Having Empty Nest Syndrome? You’re not alone! Most UK garden birds will have definitely flown the nest by now. These past few months, we’ve witnessed bird families from eggs and nestlings to fledgling floofs, along with moulting parents in late summer. The bird box is now empty.
Although ..not really empty! What’s left behind in a nest box? Is it yukky? Can it stay in there? We know a bird box shouldn’t be touched if there’s a bird family in it – it’s illegal, as disturbing them can cause nest abandonment. So when can you open it up, and should you clean it?
Find out when it’s allowed to open your bird box and read these easy steps on how to clean it.
Is Cleaning A Bird Box Necessary?
Absolutely. In a nutshell: used up bird’s nests are kinda gross. There will be lots of fleas and other parasites living in there, happily doing their thing until a new nest of baby birds arrives in the spring. They’re sure to infest hatching young chicks, causing nestling disease and death.
In general, some eggs simply don’t hatch, and a few nestlings can die as well; this happens in the best of nests. Especially with smaller garden birds like great and blue tits. Early death can be caused by food shortage or cold weather, with only the strongest chicks surviving. Nests can be deserted if it is interfered with (so don’t come near it when it’s in use!) or when one of the parents dies. By nature, small birds can lay up to 12-14 eggs to allow for these losses.
When Can You Clean A Nest Box?
It’s autumn (yay!) – it’s time! From late September onwards you can start peeking into the bird box if you’re sure it’s empty. Make sure you don’t have any late nesters in there!
Autumn and winter may find some stray birds looking for a cosy place to roost, but they’ll be fine with humans meddling with the box during the day. They’d probably appreciate it if the old rubbish was taken out.
There may even be some unhatched eggs left in the box. If the nest is definitely old and long-abandoned, you should remove these eggs as well. In the UK, you can legally only dispose of unhatched eggs between September and January.
How To Clean Your Bird Box
All you need to clean your bird box are some screwdrivers, a water kettle, some scrubbing sponges or tissue ..and possibly a strong stomach, depending on what you might find in there.
Have a read through our step-by-step picture guide on how to open and clean your Green Feathers bird box, as demonstrated by our very own lovely Jethro.
Opening an abandoned bird box in autumn will show a used up bird's nest. Since it's completely natural that some baby birds die soon after birth, there's a chance you'll find some small nestling carcasses in the old nest.
You might find the odd dead spider in there as well!
Once the box is open, you may want to put the leftover nest in a separate box and gently tip it out somewhere safe in nature, in case there's a living spider nesting in there like our Sherman here, so the spider can stay in its cosy conquered crib or take its time to move along. (We wouldn't recommend keeping it indoors!!)
Clean your bird box thoroughly with boiling water, to make sure any remaining parasites are removed.
🌍Do not use flea powder or insecticides!🌍
It's really damaging to the planet and we need to act now to save what we have left.
These nasty chemicals are also highly toxic to any new birds visiting to stay the night or make a new nest in springtime. Just scrub it with boiling water, you know, old-school style.
There will be some scrubbing involved!
After cleaning, leave the dissembled bird box somewhere to dry fully.
Putting Your Bird Box Back Together
If you're sure the dissembled bird box is completely dry, it's time to put it back up again. Jethro will show you how to reassemble our DeLuxe handmade wooden bird box. He will also install one of our Green Feathers HD bird box cameras in it.
If you want to install a camera in your bird box so you can watch new birds arriving, you can start by attaching the bracket and camera to the panel.
It can be pretty shady inside any bird box. To get the clearest, full-colour images during the day, it is highly recommended to also install a tiny daylight led lamp in the bird box. It gives off a natural, soft light, only comes on during the day and uses its daylight sensor that hangs outside the box. It won't come on during the night so it won't disturb wildlife. Make sure to install it all *before* any new animals start nesting in the box!
Make sure the camera's cables (and the daylight led lamp cable) hang outside the bird box, in this case through the opening between the roof and side panel.
Camera and lamp attached? Did you check if the cap is taken off the camera lens?
Right on – time to screw the panels back on!
Add a small handful of fresh hay to give new birds a headstart.
The final panel and mounting brackets can now be screwed on.
Mount the bird box in a safe space. Discover the best (and worst) spots for hanging your bird box in this handy blog.
Connect your daylight led lamp and camera cables. Here's a good guide on how to install your bird box camera. You can also follow the manual that came with your camera, check the guides on our helpsite, or contact our friendly support team.
Make sure the cap is off your daytime light sensor!
And voilà; your bird box is hanging up – all clean and ready to be used by a new feathered family!
Looking to add a nice bird box or camera to your garden collection?
Check out some of our awesome products:
HD Bird Box Cameras
Classic Bird Box Cameras
Daylight LED Lamp
Bird Box Protection Cover Plate
Job's a good'un.
Happy autumn and happy cleaning!