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Clearing out bird boxes

I was all set to give my bird boxes a good clean out at some point in the next few weeks, but today I have just seen a blue tit bobbing in and out of one of them.  I thought winter would be a good time to do it as they wouldn't be any birds nesting. Is this little chap just being nosy or getting some winter shelter? 

When is it safe to clear out all last year's nesting material or have I left it too late and should have done it as soon as they fledged in the summer? 



  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 81,360

    We do it in September which I think is what is advised. 

    I'd leave well alone now - they're probably prospecting for nest sites, but could also be using it as a shelter/roost in the cold weather.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • TootlesTootles Posts: 1,469

    Snap Pod. I spotted a little tit checking one of our boxes out.

  • Argh. Yes Dove, the RSPB website says I should have done it in Autumn. But its only illegal to do it between Feb and August. So should I clear them out now or not? Hmm.

    The box it was peeking in I'm not sure anything nested in last year but a couple of other boxes definitely did get used. Not sure whether it would be worse to leave last year's rubbish or risk disturbing them so they don't nest this year. Don't want to leave any nasty bugs though. Ho hum. 

  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286

    Best leave them PoddingtonP, the birds choose the nest site much earlier than we expect, I guess your box is on the A list already image

    It's only recommended to wash them out so that the young are not pestered by parasites, it's a cold winter, I wouldn't worry too much about parasites and just give them a good wash out with boiling water next Autumn.


  • Thanks all. I shall give it  miss this year and make sure I do it in the autumn.

  • I took down my boxes at the week-end as last year one was filled with a wasp's nest so no nesting.

    I bought a couple of new boxes today as my old ones are beginning to rot. I had planned to dry, hard brush them out and then soak in a weak solution of Jeyes Fluid overnight to kill any mites but will just hang the new boxes as soon as I can get outside again.

    Female blue tits are so fussy about exactly where they want to nest! The poor males get so excited, showing off each possible location but the females turn their noses up for ages before settling on their chosen nest site.

  • Mrs GMrs G Posts: 336

    Just boiling water is the best thing to use to clean them then let them air dry but I agree with above posters, Autumn would have been the best time. Tits do start looking very early.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 81,360

    I agree Mrs G - just boiling water. I wouldn't like to spend the best part of a fortnight sitting in a box with fumes from Jeyes Fluid, no matter how weak, so Mrs Bluetit probably wouldn't like it either.  And those tiny lungs and delicate membranes of the tiny nestlings - I can't think that it would be good for them.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286

    Another vote for only boiling water. My neighbour use to paint their boxes with cuprinol, they would always find when the boxes were cleaned out they were full of dead chicks. Birds and chemicals don't seem to mix well at all. 

  • I feel like an exterminator!

    I have never actually used Jeyes Fluid, thought it sounded like a good idea but perhaps not. In the past I have kept the boxes indoors until completely dry, emptied them, any nests are given to small children to take to school for their "show and tell" lessons and then I have given the boxes a good brush, inside and out with a stiff brush.

    PS. I wish bird box makers would give instructions on how to get inside their boxes for cleaning. I threw one out because the only way to open it was to demolish it!

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