When to Put Out Birdhouses

Putting out birdhouses at the right time is crucial for attracting nesting birds during the spring breeding season. The optimal timing depends on several factors, including your location, target bird species, and the type of birdhouse you use. With some planning and preparation, you can have your birdhouses up and ready right as migrating birds return and begin claiming nesting sites.

Where to Put Birdhouses

When choosing where to place birdhouses, consider these key factors:


  • Mount birdhouses on trees or posts in areas near woods, gardens, or other natural food and cover. Face the entrance away from prevailing winds.
  • Avoid placing houses too close together. Keep them at least 15-30 feet apart to reduce competition.
  • Try to situate them 5-15 feet high off the ground, out of reach of predators.


  • Seek spots with some shelter from the elements like overhangs or tree branches.
  • Make sure rain and drainage don’t flood the birdhouse entrance. Face openings away from prevailing rain and winds.


  • Keep birdhouses away from feeders and busy areas to minimize disturbances.
  • Place metal predator guards or baffles on the pole below to deter climbing predators.


  • Allow easy access for opening, cleaning out old nests, and monitoring activity.
  • Use removable panels or openable fronts to facilitate annual maintenance.

When to Put Out Different Types of Birdhouses

The ideal birdhouse installation time depends on the species and your region:

Early Spring Birds

Eastern bluebirds, tree swallows, house wrens, and other early spring migrants start seeking nest sites in late winter to early spring.

  • In southern regions, late January to February is best.
  • In northern areas, wait until March.
  • Make sure birdhouses are up 1-2 months before egg-laying starts.

Mid to Late Spring Birds

American robins, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and other mid-season nesters start later, from mid-March to May in many areas.

  • April is prime time across most of the Midwest and Northeast U.S.
  • In southern states, February/March works well.
  • On the West Coast, target late March to April.

Cavity Nesters

Woodpeckers, owls, ducks, and other cavity-nesting birds take readily to nest boxes.

  • Put up boxes in late winter before breeding seasons start.
  • Clean out old nesting debris from previous years first.

Open Cup Nesters

Robins, phoebes, and swallows build open cup nests on ledges or platforms.

  • Install sturdy shelves or special houses in early to mid-spring.
  • Place them under overhangs or porches.
  • Face away from rain and wind.


House wrens appreciate smaller “starter” homes.

  • Get wren houses up by mid to late April to attract the first arrivals.
  • Ensure ample insect sources are nearby.

Purple Martins

  • Martins prefer elevated multi-unit houses near open areas to catch insects.
  • Ideally have houses up by early to mid-March before scouts arrive.
  • In northernmost ranges, late March to early April is more realistic.

Regional Timing for Putting Up Birdhouses

Here are some general guidelines tailored to different regions of the United States:


The Northeast encompasses cooler states like Maine, New York, Vermont, and others.

  • Late March to early April: Prime time to get birdhouses up for bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, tree swallows, and wrens.
  • Mid-April: Optimal for purple martin houses to attract first scouts.
  • Early May: Peak season for later nesters like phoebes, robins, and house sparrows.


The warmer Southeast region includes states like Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Alabama, and more.

  • Late January to February: Install boxes for bluebirds, titmice, wrens, and other early spring nesters.
  • March: Ideal for tree swallows, purple martins, woodpeckers, and nuthatches.
  • April: Best for chickadees, tufted titmice, sparrows, starlings, owls, and late nesters.


Midwestern states like Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and others experience variable spring weather.

  • Mid-March: Put up nest boxes for early birds like bluebirds, wrens, tree swallows.
  • Late March/Early April: Install houses for purple martins and cavity nesters.
  • April/May: Introduce boxes for later nesters like chickadees, phoebes, robins, sparrows.


The Pacific Northwest region includes cooler coastal states like Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.

  • Early March: Start putting up wood duck boxes and boxes for early migratory songbirds.
  • Late March: Install martingale houses and boxes for tree swallows, chickadees, woodpeckers.
  • April: Ideal time for wrens, bluebirds, kestrels, owls, phoebes, and native sparrows.


The arid Southwest includes hot states like Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Southern California.

  • Late January: Put up nest boxes for native birds like chickadees, nuthatches, titmice.
  • February/March: Install boxes for purple martins, flycatchers, woodpeckers.
  • April: Ideal for wrens, bluebirds, kestrels, and cavity nesters.

Preparing Birdhouses in Advance

To save time and properly welcome early spring arrivals, prepare birdhouses in winter well before nesting season:

  • In January/February, take inventory of what birdhouses you already have and what needs replacing or refurbishing.
  • Shop early for new birdhouses to avoid shortages. Order by February to ensure timely delivery.
  • Check for any structural damage, cracks, leaks, weak hangers, etc. Repair or replace as needed.
  • Use a diluted bleach solution and small brush to thoroughly scrub out old nests, debris, and droppings. Let boxes fully air dry.
  • Apply fresh coats of weatherproof exterior paint or stain if needed. Avoid putting this off until spring when birds are active.
  • Examine the house entrance hole size. Enlarge or add a reducer if needed to suit target species.
  • Inspect the depth of the cavity. Add wood blocks or shims if more space is required.
  • Replace old wood shavings or nesting bedding with fresh cedar chips or materials.
  • Have necessary mounting poles and hardware on hand before installation.

