Do you also have a garden or a backyard and happen to love birds? You might not know this, but many birds die every year due to a shortage of food. So, putting up a bird feeder is a great way to help them out.
However, if you already have a bird feeder in your yard, you will agree that although birds are adorable creatures, they can be messy eaters.
Here are the steps involved in cleaning your bird feeder:
- Disassemble your feeder.
- Clean it thoroughly.
- Dry it properly before re-filling.
- Keep the space below the feeder clean.
Stay with us till the end of this article, and we’ll tell you all that you need to know about cleaning your bird feeders. We will also include some tips and tricks which might be helpful to you.
Why should you clean your bird feeder?
Even though it might not look like a serious issue, there are several reasons why keeping a dirty bird feeder can be problematic for you and your birds. Below, we have listed a few:
- Did you know that birds can spread diseases very easily? Since the birds that feast on your bird feeders come from different localities, there is no way of knowing what sort of germs they might be carrying. If your feeder is not cleaned regularly, the birds that visit it might catch a communicable bird disease or infection.
- Birds are not the only ones that can get infected due to dirty feeders. Some bacteria or germs can even be a threat to you and your family. Even in a best-case scenario, your feeder will still be exposed to natural elements like dust, dirt, wind, and water. The moisture from the rain and frost can settle on it, creating mold. This mold can be unsafe for you to touch or breathe in when you re-fill the feeder, becoming a health hazard you wouldn’t have anticipated.
- Having a dirty feeder can give off a foul odor, attracting several critters like insects, mice, and rats that can chase away or even harm your birds.
- Letting the dirt build up on your feeder can be unsightly to look at. And that’s not all. The excessive dirt can lead to an accumulation of debris and grease, which can cause damage to your grass and flower beds.
- Depending on your locality, having a dirty bird feeder could even be violating the terms of your HOA guidelines. There are several segments in those guidelines about outdoor appearances, and a dirty feeder may violate them.
- Lastly, excessive wear and tear can lead to irreparable damage to your feeder, making it unsafe for both you and your birds. It might even break down while the birds are feeding, resulting in injury.
You can avoid all this if you clean your bird feeder regularly. Don’t worry; it is not a difficult task, and we will walk you through it.
The best way to clean your bird feeder thoroughly
In the previous section, we talked about the issues you could face if you don’t keep your bird feeder clean. Now, we will discuss the best way to clean your bird feeder thoroughly and avoid any of those consequences:
Step 1: Disassemble the bird feeder
Every one or two weeks, bring your bird feeder down and disassemble its structure. Make sure that you have access to all the parts. Since bird feeders are made to be cleaned efficiently, this step should be quick and easy for you.
Step 2: Cleaning the bird feeder
Not using harsh chemicals is the first and most crucial point you should remember while cleaning your bird feeder.
Wondering why? At times, some traces of these chemicals might be left on the feeder, which could prove to be harmful to the birds’ health.
If you clean your feeder frequently, you wouldn’t need to do too much work. Just fill your sink with hot water, and add a spoonful of liquid dish soap.
You can use a soft nylon brush or a sponge to scrub the inside and outside of the feeder, giving special attention to the corners and nooks.
However, if you haven’t cleaned your feeder in a while and it is particularly filthy, you might need to put in a little more effort than that.
- You should use bleach and hot water combination, but make sure that the bleach is heavily diluted by the water. For accuracy, use a ratio of one-part bleach and nine parts water.
- If you are not satisfied with the first wash, you can repeat the process with a slightly stronger solution.
- You can also use a custom-built bird feeder cleaning brush, which should be easily available in garden centers and pet supply stores in your locality. If you can’t find it offline, you can always purchase it online.
Because the hummingbirds and orioles feed on nectar, their feeders need to be clean more frequently than the other bird feeders. The process of cleaning varies as well. Follow these steps to get it right:
- These feeders need to be cleaned before every re-fill of nectar to prevent mold and mildew from settling in.
- Since hummingbirds have more fragile health than most birds, remember to use only a brush and hot water while cleaning their feeder.
