Bird feeders are an important haven for birds seeking valuable nutrients, but dirty feeders are also a haven for bacteria and disease. One of the biggest risks to a bird's health is salmonella. Birds naturally carry small amounts of bacteria, so never cleaning your feeder or droppings in the area could result in death by salmonella infection. Similarly, contaminated feeders provide the perfect conditions for an epidemic to wipe out nesting populations, since potentially hundreds of migratory and resident birds will stop at the feeder for food.
In order to prevent birds in your backyard from getting sick, you should thoroughly clean your bird feeder consistently. Here are some tips on how to clean it.
Clean your bird feeder often
Even letting your feeder go uncleaned for a little while will increase the risk of bacteria, but failing to clean it at least once a month will be harmful to the birds. If your feeder is used frequently, clean it more often. For hummingbird feeders, you should clean it every time you refill the nectar.
Take down your feeder and remove all parts
Before handling your feeder, you should put on gloves to protect yourself from bacteria that might be on the seed or loose feathers. Once you take it down, disassemble all the parts, including the perches, roofs, seed catchers, platforms and other accessories.
Thoroughly sanitize your feeder with cleaning solution
After you've taken the feeder apart, sanitize the pieces by scrubbing them with a cleaning solution. Use a dilute solution with only 10 percent bleach. Another option is to get a standard bird feeder cleaning solutions or one specifically designed for hummingbird and oriole feeders. With either solution, carefully scrub each part with a sponge or toothbrush to remove the grime. Also make sure you wipe down the bird pole and hooks where the feeder is hung.
Let the feeder dry completely before putting it back
Once you've rinsed all the residual chemicals off the feeder, never put it back wet because it will be more susceptible to mold and mildew. Instead, let it dry by leaving the parts in direct sunlight or by using a hair dryer.
Additional cleaning and maintenance tips
Clean the area surrounding the feeder
While it's most important to thoroughly clean your bird feeder, daily and weekly upkeep is also the key to having a bacteria-free and sanitary feeding area for the birds. Pick up any seeds that have fallen on the ground if you don't have a seed catcher, discard loose feathers and cover any droppings underneath the feeder with gravel or mulch.
If possible, move the feeder to a new area after cleaning
Moving the feeder will ensure that the site around it is clean and fresh, so there will be no risk of bacteria or salmonella contamination.
Always use fresh seed
This tip mostly has do with the care of the birds rather than the cleanliness of the feeder. If the bird seed looks bad or smells musty, don't put it in the feeder because it could also spread disease and make birds sick.