Now’s The Time To Clean Up Bluebird Boxes, Other Birdhouses

Late fall is perfect for removing old nest material from bluebird boxes and performing general maintenance to prepare birdhouses for spring.

After successfully hosting a pair of bluebirds and their multiple broods, my bluebird nest box needed some TLC. In the video below, you’ll see the steps I’ve taken to ready the box for the birds’ return this spring. (And you’ll get a glimpse of last spring’s feathered guests!)

Interestingly, soon after I put away my ladder and tools, some area bluebirds materialized. A male displayed himself atop the roof and even popped inside the house for a time. Turns out, bluebirds sometimes do this in late fall.

They’re not actively mating. Instead, they may just be strengthening their pair-bond and doing some early house-hunting. They may also be looking for potential winter shelter.

Read more: Interested in building a bluebird box of your own? Here’s how!

Tools & Tips

Have your own bluebird boxes or other types of birdhouses to maintain? At minimum, you’ll need a clean, stiff-bristled brush, some dried grass or similar material and a screwdriver. (If you’re short like I am, you might need a ladder, too.)

You might also want some new paint, stain or water sealant and paint brushes, masking tape or plastic.

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To spruce up my nest box, I used a Philips screwdriver to open the clean-out door. Then, I removed and discarded all of last season’s nesting material. (Since old nests can harbor insects and pathogens, I like to give the birds a fresh start.)

With a dry wire brush, I scraped out the remaining nesting material. I paid special attention to nooks and crannies around the inside bottom of the box.

(It isn’t necessary to use water or disinfectant when cleaning out bluebird boxes.)

Read more: Want more wildlife on your farm? Windbreaks attract all manner of native species.

Finishing Touches

My bluebird house sits on top of a tall metal post—the paint on which had started to flake. So, I scraped away the loose paint and touched things up with a bit of spray paint. (I used a large plastic bag to protect the birdhouse itself from errant spray.)

And, although it originally sported a coat of water sealant, the nest box also clearly needed a touch-up. I applied extra water sealant to the outside of the box, taking care to avoid the box’s interior.

Next, I added a couple inches of dry pine needles inside the bottom of the nesting area. This will provide a head-start in spring, but it also helps to insulate the compartment during winter. (Birds sometimes hunker down in nest boxes during especially harsh winter weather.)

Finally, I screwed the clean-out door shut to guard against predators.

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