Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

When to Clean Out Birdhouses (and When Not To!)

Last Updated on

hand inside the birdhouse

To ensure birdhouses are family-ready, you must clean out the birdhouse before the breeding season starts and after it ends. For most locations, this means birdhouses should be cleaned in September and early March, though exact times will differ on location and species.

There’s a lot more to know about when and how to clean out birdhouses. Keep reading for a comprehensive look at cleaning out the birdhouses on your property, or click below to jump directly to our easy how-to guide:

owl divider 2

Are You Supposed to Clean Out Birdhouses Each Year?

Yes. It is a must for birdhouses to be cleaned out each year. In fact, it’s best for birdhouses to be cleaned out twice a year. Deep cleaning birdhouses twice a year ensures that the birdhouse is free from pests and bacteria that may harm the birds and hatchlings.

Think about your own home. How often do you have to clean it? Probably every day. Birdhouses don’t get cleaned out every day, but feces, insects, feathers, and other debris will be left inside the birdhouse once the birds leave. These items create a breeding ground for ectoparasites that will feed on birds and hatchlings.

Some species are pretty good at controlling ectoparasites for themselves. Wrens, for example, effectively clean their own homes and remove parasites. Other species are not as good at doing so, such as Bluebirds. Since it can be difficult to predict which birds are most effective at removing parasites, it’s best to deep clean birdhouses at least twice a year.

Cleaning a birdhouse
Image Credit: theapflueger, Shutterstock

Should Birdhouses be Cleaned Out Before Winter?

Yes. You should clean out your birdhouses before winter, ideally after the last brood has flown the coop. In most locations, the breeding season will end around September. In some climates, the breeding season may end sooner or later.

In either case, try to clean out the birdhouses before winter. Cleaning out the birdhouses ensures that you aren’t left with a disgusting mess that builds up over months. Cleaning the birdhouse also prevents pests and parasites from finding the debris and making the birdhouse their home in the winter.

Whenever you are cleaning out the birdhouse before winter, make sure that there are no hatchlings left in the nest. If you see the mother still flying to the nest and taking care of her young, let the nest be and don’t clean it yet. Only clean it out once the last brood has officially left the birdhouse.

Should Birdhouses Be Cleaned Out Before Spring?

Just as you should clean the birdhouses out before winter, you should clean them out before spring as well. Spring is whenever birds will find birdhouses and start nesting. Cleaning out the birdhouses before spring ensures that any pests or unwelcome visitors are cleaned out before the birds arrive.

person cleaning the birdhouse
Image Credit: Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz, Shutterstock

When Should I Clean Out Birdhouses?

There are two times when you should clean out the birdhouse throughout the year: before the breeding season starts and after it ends. Roughly speaking, you should clean out the birdhouses before spring and before winter to keep your birdhouses clean and safe for the bird families.

It can be difficult to estimate the best time to clean out birdhouses. The species in your area and your local temperature will largely determine the breeding season. In most locations, the breeding season falls between March and August. If you live in an area like this, you should clean the birdhouses out at the end of February and the beginning or end of September.

This timeframe doesn’t work for all locations. If you live in a warm environment, the breeding season may be longer. For example, some species begin the process of nesting as early as December. Likewise, some year-round species stay in their birdhouses year-round, making it next to impossible to clean out the birdhouses consistently.

What this means is that the most effective way of figuring out a time to clean out your birdhouse is to consider the species and area of your specific birdhouse. Considering these two factors will give you a more definite estimation of when you should clean out the homes.

How to Clean Out Birdhouses

Knowing when to clean out the birdhouse is only half the battle. You also have to know how to do it. To clean out birdhouses, make sure that you wear protective gear, including gloves, long sleeves, goggles, and a mask. This gear will help protect you in case of pests and germs.

Once you are prepared, it’s time to start cleaning out the birdhouse. Here are the steps you need to take to thoroughly disinfect the birdhouse for future families:

  1. Open the birdhouse.
  2. Remove all nesting material, feces, and clung matter from the home. Put the material straight into a plastic bag to be properly disposed of.
  3. Make a cleaning solution of one part chlorine bleach and nine parts warm water.
  4. Scrub the birdhouse using your solution and a toothbrush. Scrub all the corners, entrance areas, and holes.
  5. Rinse the home with warm water several times to ensure all the chemicals are removed.
  6. Allow the home to dry in the sun for several hours.
  7. Inspect the home for any damage and fix any that you see.
  8. Reassemble the home and put it back in place.


Once again, you should clean out birdhouses before nesting and after the season ends. This cleaning routine will ensure that the birdhouses are in peak condition for the environment and birdies.

Before you get to cleaning, check the breeding season in your area. If you see any eggs or birds in the nest, leave the nest be. If everything is all clear, gear up and get to cleaning!

Featured Image Credit: Beekeepx, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.