How to clean a bird nestbox for Spring

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Having nesting birds in your garden is a joyful thing. One of our favourite sounds in the Spring is the constant cheeping of baby Blue Tits in the garden. The best way to attract nesting birds is by putting up a nestbox. There are a variety of them online, but if you have tits and sparrows choose nestboxes with the appropriate hole in the front.

Green&Blue Nestbox
Green&Blue Nestbox

One of our favourites is the Nestbox from Green&Blue

The nests of most birds harbour fleas and other parasites, which can remain and infest young birds that hatch the following year. Some birds will even return to the same nest each year – so make sure you keep them clean and ready for their next brood.

Cleaning & Maintaining

National nestbox week is just around the corner, this year it is 14th – 21st February 2020. It’s a great time to get new nestboxes up around the garden, but it’s also a good time to do a spring clean.

Remove old nests from boxes. This can be done between September and the end of January. It’s a wise idea to wear gloves and a dust mask while you’re doing it. And don’t hang on to any unhatched eggs – simply dispose of them with the nest.

Old nests can be recycled in your compost bin. A stiff bristled brush, such as an old toothbrush, is a useful tool for removing hardened debris from the box corners. We use a vegetable brush to clean ours and it works a treat!

Use boiling water to kill any remaining parasites, and let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the lid. Insecticides and flea powders must not be used.

If you place a small handful of clean hay or wood shavings (not straw) in the box once it is thoroughly dry after cleaning, small mammals may hibernate there, or birds may use it as a roost site.

After the nesting Season

You can start your clean-up of nestboxes after the breeding season. For tits you can start cleaning operations as soon as breeding is over; but bear in mind that other hole-nesting species like Sparrows may have a second or third brood in the same nest. Leave them alone until later in the autumn when it’s certain they are no longer in use.

We suggest that starting in late September will give birds optimal time to breed and raise several broods. But keep a watchful eye on the nestboxes and make sure once they’ve been cleaned you put them back up again for roosting birds in Winter.

Will birds use my nestbox

We get asked this alot and it’s really hard to give an answer other than, maybe! If the box is in place before breeding season, is nice and clean and ready for the birds there isn’t a reason why it shouldn’t get used.

Keep in mind though, some birds will build nests and then abandon them. There’s lots of reasons for this; some come down to predators sniffing around but it could also be the weather. Sometimes a cold snap comes in quickly and birds find it hard to continue to build their nests and find a good food supply. Baby birds in the nest might not survive if the weather and food is not optimal for them.

We always suggest along with nestboxes that you keep your garden topped up with good food and water for the birds too. Try also planting bushes, shrubs and trees to make your garden a haven for wildlife. The more you give a home for nature, the more chance of them visiting you.

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