Birdfeeders and birdbaths are a wonderful addition to any garden but they can also contribute to the spread of disease with many different birds gathering in one location. Some routine maintenance can greatly reduce this risk and promote better bird health.
For more, also see these creative bird-themed projects.
The more active a birdfeeder is, the more often it needs to be cleaned and disinfected.
How To Wash and Disinfect A Birdfeeder
At lease twice a month (and more often if feeders are really active and/or some birds show signs of disease—weakness, unhealthy appearance):
- Empty feeders and submerge in clean water. Use a gentle dish soap or detergent (unscented). Wear rubber gloves and use a baby bottle brush and/or toothbrushes to remove all debris both inside and outside the feeder.
- Immerse feeder in 1 part bleach and 9 parts water.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Air dry.
- Do not fill feeders until completely dry (or mold and mildew may form).
- Add fresh water daily.
- Regularly scrub and disinfect (same as above).
- Remember, birdbaths should be shallow (less than 1″ of water)—not deep—and provide secure places for the birds to stand.
Hummingbird and Oriole Feeders
- Nectar/sugar water is made by adding 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Bring mixture to boil for 1-2 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Cool completely before filling feeders. Store leftover mixture in fridge. NEVER add honey, brown sugar, or food colouring to the mixture.
- Change the nectar/sugar water frequently (every day or few days—more often in hot weather) and completely clean the feeder (inside and out) each time the nectar is changed. The Audubon Society recommends using 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water for washing hummingbird feeders followed by a thorough rinse with clean water.
- Nectar should always appear clear, not cloudy.
- If you have several hummingbirds, consider using several feeders, placed far apart, where they cannot see each other while feeding. This can help prevent dominance by aggressive males.
Do you know hummingbirds? Take the quiz here to find out!
Cleaning Perches, Posts, Poles, Shepherds Hooks
- Common metal and plastic rest/perching spots can also carry disease. Use rubber gloves and wash away any bird droppings. Disinfect with 1:9 bleach/water solution. Rinse thoroughly.
1. Remove birdseed debris daily. Old hulls and seeds can carry pathogens. Place them in the garbage, not the compost.
2. If feeders and birdbaths are crowded, consider adding additional stations, allowing greater distance between birds.
3. Provide a varied natural habitat including trees, shrubs, vines, and flowering plants to promote feeding and nesting. Many birds also like to perch nearby a feeder.
4. Avoid pesticides and herbicides. Whatever you add to your garden affects everything including insects and plants which are food sources for the birds.
5. Find a reliable birdseed supplier (local, independent can be great resources) and learn about the best seed choices.
Clean and disinfect your birdfeeders, birdbaths, and perching spots regularly to promote bird health.