It’s a wistful moment when your backyard birds — like these Black-capped Chickadees — depart their nestboxes. By October, it’s time for one last duty as nestbox landlord: to clean it out. Cleaning will reduce the incidence of parasites in the box and make it more inviting to next spring’s tenants. It will also help you know for sure if it gets used again. Watch a video about how to clean a nestbox in Related Resources below.
Never miss an episode of BirdNote by subscribing to our podcast. Just search for “BirdNote” in your podcast app.
October Nest Box Cleaning
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
[Song of an Eastern Bluebird]
It’s a wistful moment when your backyard swallows or bluebirds depart each fall — like the Tree Swallows we’re hearing now [Tree Swallow song]. Still, it’s a comfort to know you provided a nestbox for them to raise their young. The nestbox served the birds well. [Eastern Bluebird song]
But by October, it’s time for one last duty: to clean it out.
Cleaning will reduce the incidence of parasites in the box and will make it more inviting to next spring’s potential tenants. It will also help you know for sure if it gets used again. [Eastern Bluebird song]
Some experts* recommend removing old nests into a plastic bag for disposal. Use gloves and a dust mask to avoid exposure to any avian diseases. Use a stiff brush or scraping tool to further clean the interior. Some people opt to disinfect the box with hot soapy water or even a mild bleach solution**.
A grubby bit of work perhaps, but you’ll be glad when, next spring, those avian gems, like the Eastern Bluebirds, grace your landscape once again. [Eastern Bluebird song]
See a video about how to clean a nestbox when you come to our website birdnote.org.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Eastern Bluebird song  recorded by W.L. Hershberger; song of Tree Swallow  recorded by W.L. Hershberger
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org October 2013/2017/2019/2021 Narrator: Mary McCann
* e.g. the Bluebird organization, Sialis http://www.sialis.org/clean.htm provides many details about how and why of cleaning nest boxes
** no more than one part bleach to nine parts water, please - and rinse thoroughly