Posts Tagged ‘cleaning’

Cleaning Your Purple Martin Housing

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Birds are migrating southward to Brazil fast and furious. Even the upward reaches of the purple martins nesting areas in Canada are giving final nesting results. Mentions of premigratory roosts dominate the purple martin forums. All there is left to do is clean up all the housing and gourds and put them away till next year.

Undeniably the least favorite part of being a purple martin landlord. As for me, cleaning out the housing seems to go a bit easier if you wait for a day without any breeze after a stretch of hot dry days. That way there is no wind to blast you in the face with all the feather dander and bug parts that are stirred up when cleaning out nests.

My housing has been lowered and sits patiently waiting for me to address the issue. Thank goodness that all my gourds are relatively easy to clean. I can’t imagine the days prior to access ports and removable nest trays.

How do I clean the nests out? The previous blog post about blowflies has the video on how to do nest changes and that is pretty much the essence of it. I use a grocery store plastic bag and reach in the port (with my hand in the bag)  and grab as much nest material as possible then simply turn the bag inside out to keep all the nastiness from floating about and from touching me. Works like a charm and gives you a way to reuse those pesky bags that would be thrown away after bring the groceries home.

Of course, IF you have a compost pile the nest material would make a nice addition to your mix.

After the gourds or house is empty a blast with a garden house works well. Some folks even use a pressure washer and for plastic gourds this works great. I would stay away from the pressure cleaner on wood houses and personally I would stay away from water in general as wood houses are usually not painted on the inside.

Once the majority of the detritus (or nasty funk) is removed the gourds and houses can be disinfected and for that a mild bleach solution (5% to 10%) works well. Any stronger and the plastics may discolor as well as your lawn! But a spray bottle to generously douse the interior surfaces or an old rag can be used. Alternatively you can fill a large bucket with your solution and dip your gourds in it. Once the bleach solution has had a few minutes to kill off any pest stragglers then the housing can be dried off (to prevent any rusting, warping or rot) and then all holes should be sealed.

Closing the doors off is a must but often overlooked is closing the vents also. Call me crazy but I like to use those same grocery bags to place over my troyer gourds to keep any wasps and or bees from entering the drainage or vent holes and giving me a fright the next time I open the gourds up. Houses can be placed in larger garbage bags and the Trendsetter purple martin houses has custom house covers that work great for this.

To store or not to store depends on you. If you, like me, live in a hurricane prone area then chances are you will want to take the housing into a safe place for the off season. Some folks may leave it up and out all year. It is a personal choice. Part of my mania in cleaning the housing is not so much to give the purple martins a sterile nest when they return next year (which isn’t even possible) but more to assure that any creepy crawly parasites won’t decide to crawl out of the housing into my garage and be that much closer to me and my family.

And I almost forgot one important ingredient to cleaning purple martin houses…a wine cooler and some soothing music!


Blog/Photos & Video Copyrighted 2009: S.Halpin /

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June 29, 2008 Roost Video

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

I said I was going to video tape the roost and by GOD I did. I am a woman of my word.

8 or so Martins visiting on the housing. Seems like small family groups. I have noticed that the fledglings seem to enter the compartments whereas the adults will only peer in. I took down the barn and gave it a quick cleaning. I will give it a more intensive cleaning perhaps tomorrow. It was pretty thick with filth. Ah, the things we do for love.