The two questions I get asked the most at shows are: how long will my birdhouse last? And, how do I clean out the old nest? Thanks customer feedback, online searches, and my own observations through the almost 20 years providing birds with gourd houses, I am able to say, with great confidence, that there is no easy answer! Some customers have had them last over 15 years while others replace them every few years. One thing is for sure, just like wood and other natural products, an organic gourd birdhouse is going weather outside, no matter how much varnish, polyurethane, or resin you apply. Those who bring their birdhouses in every year will get to enjoy more time with birdhouses that are painted – especially if they add an extra spray of polyurethane each season. All birdhouses that are dyed eventually fade in the sun- though oil based dyes will retain their vibrancy longer. I leave mine out through all seasons. The paint starts to go after a few years, and the birdhouse may become weathered and worn… but for the birds, especially the Wrens, it is still home sweet home!
At shows, customers inspect gourd birdhouses from all angles and often ask “how do you clean out the old nest?”, realizing that there is just one small hole to remove all the nesting debris. First of all, not all resources agree that cleaning out birdhouses is necessary. Some birding resources recommend cleaning them out yearly (even after each brood!) and others say, don’t bother cleaning them. Cleaning may help decrease mite and insects that overwinter. I also know from my experience that some birds (black- capped chickadees) seem to prefer a clean nest, while the Wrens really don’t seem to mind tidying up an old nest.
If you’re going with the clean birdhouse option, there are lots of ideas and techniques for getting the job done. Some use chopsticks to pick out the old nest, others break up the nest with a screwdriver, or various drill bits (be careful!) Still others do it the old fashioned way, by filling the birdhouse with a few stones, covering the hole, and shaking. I like to use little shop vac to suction out loose nest fragments.
There is so much information on the internet regarding birdhouses and their care. There are so many opinions on where to hang them, whether or not to use perches, and how and when to clean the birdhouses. But you really can’t go wrong if you hang your birdhouse away from predators, with some shade and protection! Happy 2022 Gourd Birdhouse season everyone!