Converting nesting boxes to winter roosts

October 17, 2011

Cold winter wind saps energy and warmth from birds, especially at night. Birds are able to lower their body temperature to conserve calories at night, but a chilling wind can tax that system. A good way to help the birds stay warm is to leave your nesting boxes and bird houses up all winter.

First, make sure the box is thoroughly cleaned.  Remove the nest if one is in there and scrub the bird house with a mild bleach and water solution and then let dry before setting the bird house back out.  This kills any parasites that may remain after the nesting season.

Stuff dry hay, pine shavings or dried grasses in the bottom of the box. This will provide some insulation and the box will serve as a cozy place for birds to get out of the elements.  Blocking the ventilation holes will help too;  you can stuff hay along the ventilation openings or try stuffing the openings with rags or foam weatherstripping.  Anything that will prevent drafts from getting in will help.

Some bird houses, especially bluebird houses have a removable front panel.  If you can, flip this upside down so that the entry hole for the house is at the bottom.  Duncraft’s Convertible Roost is made exactly this way, so that you can use the box in all seasons.  Flipping the front panel would be ideal, but if you can’t do that,  remember that any shelter, no matter how imperfect, will greatly help the birds.

Bluebirds tend to pile together at the bottom of roosting boxes, but other birds prefer perches.  If the bird house is big enough for several birds, an easy way to do this is to drill two or more holes on either side of the house and slip a dowel through the house.  Just remove the dowel come spring.  The holes will act as extra ventilation.  If the house is very small, chances are only a single bird will use it, so perches wouldn’t be necessary.

Finally, place the house where it will receive the most sunlight and warmth.  This is usually, but not always,  facing west where the setting sun will warm the house just before dusk.

If you wish to go a step further, you can purchase roosting pockets of woven natural materials and hang those in sheltered places around the yard for solitary roosting birds. With a little forethought before winter sets in, you can have your bird houses ready to come to the rescue of your backyard birds on frigid winter nights.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Drew Graham October 31, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for the heads up on winterizing our birdhouses. We have 8 birdhouses around our property, 5 in the back and 3 in the front. All8 are near trees or bushes. I have one of your heated birdbaths right out side our kitchen window between two tube feeders. We also keep two of your Canadian tube feeders in our back yard. Best tube feeders on the market. Plus we have a few more different feeders in the back. We try to keep the squirrels out of the feeders by hanging 3 squirrel logs from our deck railing, not perfect but helps to keep them frpm the feeders.

rosa wooddy October 31, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I was just thinking that it’s about time down here in western Tn to start cleaning out the 5 bluebird houses on our property. We run two heated birdbaths in the front and 2 in the back once the weather gets cold and stays that way. Even though we have a small lake, the birds need the birdbaths for water once it starts to get ice on it.
We keep two of your double sided squirrel proof feeders, that I’ve had for years, full of black oil sunflower seeds. I use the on the ground stands that you sold many years ago. They are great to put a feeder near a tree and brush to provide cover for the birds. We keep many other feeders going throughout the winter spread out on the property so that all the little guys can survive when we get snow and/or ice. They love the suet pellets.

Jorge November 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm

I was just thinking that it’s about time down here in western Tn to start cleaning out the 5 bluebird houses on our property. We run two heated birdbaths in the front and 2 in the back once the weather gets cold and stays that way. Even though we have a small lake, the birds need the birdbaths for water once it starts to get ice on it.
We keep two of your double sided squirrel proof feeders, that I’ve had for years, full of black oil sunflower seeds. I use the on the ground stands that you sold many years ago. They are great to put a feeder near a tree and brush to provide cover for the birds. We keep many other feeders going throughout the winter spread out on the property so that all the little guys can survive when we get snow and/or ice. They love the suet pellets.

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