Did you get any "renters" this summer? If your backyard birdhouse attracted wrens, bluebirds or some other cavity nesters, one thing you’ll want to do before the snow flies is clear out the nesting material and give the structure a good scrubbing.

Why should you clean out a nest box?

A nest box can easily become a home for other critters. Mites, lice and other parasites can lay eggs there. Old nests can also create a cozy habitat for mice and other vermin. By cleaning out the nest box at the end of the season, you can keep unwanted guests to a minimum and your birdhouse will stay in good condition for years.

When is the best time to clean out a nest box?

Right after breeding season is through is the best time to clean out a nest box. Some cavity nesters will reuse the box to raise a second brood during breeding season, so it’s best to wait until you’re sure that your nesting pair is through with the site.

Once the babies fledge, they won’t be returning to the nest box as a home base. They’ll sleep in trees and bushes. While adult birds sometimes use nesting boxes as a shelter from the elements, they won’t use the box as a permanent residence. Like any nest, a nest box is used primarily for incubating eggs and housing hatchlings.

How to clean out a nest box

  • Wear gloves to protect yourself against bites and bacteria.
  • Remove the nesting box from its hanging place.
  • Open the nesting box — you might need tools to remove the top lid or a panel to access the interior — and pull out all material that’s still inside, and discard it.
  • Scape out any mud, feces or other dried-on material stuck to the floor or walls.
  • Wash the entire unit in a bleach solution made of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Use a nylon brush to scrub away any caked-on bits.
  • Rinse in warm water, allow to air dry and reassemble.

So what's next? You can return it to its place for the winter, so birds can use it as a warming house. Some homeowners choose to put away their nest box for the winter to protect it from the elements and to keep away any mice and other unwanted pests in search of shelter.

Keeping a nest box clean is a great way to support the birds in your neighborhood.

While you're at it, top off your feeding station with Lyric Delite No Waste Mix. We chose tasty seeds and nuts that birds love to eat. But we also removed the hulls so you have all the enjoyment without the mess. Pick up a bag today!