A dirty bird feeder can harbor bacteria, mold and other disease agents that can decimate backyard bird populations. Infected birds can spread the illness to other backyards and wild populations, creating epidemic conditions that could wipe out entire nesting colonies if left unchecked.
Tips for Clean Bird Feeders
Conscientious birders regularly clean their feeders to ensure that disease potential is minimized.
Furthermore, clean feeders will attract more wild birds because the fresh, clean seed is more appealing and nutritious.
For the cleanest, healthiest and most attractive feeders:
- Clean Regularly: All feeders should be thoroughly cleaned at least once per month, but popular feeders may need to be cleaned much more frequently depending on how many birds use them and how much seed is consumed. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned each time the nectar is refilled.
- Use Proper Cleaning Solutions: Feeders can be sanitized with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. Commercial bird feeder cleaning solutions are also effective, and a mild solution of unscented dish detergent is acceptable as well.
- Clean All Feeder Parts: For the best sanitation and disease prevention, each feeder should be cleaned inside and out, including all feeding ports, perches, lids, platforms and reservoirs. The feeder’s hooks, poles and any other part where birds may perch or where feces may collect should also be cleaned.
- Use Proper Equipment: Use rubber gloves to avoid any contamination and use stiff brushes to ensure thorough cleaning. Birdf eeder and pet supply stores will have specialized brushes for different sizes and shapes of feeders, though regular bottle brushes can also be effective. An old toothbrush is a great option for cleaning small parts, feeding ports and tight corners.
- Rinse Thoroughly: After cleaning, the feeder and all cleaned parts should be rinsed for at least 10 seconds in clear, clean water to be sure all chemical residue is removed.
- Dry Completely: Before refilling the feeder, it should be completely dry. Any remaining moisture could lead to mold and mildew that can cause illness and rotten, unhealthy seed.
Cleaning Around Bird Feeders
In addition to keeping the bird feeders clean, it is essential to clean all nearby areas where birds perch and congregate. Eager and hungry birds can spill seed several feet away from feeders, and all feeding areas must be clean to keep bird populations healthy. To keep nearby areas clean:
- Remove old or damp seed from beneath all feeders
- Remove rotten fruit from trees where birds feed
- Refresh mulch or gravel beneath feeders to cover droppings
- Keep birdbaths and other perches clean
Clean bird feeders and feeding areas will attract more birds and keep all backyard birds healthier for birders to enjoy.