Cleaning Nest Boxes

A reader has recently asked me ‘
Should I clean out the old nesting materials from the nest box, or just leave it,

The answer is that it is best to clean nest boxes out  This is sometimes not a nice job, but it is an important job. 

  • There may be fleas and parasites inside the box that would infect healthy birds that fly into the nest or, next year could  infect  the chicks that hatch in the box in 2010. 
  • Nest boxes can be important in winter.  Nest boxes are used by birds on winter nights to roost in.  Some nest boxes  have quite a few birds in one box, so it is important to keep the nest box clean and parasite free, as this will help keep birds healthy.
  • After cleaning you should not use disinfectant or flea powders, but  –
  • You can buy special nest box spray.  I use boiling hot water to clean them and then leave them to dry naturally
  • A little amount of wood shavings or hay (not straw) can be put in the bottom of the nest box after it has been cleaned.
  • It is a good idea to wear gloves as it can be a messy job and I heard of someone who found a wasp in the nest box!

It is easier if you have a nest box that opens up.  We did not realise this when we bought our first nest box.  Now,  if I am thinking about buying a nest box I always look to see how it opens.

How you clean the nest box depends on

  • how accessible the nest box is
  • If you can take the nest box down
  • If the nest box opens up.

We manage to take our nest boxes down, but I don’t do it on my own – I get help to get the nest boxes down. 

 I get a pair of old washing up gloves, plenty of hot water and some sort of scrubbing brush / cloth.

It is a good ides to do it now as when the really old weather comes birds may be using the empty nest box to roost and in cleaning the nest box out then would disturb them. 

Birds need shelter from wind, rain, snow and freezing weather – winters can be long and hard for birds.  Some birds stay for 16 hours a day in their roost – which could be the nest box that you bought.

Please get in touch if you have any top tips or have any questions.  Looking after birds is like having pets sometimes isn’t it?

1 thought on “Cleaning Nest Boxes

  1. garth lowe

    As well my garden nest boxes, I look after a nestbox scheme in a nearby nature reserve, where I sometimes find a pile of dry leaves on top of the old nest at various times of the year. A tip if you come across this is to use a long twig to prod the nest before diving into it to take out the leaves and old nest. The reason for this is woodmice like them as homes too, and can nip fingers if present! occasionally there can be more than one in the box. In the autumn I once found the neat little round nest of a dormouse, that had built it on top of a completed blue tits nest. this was a good record for our reserve in west worcestershire, as no one had seen a dormouse for some time. They are always in very small numbers in suitable woodland and hard to prove their presence.

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