die as well; this happens in the best of nests. Especially with smaller garden birds like great and blue tits. Early death can be caused by food shortage or cold weather, with only the strongest chicks surviving. Nests can be deserted if it is interfered with (so don’t come near it when it’s in use!) or when one of the parents dies. By nature, small birds can lay up to 12-14 eggs to allow for these losses. 

When Can You Clean A Nest Box?

It’s autumn (yay!) – it’s time! From late September onwards you can start peeking into the bird box if you’re sure it’s empty. Make sure you don’t have any late nesters in there!

Autumn and winter may find some stray birds looking for a cosy place to roost, but they’ll be fine with humans meddling with the box during the day. They’d probably appreciate it if the old rubbish was taken out. 

There may even be some unhatched eggs left in the box. If the nest is definitely old and long-abandoned, you should remove these eggs as well. In the UK, you can legally only dispose of unhatched eggs between September and January. 

How To Clean Your Bird Box 

All you need to clean your bird box are some screwdrivers, a water kettle, some scrubbing sponges or tissue ..and possibly a strong stomach, depending on what you might find in there. 

Have a read through our step-by-step picture guide on how to open and clean your Green Feathers bird box, as demonstrated by our very own lovely Jethro. 

Taking down a bird box Taking down our bird box

 Opening a nest box An old bird's nest 
Opening an abandoned bird box in autumn will show a used up bird's nest. Since it's completely natural that some baby birds die soon after birth, there's a chance you'll find some small nestling carcasses in the old nest. 

nest box spider
You might find the odd dead spider in there as well! 

what to do with an old bird's nest autumn spider
Once the box is open, you may want to put the leftover nest in a separate box and gently tip it out somewhere safe in nature, in case there's a living spider nesting in there like our Sherman here, so the spider can stay in its cosy conquered crib or take its time to move along. (We wouldn't recommend keeping it indoors!!) 

Clean a bird nest box Clean a bird box with boiling water
Clean your bird box thoroughly with boiling water, to make sure any remaining parasites are removed. 

🌍Do not use flea powder or insecticides!🌍
It's really damaging to the planet and we need to act now to save what we have left. These nasty chemicals are also highly toxic to any new birds visiting to stay the night or make a new nest in springtime. Just scrub it with boiling water, you know, old-school style.

Clean nest box Clean bird box
There will be some scrubbing involved! After cleaning, leave the dissembled bird box somewhere to dry fully. 

Putting Your Bird Box Back Together 

If you're sure the dissembled bird box is completely dry, it's time to put it back up again. Jethro will show you how to reassemble our handmade wooden bird box. He will also install one of our HD bird box cameras in it.

 hoe to install a bird box camera  bird nest box with nest box camera
If you want to install a camera in your bird box so you can watch new birds arriving, you can start by attaching the bracket and camera to the panel.

daylight lamp for bird box nest box daylight led lamp
It can be pretty shady inside any bird box. To get the clearest, full-colour images during the day, it is highly recommended to also install a tiny daylight led lamp in the bird box. It gives off a natural, soft light, only comes on during the day and uses its daylight sensor that hangs outside the box. It won't come on during the night so it won't disturb wildlife. Make sure to install it all *before* any new animals start nesting in the box! 

bird box and camera
Make sure the camera's cables (and the daylight led lamp cable) hang outside the bird box, in this case through the opening between the roof and side panel. 

bird box assembly
Camera and lamp attached? Did you check if the cap is taken off the camera lens? Right on – time to screw the panels back on! 

Hay for next box
Add a small handful of fresh hay to give new birds a head start. 

bird nesting box  wooden bird box
The final panel and mounting brackets can now be screwed on. 

mounting a bird box
Mount the bird box in a safe space. Discover the best (and worst) spots for hanging your bird box in this handy blog

installing a bird box camera
Connect your daylight led lamp and camera cables. Here's a good guide on how to install your bird box camera. You can also follow the manual that came with your camera, check the guides on our helpsite, or contact our friendly support team

bird box installation
Make sure the cap is off your daytime light sensor! 

Best bird box

And voilà; your bird box is hanging up – all clean and ready to be used by a new feathered family! 

Handy Products

Looking to add a nice bird box or camera to your garden collection? Check out some of our awesome products: 

Wildlife Habitats

HD Bird Box Cameras

Classic Bird Box Cameras

Nesting Material

Daylight LED Lamp

Bird Box Protection Cover Plate

birding nesting box

Job's a good'un. Happy autumn and happy cleaning! 

1 comment on Cleaning Your Bird Box
  • Donna Tracey
    Donna Tracey

    Our hatchlings died Sunday night, probably due to the sudden drop in temperature. Do I clean the box out in the coming days or should o wait until later in the year?

    August 05, 2020
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