Winter roosting boxes are essential to help birds survive cold weather. 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 birdhouses up all winter.
What do you need to do first? First, make sure the box is thoroughly cleaned. Remove the nest if one is in there and scrub the birdhouse with a mild bleach and water solution and then let dry before setting the birdhouse back out. This kills any parasites that may remain after the nesting season.
What do you need to put inside the box? 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 in nesting boxes 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. It’s worth mentioning, our roosting boxes are made a little differently than our birdhouses. Our airtight construction allows warm air to rise up inside the roosting box to keep your birds warm when it’s freezing cold out.
What else do you need to know? Some birdhouses, especially bluebird houses, have a removable front panel. If you can, flip this upside down so the entry hole is at the bottom. The Duncraft Convertible Roost, featured above, is made exactly this way so 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 your birds.
Some roosting boxes attract different songbirds to roost together, while other birds prefer to roost on perches. Bluebirds tend to roost with their own species. And they pile together in a heap at the bottom of the roosting house. This means the bluebird roosting box needs to have the entry hole at the top, so your bluebirds can huddle together on the bottom. Our Duncraft Bluebird Roost with Guard is one-of-a-kind to shelter your non-migrating bluebirds and protect them from cold weather. The clear plastic weather protecting guard keeps out high winds. While bluebirds huddle together and share body heat for warmth—a dozen or more birds at a time!
If the birdhouse is big enough for several birds, an easy way to add more perching room is to drill two or more holes on either side of the house and slip a dowel through the house. 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 won’t be necessary.
Where do you need to mount your roosting box? Place the house where it will receive the most sunlight and warmth. This is usually, and 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 birdhouses ready to come to the rescue of your backyard birds on frigid winter nights. Shop roosting houses at duncraft.com. Happy Birding!
Written by R. Brune