Keeping our feathered friends happy and healthy

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Another summer is at a close, most songbirds are finished nesting and raising young and now is a good time of year to do a bit of house cleaning for the birds, our feathered friends.

If you are a bird enthusiast you no doubt have a feeder or two and at least one birdhouse for nesting in your yard. While we are all aware of the need to keep the feeders and birdbaths clean throughout the year sometimes the birdhouses are neglected. Due to the fact that they are usually continually occupied during the busy breeding season and not wanting to disturb the newly hatched birds, most people just assume that the birds will take care to clean the nest when needed. Fact is most do not.

In temperate regions like ours, multiple cleanings during the nesting season may be required to ensure optimal health of the birds. Blue birds in particular will build a nest on top of an old nest, on top of an even older nest if they are fond of a certain box. So if I notice a lot of continual consecutive nesting and brooding activity in one box, I will make an effort during the season to clean it between families.

Making sure that nesting boxes are clean in the spring for the start of the season is especially important. However, I like to clean them at the end of the nesting season in autumn also. This ensures a clean environment for shelter that many birds might need to take advantage of during a harsh winter.

Keeping birdhouses clean and free of rodents, insects, feather mites, fungus and bacteria is crucial to keeping our feathered friends disease free.

It is very easy to clean a birdhouse. First make sure there are no inhabitants in the house. If you cannot see clearly through the entrance hole, gently tap on the side of the box and listen for any rustling noise or low chirps from young fledglings that may be in there. If all is clear disassemble the house if possible and remove all old nesting materials and any clumped up matter present. Next scrub all surfaces thoroughly with a weak bleach and water solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water.) Then rinse well with clean water to remove all traces of the cleaning solution and let dry in full sun for at least a few hours, until completely dry. When all pieces are dry reassemble your birdhouse taking care to make sure there are no protruding sharp edges or hardware present that may injure the birds.

If your birdhouse cannot be disassembled, do the best you can to remove old nesting material and debris from the house. I would discourage the use of these types of houses due to the simple fact that they cannot be properly cleaned.

Proper care and maintenance of your birdhouse will ensure many enjoyable seasons of bird watching and happy healthy birds.

Dawn Conrad can be reached at conrad. gardenmuse@gmail. com or gardenmuse.