Cleaning Bird Feeders

Cleaning bird feeders is not the most enjoyable part of backyard birding, but it is very important.

A clean bird feeder looks good - but more importantly, it provides clean, fresh wild bird seed, healthier backyard birds and less risk of disease. Disease problems are rare at bird feeder locations, but the large numbers of birds feeding in such a small area can lead to health problems for the birds.

Another benefit to clean bird feeders is more wild birds. Given a choice, wild birds prefer clean, fresh seed to moldy seed. So, if your bird feeders are filled with moldy seed and your neighbor has clean, fresh bird seed in their bird feeders - can you guess who gets more wild birds visiting their feeders?

How Often Should You Clean Bird Feeders?

Bird House Cleaning Items

Cleaning bird feeders should be done as often as needed. And that will depend on how much traffic you have at your wild bird feeders. Each time I fill my feeders I do a quick inspection. Are there seeds stuck to the bottom? Is it covered with droppings?

I normally empty my feeders each time before filling them. If any seeds or shells are stuck to the bottom I will take the time to scrape them out. To make quick work of this, I keep a putty knife handy whenever I fill my feeders. This is very important whenever there has been a lot of rain or snow. Doing these quick cleanings keeps old seed from accumulating and turning moldy at the bottom of the feeder. It also keeps the drainage holes clear.

Make a Schedule

Cleaning bird feeders on a schedule is a good way to make sure that it gets done. I do a full cleaning and disinfecting about four times a year.

Late Fall

I consider this one to be the most important. My bird feeders do not get a lot of activity in August, meaning that they are emptied and filled less often. This increases the chance of mold growing at the bottom. It is also when I prepare for all of the visitors that will be arriving in the fall. I inspect all of my feeders for damage and decide if any need to be replaced.

Late Winter

With all of the activity of fall and winter my feeders usually need a good cleaning. I will admit that cleaning bird feeders in February here in New Hampshire is a challenge. I find it works better when using warm water.

Mid Spring

Many new visitors are migrating through my area during the spring. In order to attract these new species of wild birds, I start offering many new types of bird food. Cleaning bird feeders of old food will offer a fresh start for the new foods being offered.

Late Summer

I reduce the number of bird feeders in my yard in the hottest part of the summer. I always give them a good cleaning before putting them away.

Cleaning Process

I use a pressure washer when cleaning my feeders. If you do not have one, a hose with a pressure nozzle will work just as well. I use the pressure of the water to clean off most of the dirt. It works well on my tube feeders and cage feeders. It easily takes care of all of the hard to reach areas. You will get wet when cleaning bird feeders this way, so choose the appropriate clothing.

Bird House Cleaning Brush

I also have a small collection of brushes. Look for brushes that are long and narrow with angled tips. Make sure that they are the appropriate size and shape for your feeders.

I suggest that you wear eye protection when cleaning bird feeders. Using a hose or brushes may cause small particles to fly towards your face.

I mix a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach in a plastic bucket. Wearing a pair of rubber gloves, I scrub all of the surfaces inside and out using one of my brushes. Once I am satisfied that the feeder is clean, I rinse it with fresh water, dry it with a towel and then leave it in the sun to dry. Each feeder takes about five minutes to clean.

This is a great time to clean up the area beneath your feeders. I collect all discarded seed and shells and add them to my compost pile. You may want to add mulch to the area to cover any debris and droppings.

This is not the funniest part of backyard birding, but you and the birds will benefit from the effort.

Proper bird seed storage is as important as cleaning bird feeders, learn more here. 

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