Clean and Repair Birdhouses

Spring is rapidly approaching and some of the early nesting songbirds are starting to re-establish their territories. Now is the time to clean and inspect your birdhouses if you haven’t already done so. Even if you cleaned and inspected your birdhouse in the fall, it isn’t a bad idea to do another quick check. The house may have been used as a winter roost on colder nights or the house could have been damaged during the winter.

Simple, wooden birdhouses that are neutral in color, have an entrance hole that is the correct size, and that are easy to clean are best for the birds. Photo credit: didiop, cc0 

When you go to clean and/or inspect a birdhouse, stand to the side for a few minutes to watch and listen. Are there birds going in and out? Are there birds nearby who seem very perturbed that you are near the house? Do you hear anything inside? If the answer to all these questions is no, gently tap on the side of the house. Never stand directly in front of the entrance when you do this in case a startled bird comes zooming out.

Still don’t hear anything and no one scoots out the entrance? Then carefully open the birdhouse – usually one side of the roof or one of the walls is hinged so the house can be opened and cleaned, but this varies from one design to the next. Wearing gloves, take out the old nest if there is one. Scrape off any dried feces or wasp nests that might be stuck to the inside walls of the house. It is often recommended to wipe the inside of the house and entrance hole with a very mild bleach solution. If you do that, make sure to leave the house open and in the sun for several hours so that it can thoroughly dry and air out.

After you have cleaned the house, inspect it carefully. Is the wood still solid or is it beginning to rot? Do the hinges all work properly? Does everything still fit tightly together or are there gaps in the roof, between the walls, or in the floor? Are there any nails, screws, or splinters protruding on the inside or outside of the house? Has the entrance hole been enlarged by chewing or pecking critters? Make any necessary repairs or replace the house if it is beyond repair.

Once the house has been cleaned, dried, and repaired, it is time to sit back and wait for its new tenants to arrive. Enjoy!

This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology.

Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at

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