With some advance planning, you can ensure your birdhouses will be spruced up and ready to accept their new seasonal tenants right on schedule.

When to Take Down Birdhouses

While optimal installation timing depends on your area and target species, the ideal time for taking down and storing birdhouses follows these general rules:

Wait Until Fall/Winter

  • Leave houses up through the fall after all young have fully fledged and left the nest. This gives birds extra roosting sites.
  • Take down and clean out nests by late fall before cold weather sets in.
  • In warmer climates, late November works well. Further north, December is often better.

Avoid Disturbing Active Nests

  • Never remove birdhouses until you’re positive no birds are still using them.
  • Watch carefully to see when juveniles fly off with parents and abandon the nest for good. This varies by species.
  • Nesting seasons can range from February/March through August. Monitor activity.
  • Leaving houses up a bit longer is better than risking disturbing active nests and eggs. If unsure, wait it out.

Clean Out Nests

  • Before storing, carefully remove all old nesting materials and droppings using gloves and a small trowel or brush.
  • Discard debris in a sealed bag. Soak the house in a diluted bleach solution to sanitize.
  • Let the interior fully air dry before sealing up any cleaning access holes.

Store Birdhouses Safely

  • Once cleaned out and dried, seal up the entrance hole or use a covering to block access and keep out pests. Store indoors in a dry spot.
  • For wood boxes, apply a preservative sealant on the exterior before storage to protect from moisture damage.
  • Stack houses with enough space between them and don’t pile too high.
  • Keep houses inaccessible to mice, snakes, or insects while stored by sealing holes and using traps or repellants.

With proper timing and care, your birdhouses will be preserved and ready for another busy nesting season next spring.

FAQs About When to Put Out Birdhouses

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about when to install nest boxes and birdhouses:

How early can I put out birdhouses in spring?

  • In general, it’s best to put nest boxes out 1-2 months before the target species normally starts nesting in your region.
  • For early birds like bluebirds, late February and March works well in most areas.
  • Avoid hanging birdhouses too early (like December or January), or they may get weather damage before birds use them.

What is the best time of year to put up birdhouses?

  • Spring is prime time for putting up birdhouses, typically between February and April depending on your location and species.
  • Have boxes ready about 1 month prior to when migratory breeding birds arrive back in your region.
  • Fall is a better time for installing bat houses.

When should I take down bird nesting boxes for winter?

  • Ideally, leave nest boxes up through late summer/early fall until you confirm young have fully fledged and abandoned the nest.
  • Take down and clean out old nests by late fall or early winter before it gets too cold.

How do I know if my birdhouses are ready too early or too late?

  • If birds seem to ignore boxes in mid to late spring, it’s likely they were put out too early. Try again closer to nesting season next year.
  • If you notice lots of nesting activity has already passed in your area, the houses are probably up too late. Target 1-2 months earlier next year.

Can I just leave birdhouses up year-round?

  • It’s best to take boxes down and clean them out in winter to prevent parasites, mold, and overcrowding issues.
  • Year-round exposure can also cause excess weathering damage to wooden boxes.
  • Timed removal allows inspecting boxes for repairs and keeping them sanitary.

What direction should the birdhouse entrance face?

  • Most birdhouse entrances should face away from the direction of prevailing winds and rain. Face boxes away from the north and west in most regions.
  • Turning the entrance slightly downward also helps prevent water flooding in.
  • Avoid facing the hole toward busy paths or bright artificial lights which could deter nesting.

How do I deter non-native house sparrows from my birdhouses?

  • To deter invasive house sparrows, do not install boxes until just before native species arrive in early spring.
  • Clean out unused sparrow nests as soon as possible after native birds fledge.
  • Avoid open birdhouse designs or perches which attract sparrows. Use smaller holes (1-1/8 inches) to exclude them.
  • Monitor boxes closely and remove sparrow eggs/nests while allowing native species to re-nest.


Properly timing when you hang birdhouses and nest boxes is an important factor for attracting breeding birds each spring. Do your homework to understand when target species arrive and begin claiming nest sites in your particular area. Then plan to have clean and intact birdhouses ready in advance to welcome back those early native nesters. With the right seasonal preparation, your birdhouses will soon host thriving new bird families year after year. Providing safe and appealing birdhouses for our native songbirds and cavity nesters contributes to their future conservation while bringing the joy of nature right to our own backyards.

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