Mar 31, 2021 | Featured Web Article

Readers Ask: Should I Clean Out Last Year's Nest Box?

Should you clean out an old nest? This is a topic of some debate among nest box researchers. See what our editors recommend.

This is a topic of some debate among nest box researchers. Messy, dropping-covered old nests should definitely be removed for health reasons. Some researchers believe that a bit of nesting material inside a box enhances its attractiveness to prospecting pairs of birds. Others claim that nest building is an important part of the courtship and breeding process and so we should allow our tenants to build their own nests. We split the difference on our boxes. If the old nest is clean and well built, we leave the nest. More commonly, however, if the nest is soiled or even a little bit gross, we remove it, brush out the box to remove bug bits, poop, and discarded feathers and feather sheaths, rinse with a weak bleach solution, air dry, and let the birds start from scratch. Is it really necessary to do this? After all, natural cavities don't get scrubbed out each spring. That's true, but an empty nest box is more likely to attract a tenant than one that's full of crud, and the box will be a clean and healthy space.

What do you think? Tell us!

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  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021
  • This breaks my heart. God strengthen your spirit and comfort your heart.I am fortunate to be taking a vacation next month, hopefully before sky high inflation hits and I can no longer afford it.
    by Ironweeds, Fri, 27 Aug 2021
  • What is emptying my jelly feeder overnight.
    by Gary Vandervest, Wed, 25 Aug 2021
  • Thank you, Dawn. I'm close enough to Ohio (Ann Arbor, Michigan) that I went ahead and took my tubes down and scoured clean all my bird baths. I won't put up my tubes this winter, just my trays and safflower only just to keep the bullies away for a while.
    by Pat Moore, Mon, 09 Aug 2021