Keep Bird Feeders Clean During Winter

Keep Bird Feeders Clean During Winter

Keep Your Bird Feeders Clean This Winter Blog Banner

One of the simple joys in winter is watching our backyard feathered friends flit around our yards, eat berries from bushes and pluck seeds from perennial seed heads. Setting out bird feeders allows us to attract larger populations of birds as well as sneak a peek at some varieties you’d not usually notice! It’s also a great way to contribute to wildlife conservation and help migrating birds get the nutrition they need.

Attracting and feeding colorful wildlife is easy and fun for all ages, but like any pastime and hobby, there are few chores involved to keep your feeders, and therefore your songbirds healthy!

The Basics Basic refilling bird feeder picture

Bird feeders need to be cleaned regularly to prevent any disease from spreading. Proper placement so birds feel safe and so the feeders remain dry and out of the worst of the elements not only makes your job easier but also makes your feathered friends feel safe to approach.

Make it a habit to check your feeders weekly to not just refill them, but also clean them out and keep everything sanitary.! Perhaps you’re not in an area that gets snow, but even rain and other elements can cause your feeders to need some attention year-round.

Check weekly to see if the seed is dry and make sure empty hulls, droppings and puddles are cleaned off the tray. Scoop out and dispose of any wet, moldy seed that can make birds sick and dispose of it away from the feeder area. Removing seed that has decomposed or is mostly spent hulls will also help prevent the spread of illness.

Keeping bird feeders clean prevents:

  • Disease spreading due to higher bird concentrations
  • Reduces the spread of mites and lice, or other parasites
  • Salmonella infections that are spread by droppings
  • Aspergillosis - a fungus that can cause respiratory issues in birds
  • House Finch conjunctivitis (eye infections)

Keep Them Clean 

Rain or shine, or even snow - Every other week, it’s recommended that you completely wash out and sanitize your birdfeeders. After dumping the old food and scraping off any droppings and other debris, then rinse out your feeders and take them apart. Either wash them by hand with soap and hot water, adding a few drops of bleach to really kill bacteria, or run them through your dishwasher (as long as any plastic parts won’t melt during the drying cycle).

bird cleaning kit infographic

If you are hand washing, gather of the following:

  • Clean rags
  • Hot soapy water
  • Mild, diluted bleach solution or diluted household vinegar
  • Bucket or a large bowl if not using a sink
  • Soft brush for scrubbing
  • Drying towel or paper towels

Let soak, scrub and wash, then rinse and dry completely before refilling with fresh birdseed

Another area to keep clean is the ground below the feeder. Spent seed hulls are messy and uneaten seeds might come up next year and create more weeds for you to pull. You will also avoid attracting unwanted visitors looking for a meal such as mice. 

Keep Them Dry

Anyone who’s fed birds long enough rolls their eyes when someone uses the term ‘Eats like a bird.’! Birds do not eat small amounts of food, they do not have ‘bird-bellies’, nor are they cheap dates! Keeping your feeders clean and dry will save you a lot of money in the long run by not having food get moldy and rot before every last seed gets eaten! 

One of the biggest obstacles for birdseed is moisture. Wet seeds stick together and won’t let fresh seed flow out of the feeder holes, and long-term issues are mold, mildew, spoiled seeds and sick birds!

Make sure to first choose a feeder with ample protection to keep the rain out, or select a place to hang or attach them that is under an overhang (or build one if you’re creative and handy!).

Suet Feeders suet feeder example

The fat content in suet feeders makes things a bit trickier, but a good washing in hot soapy water, maybe a bit of a long soak in some dish soap that is especially used on greasy pots and pans, will help remove the oily residue. Another good degreaser is diluted vinegar that you’d use for household cleaning. 

Again, rinse thoroughly and dry completely before refilling with fresh Suet cakes.

Hummingbird Feeders hummingbird feeder example

Those gardeners that won’t have snow on the ground all winter or in warm climates will still have the joy of seeing Hummingbirds in their area! These feeders need food refreshed every few days and weekly cleanings too!

Avoid using any detergent or soap and spray down the feeder with very hot water and just a drop of diluted bleach solution to clean them out before refilling. Be certain to rinse these thoroughly!

Keep Them Hydrated bird water station

Water is another scarce commodity for birds in the winter, especially when it's very cold and all moisture is locked away in the form of ice or snow. So providing your songbirds birdbaths or another water source can be tricky. Colder regions especially will find keeping bird watering stations and birdbaths in a liquid form difficult, but there are heaters that can be used to keep things just above freezing. 

Bird lovers in warm climates and during warm spells, it’s just as important to get outside and wash these out every week to two weeks depending on the traffic. Droppings, feathers and other debris quickly build up and can make for very unsanitary conditions!

Again, armed with your diluted bleach solution and or hot soapy water, scrub out your watering station and rinse it thoroughly! Refill with clean water and a few clean rocks or pebbles for smaller birds to use as landing stones.

Feed the Birds with Nature Hills!

Keep your feathered friends happy and healthy this winter with fresh seeds, clean food and fresh water so you’ll not miss a single beat of a wing! 

Of course, one way to avoid weekly cleaning and refilling is simply to let mother nature feed your birds! Plant your very own living birdseed growing garden with these Bird-Friendly landscape ideas! 

Let Nature Hills Nursery be your go-to source for all things bird-friendly this and every year!

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