Welcome to my Bird Blog!

Welcome to all my fellow bird lovers and gardeners! I'm so glad you stopped by.

Migratory bird populations have taken a nose dive in the past 40 years. But you can help bring their numbers back by creating beneficial, beautiful and fun habitats in your own backyard. Discover favorite plants and environments that shelter and feed colorful songbirds, as well as how to make them feel welcome by offering their preferred natural foods.

Grandma Pearl
(Connie Smith)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are Your Bird Houses Ready for Fall and Winter?

One of my bird houses that holds at least one bird family every year!
by Grandma Pearl

You purchased a sturdy, well-ventilated bird house, and mounted it so birds could easily move in and start raising a family.  Good for you!  There, your job is done, right?  Uh, No. . .as a caretaker for your songbird families, another responsibility comes with the territory.  Maintaining bird houses so they provide a clean, healthy and safe environment for your feathered friends is a major priority!

Have you looked inside your bird houses lately?  Chances are old nests, dirt etc. need to be removed before you can either store or re-hang your nest boxes.  It’s a simple but necessary process in order to ensure your next generation of backyard birds will have the healthiest start possible.

I cleaned out this bird house and made it ready for re-hanging in just about 5 minutes!
by Grandma Pearl

This bird house is in need of cleaning!  Here are the easy steps to get your bird house ready for re-hanging or storage for the fall and winter:

What you will need:
  • Several thick layers of newspaper
  • Plastic garbage bag that can be securely closed
  • Garden or plastic gloves with no holes
  • A small bucket or water pitcher  (dedicate this to your bird house cleaning only)
  • Warm water
  • Household bleach
  • Screwdriver (for opening ‘clean out’ access door)
  • Small scrub brush or wire brush
  • Large paper bag or plastic bag for storing the clean bird house

Additional Items you might need:
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • sandpaper

  1. Spread out several thicknesses of newspaper onto a flat surface outdoors.  Open up the bird house ‘clean out’ and remove any nesting material, dirt, debris, etc., collecting all of it on the newspapers.   If there is no clean out, you can shake your birdhouse over the papers until nothing more comes out.  If necessary, use a stiff but flexible length of wire to dislodge any leftover nesting materials, and then shake and dump.    
  2. Gather up the newspapers and put them into a plastic garbage bag; close the top of the bag securely.  If there has been a nest mite infestation, you don’t want any of those nasty tiny parasites to have a chance to multiply in the environment!  By the way, adult mites are no bigger than this dot [.]
  3. Mix up a solution of 1 part of bleach and 10 parts of clear water.  I have a dedicated old pitcher with a spout that works well for this, especially if there is no clean out or easy access to the inside of the bird house.  Pour this warm water/bleach solution into the bird house a little at a time.  Move the liquid around and dump it out where it will not harm plants, animals or humans.  Repeat a couple more times and then follow with clean, plain warm water.  
  4. If your bird house has an accessible clean out, you can use a wire brush to scrub the inside with the bleach/water solution, then rinse out thoroughly several times.  It should not smell of bleach when it is completely dry.  If you can smell bleach, then you need to rinse until that odor disappears.  
  5. On another thickness of newspapers, leave your bird house outside in the sunshine and wind to dry thoroughly.  This might take a day or two, depending upon the amount of humidity in your area.  So watch the weather forecast!
  6. This is a good time to make sure any nails or screws are tight, and replace any that are missing.  Ensure there are no splinters or broken pieces that might harm adults or young birds.  If necessary, use sandpaper to smooth any rough spots, especially at the entrance hole.
  7. I like to wrap my dry bird houses with plain brown paper, or place the house into a paper bag.  Close the bag tightly so that no insects can enter.  Store in a dry place on a shelf in your garage or shed. 

All this may seem like a major hassle that you can skip, but it is vitally important that you keep your bird houses clean and parasite free for the next generation of birds.  The bleach/water mixture kills bacteria from old droppings, and diseases carried by lice, fleas, ticks and other parasites, as well as the tiny critters and their eggs; all of which can pose a very real risk to nestlings.
Some birds will even pass up a bird house if it has debris or old nesting material inside.   It really doesn’t take that long to mix up a bucket of life-saving bleach/water.  Just make sure you use the proper proportions of 1 part bleach to 10 parts of water, and rinse thoroughly.

Spraying chemicals inside a nest box could potentially harm or even kill nestlings.  Using harmful pesticides on the outside of the box may also pose a threat to adult as well as fledgling birds.
Don’t assume if you live in a northern climate that these tiny critters will freeze!  Nest mites can survive from -4 degrees to +125 degrees Fahrenheit.  Their detrimental effects on tiny birds, as well as adults, can range from minor itching irritation, to anemia and/or a severely compromised immune system; which can lead to death.

Remember, baby birds are helpless to fight off pesky critters that might be hiding in old nesting material.  It often happens that insect and parasite infestations in bird houses actually kill baby birds before they ever have a chance to open their eyes!  It’s up to you to become a vigilant caretaker ensuring your young feathered aviators survive and thrive.
Grandma Pearl

Optimal Placement of Bird Houses Around Your Yard and Garden

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