Feeding birds can be an enjoyable activity and it can be made even better by doing so from the comfort of your backyard. For this reason, many people purchase or build their own bird feeders and place them in their yards.
But there is one aspect of owning a bird feeder that you may not have considered before and that is keeping it clean. Those of us who are uninitiated think that you can just put up the bird feeder and be done with it, watching the birds come to happily feast on the food left out for them.
Keeping your bird feeder clean, however, is essential for both the safety of the birds as well as yourself and your family.
Why Is it Important to Keep Bird Feeders Clean?
Beautiful as they may be at times, birds are some of the biggest spreaders of disease that there are. Since these birds are coming from different locations to feast, it is uncertain what they might be carrying.
Those diseases can be quite dangerous to other birds and, depending what they are carrying, to you and your family as well. Keeping your feeders clean means that you keep yourself protected and keep the birds from creating a petri dish in your yard.
Even in a best-case scenario, that feeder will be exposed to the elements. That means moisture from rain or frost that gets onto the feeder, which could in turn create mold.
That mold can be dangerous for you to touch or breathe in when you go to refill the feeder, creating a real hazard that you didn’t know could become an issue.
Keeping your feeder clean is the only way to prevent mold or disease from becoming a threat to you when you go out to refill the feeder. And depending on the type of feeder that you have, it can require different steps to keep those feeders clean and disease-free.
Other Issues with Dirty Feeders
Diseases and mold are bad enough to deal with but there are actually quite a few other issues that can occur when it comes to having a dirty bird feeder and not just for the birds themselves.
Having a dirty feeder can lead to a nasty, foul-smelling odor. It’s bad enough that it stinks but that can also attract things like mice, rats, insects, and unwanted wildlife to your bird feeder, causing damage and chasing away the birds.
Even if there are no other critters to contend with, there can be an accumulation of debris and grease. This can be unsightly to even look at but it can also cause damage to flower beds or lawns if you let it build up.
Depending on the community that you live in, a dirty bird feeder could even violate terms of your HOA guidelines. There are specific portions in each one about outdoor appearances and having a dirty feeder could violate those terms.
Lastly, any excessive wear and tear that occurs to your feeders can lead to irreparable damage to the feeder and make them unsafe for both you and the birds. This makes it unsafe for birds to be around the feeder and can disrupt the pleasantness of their visit.
Cleaning Hummingbird Feeders
Different types of feeders have different types of food. This means that there are different types of cleaning methods that need to be implemented in order to properly clean your bird feeder and keep it safe for both you and the birds to be around.
Hummingbirds, for instance, feed on sugar water as opposed to traditional bird seed. This presents different issues should you not clean the hummingbird feeder as often as it needs to be cleaned out.
First, you will want to change out your sugar water every three to five days. This is in order to prevent mold growth from occurring (which is dangerous to you) and deadly fermentation (which is dangerous for the hummingbirds).
During the summer when the weather is hotter, you’ll want to do this more frequently to keep everyone safe.
Any feeders that you have out will need to be changed and cleaned out at least once a week. Use a bottle brush and hot water to do this; do not use a detergent or soap to clean your feeders as they can be hazardous to the birds.
You can also clean out your hummingbird feeders by filling them with a diluted bleach solution. If you do use this method, however, be sure to thoroughly rinse them out and give them time to air dry before you begin filling them again.
If you have an issue with wasps, bees, or ants gathering near your hummingbird feeders, don’t put any kind of oil or sticky substance near the feeding ports as this can contaminate the nectar and make it unsafe for the hummingbirds to eat.
Should those pests become a problem, try to move the feeder to a different location or look for a solution that is safe for the hummingbirds. After all, you are providing a treat for your feathery friends, not one that could do them damage or harm.
Tips for Cleaning Your Bird Feeders
It is safe to say that if you have a feeder in your yard, you care about the birds that visit in some way. Being conscientious and cleaning your feeders regularly not only creates a safer habitat for the birds themselves but it keeps the feeders from becoming an eyesore to look at.
There are a few helpful tips to keep your bird feeder clean and create an attractive feeder that will have the birds flocking in from all over.
The first is to choose an easy-to-clean feeder. After all, we want a feeder because of the birds, not to have to clean it regularly. Wooden feeders tend to absorb oils and debris, which makes them a lot more difficult to keep clean as they age.
Try going with a material such as metal, recycled plastic, glass, or glazed ceramic. This will not only result in easier maintenance for your feeder but also healthier birds that won’t have to contend with an abundance of disease or mold in their food.
When you do clean the feeders, it should be done in a thorough manner every month. If you have a particularly popular feeder, you might want to do a cleaning every few weeks depending on how much seed you go through and how many birds there are.
The key here is to use proper solutions. You need to sanitize your feeders to ensure that there is no spreading of disease or mold. You can even use bleach but take the proper methods to ensure that there is no residue left over as it can be dangerous to the birds.
There are also unscented dish soaps out there that can be a suitable cleaning solution that won’t hurt the birds by being used.
Try soaking the bird feeder first. Think of it as a dirty dish: you would soak it in the sink to loosen up grime and food that is stuck. The same is true for bird feeders. Soaking them can loosen any stuck-on bird food and make it easier to thoroughly clean your feeder.
If you have a utility sink, a large basin, or a wash tub, try using that before bringing your feeder into a kitchen or bathroom sink. Allow the feeder to be completely submerged so that it can get a good soak and loosen or remove the nasty debris that can accumulate.
When the feeder has properly soaked and is ready for a good cleaning, it is important that you clean and sanitize every portion of the feeder. Make certain to cover all areas of the feeder, both inside and out.
This should include perches, platforms, lids, feeding ports, and reservoirs.
Cleaning all aspects of the feeder is important because some of those areas can accumulate feces. Letting feces sit and harden is not only unsanitary but it makes for a much more difficult task to properly clean.
Besides, it makes for an absolutely disgusting adventure if you let it sit.
When you have properly cleaned each portion of your bird feeder, it is imperative that you rinse everything for several seconds until the water is clean and clear. This is done to ensure that any chemical residue is clean and that there are no pieces of stuck-on debris loitering around on the feeders.
Finally, make certain that your feeder is completely dry before refilling it. If there is any moisture left over, it can lead to mildew and mold. This can cause unhealthy rotten seed as well as illness in the birds.
Keep your feeder in direct sunlight to not only dry it but also break down any soap or chemicals that may still be lingering.
You now have a clean, beautiful feeder that is ready to host birds from all over the area and one that will keep them safe while doing so.