Off Season Martin Maintenance
The fall and winter months offer a time to maintain your martin houses and make sure they are ready for next year. End of season maintenance is a must for the purple martin landlord if the martins are to be successful. This often includes making small repairs to the home, checking the mounting equipment, and adding accessories to make your roosting site ideal for your colony.
One of the simplest ways to keep your martin home maintained is to remove your home from the pole for winter storage. This not only protects the unit from harsher weather, but it also keeps other birds from overtaking the nests. After taking down the home, remove all the nesting material left in it and clean each compartment thoroughly with a mild detergent. This will help prevent any parasites or disease from contaminating the home. Placing the house in your garage or basement for winter storage will also allow time for maintenance at your leisure. Many of us do not have the storage space for our often bulky martin homes. If you are unable to store the house throughout the winter, adding door stops to the unit is a good idea to keep house sparrows and European starlings from overtaking the nests.
In addition to caring for the home, the off season is also an opportune time to check your mounting equipment. Martin house poles, when not properly maintained, create a safety concern not only for the martin house, but also for you and your family. Ensure that your pole is sturdy and in good working order to prevent accidents later. If you have a telescoping pole, ensure that all parts are present and the locking mechanism is properly seated. Clean any rusted areas with a sander and coat with a weather protecting conditioner. If your system includes a winch and pulley, or other rope mechanism, oil the winch and pulley. Make sure the rope is not frayed or worn, and replace it if needed. If your system does not have a winch system, the off season is a perfect time to add one. Also, inspect the concrete or soil surrounding the pole for any kind of foundation issues, and ensure that the pole has limited wavering. Ensure that your predator guard is seated properly on the pole and hasn't been damaged by squirrels or raccoons. An annual check of the pole system and accessories helps keep you and your birds safe.
Once your martin house has been cleaned and maintenance has been completed, make any minor adjustments or addition of accessories to the home if desired. Studies have shown that a deeper compartment is a bit safer for martins, enabling them to hide in the back of the compartment to avoid predation. If your house allows it, altering it to create 7" to 12" deep nesting cavities will aid in making the unit more enticing to martins next season. Add an owl guard or starling resistant entrance holes to help deter predators as well. A top perch or porch system is readily used by martins and offers great landing spots for the birds. Adding porch dividers between entrances on multi-unit homes helps prevent territoriality between males and can increase occupancy. Though improvements are a great idea, take care not to alter too many elements of the home at once, as martins are often wary of change and will abandon a nest site if it is not to their liking.
Fall and winter weather brings an excellent opportunity to clean and maintain your existing martin house as any good landlord should. By removing or closing the home for winter, access is denied to house sparrows or starlings, and can remain clean for the martins for next year. Check out our complete line of martin houses and accessories available on our site at Purple Martin Houses.