- Don’t add soap or any other form of cleaning agent for washing these feeders. However, if the feeder is especially dirty, you may use bleach and water solution. But remember to rinse the feeder thoroughly before re-filling the nectar, or it might be harmful to their health.
Step 3: Dry fully and re-fill
Once your feeder is clean and spotless, rinse it thoroughly, and give it time to dry off completely. Once dry, fill the feeder up with seeds.
When you are purchasing bird seeds, check the type of birds the seeds are good for. Those will be the birds that will frequent your backyard or garden.
Note: Never fill your feeder up with seeds unless it is completely dry. This will cause the seeds to swell up and decompose faster.
For thorough drying, leave the bird feeder on your kitchen counter overnight. Leaving it out in the sunlight to dry is another efficient alternative.
Step 4: Clean the space below the feeder
After you are done with the feeder, it might be a good idea to clear the space below the feeder as well, where most of the seeds and bird droppings fall.
If the area below the feeder is left dirty for too long, it may attract flies and mosquitos, along with some pesky critters.
The best equipment for this task is a garden trowel, which can easily be found in your nearby garden supply stores if you don’t have one already.
Tips and tricks for cleaning a feeder
Now that you know how to keep your bird feeder clean and safe, here are some tips and tricks that might make your task easier. For the cleanest, most attractive bird feeder in your locality, take a look at these:
- Choose feeders that are easy to clean:
If you want your backyard visitors to remain healthy and your feeder-cleaning sessions short and easy, choose feeders that are made out of recycled plastic, glazed ceramic, glass, or metal.
Try to avoid wooden feeders, as they absorb oil and other dirt and debris, making them much more complicated to clean over time.
- Consider adding a bird feeder guard:
A bird feeder guard protects the seeds from wind and rain, not to mention excessive sunlight, which is also not healthy for the birds.
These guards are referred to as “weather guard,” “weather dome,” “rain guard,” or “feeder dome.” So, when searching online, these are the categories you might want to look under.
- Clean it frequently:
At the very least, you should clean your feeders once a month to avoid any problematic consequences. However, depending on the amount of traffic in your feeder, you might need to clean it more frequently for proper hygiene.
As we’ve mentioned before, if you have a hummingbird or oriole feeder, you must clean it before every refill.
- Use suitable cleaning solutions:
You should always sanitize your feeders with a strict solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. A commercial bird feeder cleaning solution or a mild solution of unscented dish soap are other alternatives you can go with.
- Soak the bird feeder first:
If you soak a dirty bird feeder before scrubbing it clean, the water will loosen the debris and dirt, making the whole process much easier and less time-consuming.
Use a washtub, a utility sink, or any similar large basin to ensure that the entire feeder can be fully submerged for a good soak.
- Clean all the parts of the feeder:
For the best disinfection and disease prevention, you should clean all parts of the feeder inside out. This includes all the feeding ports, perches, lids, platforms, and reservoirs.
Any part of the feeder where the birds may perch or feces may collect, like the feeder’s hooks and poles, should also be cleaned thoroughly.
- Use proper cleaning equipment:
It is essential to use proper cleaning equipment for cleaning your feeder. Always use rubber gloves to avoid infection and stiff brushes to ensure thorough cleaning.
Most garden centers and pet supply stores sell specialized cleaning brushes for different shapes and sizes of feeders.
However, regular brushes are just as effective. For cleaning small parts like feeding ports and tight corners, an old toothbrush is an excellent option.
- Give it a thorough rinsing:
After the cleaning is done, make sure to rinse all the parts of the feeder is clean, lukewarm water for about a minute. Doing this will ensure that all the chemical residue has been washed off.
There should be no stuck-on debris or lingering suds after the feeder is rinsed.
- Dry off completely:
Remember to dry the feeder completely, without any moist remanent. If the feeder is still wet when you put in the seeds, it could lead to the formation of mildew and mold, which could make your birds ill.
In this article, we have learned that while having a bird feeder is a great initiative, it can do more damage than good if you can’t maintain it properly. The cleanliness and hygiene of your bird feeder is a serious affair that you shouldn’t take lightly.
If you clean your feeder regularly, you can avoid several issues, and health hazards, not to mention the process of cleaning will be quick and easy for you.