By now you probably have prepared your yard for winter. However, if you forgot to winter-proof your birdhouse, know that it is not too late – even if you’ve had some snow storms – it just needs to be done as soon as possible. The problem with not winter-proofing is that ice and snow can damage everything from bird feeders to birdhouses so they become practically unusable.
When temperatures drop you’ll quickly notice that many birds do not mind utilizing a nesting box from last spring as a winter roost box to stay warm. Yet, they are not meant for anything more than to offer cavity-dwelling birds some much needed protection during frigid temperatures and precipitation. These roosting boxes are not at all intended for building nests or raising young. Winterized birdhouses are a great place to keep birds safe when temperatures are at their harshest and food is particularly scarce. Luckily, you can reuse and repurpose the birdhouses you used in the spring and turn them into protective winter shelters for your backyard birds!
The following tips will show you how to go about winter-proofing your birdhouse:
1. Clean your birdhouse and repair damages.
Over the last few months the birdhouse may have become damaged and weathered. Take the time to repair any damages, sand down any sharp or rough edges, and even repaint it, if necessary. Houses and nesting boxes should only be re-painted if recommended by a birding authority (i.e. if the manufacturer specializes in birding or your local Audubon society or other reputable source), and only using zero-emissions latex paint or oil-based stains. The best time to do this is well before winter, though, as there are residual fumes. Please double check if you plan to do this, because toxic fumes can be detrimental to our feathered friends.
Even if the box is not damaged at all, you’ll definitely want to clean the birdhouse as it may have become dirty from the nesting season. If your birdhouse is beyond repair, or you simply need another one, we offer plenty of options for a sturdy and durable birdhouse.
2. Gather materials for winter-proofing.
Now it’s time to begin! Start winter-proofing your birdhouse by closing any drainage holes. Doing so keeps the trapped air inside much warmer. This can be done using any type of small cloth, hay or even old towels. However, we recommend against using duct tape or any kind of adhesive to block drainage holes. Get creative! There are a variety of useful materials that will prevent wind from entering the birdhouse.
3. Check if your birdhouse has a moveable front panel.
Some birdhouses have a practical design that allows for a movable front panel and an entrance hole on top. If your birdhouse has this, be sure to flip the front panel (meaning, upside down), which will place the entrance at the bottom. This is done to help reduce any heat loss. Of course, if your birdhouse isn’t designed with this type of entrance, don’t worry about it. Any shelter is better than none, so you are already helping your beloved birds stay warm this winter.
4. Place the winterized birdhouse in a good location.
Once the birdhouse is completely winterized, you’re ready to put it in a safe and warm location (though still outside, opt for a place that won’t be in the direct path of harsh winds. You will also want to choose a spot that has a lot of light from morning to evening. The more sunlight your birdhouse gets, the longer it will stay warm into the evening hours.
5. Other safety factors to consider.
Position the birdhouse so that the entrance is away from potential wind gusts and predators. While you can’t ensure 100% safety from predators, do your best to keep the birdhouse high off the ground, such as a tall branch or raised pole if you have it.
On another important note, if you have birds in your backyard that do not use cavities, be sure to maintain the evergreen trees on your property. These birds prefer to stay safe and huddled at night by seeking shelter in evergreens.
Keeping our feathered friends safe during the long winter is easy with a little practical set up!