In times of urban development, creating an outdoor space that encourages wildlife and garden birds is a lovely way to give something back to the natural world. Gardening on a big or small scale can also help to reduce your own feelings of stress and anxiety and increase wellbeing.
An easy addition to make is to add a bird box somewhere. If possible, this would be best suited to a north facing fence or wall so that it doesn’t overheat in the height of summer.
Having a bird box brings responsibility as well though. It mustn’t be disturbed during nesting season, and it should be cleaned every winter.
Cleaning a bird box is a vital winter garden task for two key reasons:
- An old nest might be covered in parasites or fleas, have unhatched eggs or even dead chicks from last year. This can be hazardous to any new nests, so all needs removing.
- A clean and fresh box will not only be healthy but may also encourage birds to your garden, and if installed sensibly can create a safe nesting environment for them away from the hazards of modern life.
But when and how should you go about cleaning out your bird box?
The ‘when’ is the most important. You can legally remove unhatched eggs out of the breeding season, so end of September through to mid-January. If birds are nesting you must not interfere with the box, and it’s worth remembering that if birds nest early they may come back again slightly later in the summer.
The time that I aim for is around Christmas and New Year, more for a reminder to myself that it needs to be done than because this is a golden period. The timing does seem to work though.
The ‘how’ comes next. The bird box that we have flips open for easy removal of the nest, we just have to take out a screw and pull the front of the box upwards. You may find that yours also has a screw, or you may need to pull out a couple of nails. Do the best you can without damaging the box, you don’t want a nest full of babies to end up on your patio or lawn because it became unstable during this process.
Once you have opened it as much as you can, remove the old nest and pour boiling water over the entirety of the bird box. This will kill any parasites or fleas that may have infested it.
Wait until the box is fully dry, then carefully put it back together and return it to its garden spot.
With luck, come late winter or early spring your garden visitors will be back and making it their home again.
If you want to attract even more creatures to your outdoor space, you might like to take a look at how we created a wildlife garden.