Nesting Box 202: How to Place and Maintain your Bird Houses
When considering placing a new nesting box in your yard, it’s helpful to think about your responsibilities. It’s fun to think about hosting a brood of birds during nesting time, but what do we need to do to try to make sure that the birds are successful?
First, make sure the box you choose has an easy way to open it to monitor young and also to clean it after nesting time is done. Some boxes have front doors that flip up, some have hinged sides, some have bottoms that are easily removed. This is essential to the success of the adult and young birds.
Second, it’s always better to place a box on a pole or a post. Birds, eggs and nestlings are vulnerable to predation by raccoons and other omnivores, so mounting your box on a tree or a fence is an invitation to these tree climbers. Placing a baffle under your box is a good idea, and can be achieved on a pole or post. By choosing a pole or post, you can place your box in the ideal location in your yard or garden, usually a spot where you can see it, or perhaps the focal point of a perennial garden. If you choose to bring your nesting box in for the off-season, it’s easy to pull the pole up and bring it into the garage.
As for location, experts say that east facing is best, for capturing morning sun. If that’s not quite achievable in your yard, south is good too. We have some very able bodied guys here at the shop who would love to stop by and help you put your nesting box out in your yard. Cost is reasonable, call to ask.
Our Cylindrical Pole Mount Squirrel Baffle is a perfect fit for our Universal Pole Kit. The pole is 5 pieces of round metal tubing that fit together to make a 6′ pole. Push the bottom section into the ground, and the nesting box mounts to the top section with a flange. That places your bird house at the perfect 5′ off the ground. The birds will like it and that’s also super easy for you to monitor and maintain.
Would you rather use a post? Our 4×4 Post Mount Squirrel Baffle will fit any 4″x4″ cedar or PVC post. Buy a 7′ post and install it about 1.5′ into the ground with sakrete, mount the squirrel baffle on the post, then your nesting box on the top of the post. This will place your bird house at about 5.5′ off the ground, ideal for being able to reach up and clean it out after nesting is done.
Now that you know how to mount your box, what about maintenance? Whether your box is painted or plain wood, you’ll need to have an easy way to get into the box each and every time birds fledge or leave the nest. Once fledglings leave the nest, they do not return to it. They stay in the woods with their parents, who continue to feed them for several weeks.
Eastern Bluebirds may nest up to 3 times in a season (in CT that’s April through June), so you’ll want to know when the young have left the box, clean it out right away and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to enjoy another brood. We make it easy and quick, see below.
How to clean?
- Get your hose out and gather a bucket, rubber gloves, a brush
- Fill your bucket 1/4 way with tepid water
- Add a 3 Tblsps of bleach or white vinegar and a drop of dish washing soap
- Open the box, remove the nest
- Throw the nest into the woods
- Use the brush to sweep out any debris
- Hose the inside of the box down
- Wet the brush and scrub out the inside of the box. Repeat a few times to get any remaining debris out
- Hose with fresh water
- Let air dry in the sun, close the box back up
Leaving your nesting box out in winter is not a bad idea. You may even see birds use the box as a shelter or “winter roosting site”. For several years, now we have had a Downy Woodpecker use one of our boxes as his overnight spot in winter. We love seeing him peeking his head out in the morning.
Occasionally a nesting box needs a little more off-season TLC. Whether it’s chewed on by a squirrel, pecked on by a woodpecker or has seen one too many winters, we may be able to help you fix your problem. For example, we carry a Wood Bluebird House Predator Guard that is easy to install over the hole of your existing nesting box. Or, perhaps an easy fix is all you need, with a Copper Wren or Chickadee House Portal or Copper Bluebird House Portal.
You’re always welcome to call us for advice. If you have a particularly sentimental bird house that’s in need of repairs, call us at 203-245-9056. One of our employees is a skilled woodworker and is happy to take a look and quote you a price.