How to Clean a Bird Feeder – Healthy Feeders, Happier Birds

Bird Eating at a Feeder

If you want to bring life and more color to your yard a bird feeder is a good option. It doesn’t matter if it’s a solitary bird or a whole flock; the important thing is to keep it full and clean so that you and your feathered visitors can get the most out of it.

That said, how often should you clean your bird feeder? According to the National Audubon Society, one or two times a month should be enough. However, if you see any signs of a sick or infected bird, double the effort, and clean the feeder as often as you can.

Why Cleaning Your Bird Feeder is Important

Mold, bacteria, and other disease agents will thrive on a dirty bird feeder, causing contamination among birds. Infected birds can then spread illnesses to other wild populations, feeding stations, and yards, which can potentially cause epidemic conditions among the animal population, wiping out entire colonies if left unchecked. Luckily, cleaning bird feeders is easy in order to halt the process of contamination and, as an added benefit, you will be able to attract more birds to clean feeding areas.

You should also take note of rainy seasons. Wet birdseed is an ideal breeding ground for fungus and molds that can harm birds. If you see any clumping, that’s a sign of dampness, which means that it’s time you get rid of the birdseed and clean the feeder.

Problems That Come With Dirty Bird Feeders

Apart from diseases caused by bird feces and moldy seeds, other problems dirty bird feeders pose include:

  • Debris and grease accumulation that can destroy flowerbeds or lawns
  • An unpleasant odor that attracts rats, mice, insects, and other unwanted animals
  • Violation of community rules, such as going against HOA guidelines about outdoor appearances
  • Extremely damaged feeders, which may pose threat to birds and the environment


If your bird feeder is looking rather unsightly and emitting an unpleasant smell, it’s high time to clean it.

Tips for Clean Bird Feeders

As an avid fan of birds and their behavior, it’s important to regularly clean feeders in order to prevent diseases and other problems that may be harmful to birds and the surrounding area. A clean feeder will attract more birds because clean, fresh, uncontaminated seed is more safe, nutritious, and appealing.

To ensure your bird feeder stays in tip-top shape, below are some tips:

Choose Feeders that are Easy to Clean

Feeders made of wood are lovely to look at, but the problem with wood is that it easily absorbs oil and other materials, making clean up a hassle for the owner. Because of this, you’ll want an easy-to-clean bird feeder made of glass, glazed ceramic, metal, or recycled plastic.

Keep Yourself Safe

To ensure that you don’t get contaminated by any contagions, always wear rubber gloves every time you clean and then also thoroughly wash your hands after cleaning.

Keep a Cleaning Schedule

Your cleaning schedule is dependent on several factors, including the weather, number of birds, and your location. At standard, bird feeders should be cleaned at least once a month. Busy feeders may need to be cleaned more often as many birds use them.

For Oriole feeders and hummingbirds feeders, however, they should be cleaned each time the nectar is refilled.

Sanitize the Feeder

You can use cleaning solutions to sanitize your feeder. For every nine parts of hot water, use one part of bleach. If you have no time to prepare a solution, you can buy commercial solutions but choose the mild ones and make sure they are unscented too.

Soak the Feeder

Before scrubbing the feeder, first soak the dirty bird feeder in order to loosen any debris. Be sure to submerge the feeder fully into the water to make sure that all dirty areas are soaked.

Don’t Leave Out Any Parts

Feeders are made of several parts. That said, it is important to clean each and every part in order to prevent diseases. Check the reservoir, platform, lid, perches, and ports and clean them inside out. The feeder’s pole, hook, or any other part where birds perch should be cleaned as well since these are where feces can accumulate.

Bring Out the Gear

To ensure that the feeder is cleaned inside out, use a stiff brush, which you can purchase in pet supply stores, garden centers, and nature stores. They have all sorts of brushes specifically made for feeders. If you can’t find the time or don’t have the resources to buy stiff brushes, a regular bottle brush will do.

Other birders also use an old toothbrush if a bottle brush or stiff brush isn’t available. Old toothbrushes work best for cleaning tiny parts, tight corners, and feeding ports. To ensure small feeding portholes are cleaned, you can use a stiff pipe cleaner.

Rinse, Rinse, and Rinse

Once you’re done sanitizing using a solution, rinse the feeder thoroughly. Make sure the soap residue is completely removed and there are no odors, suds, debris, or dirt left.

Drying the Feeder

Make sure the feeder is completely dry before filling it with birdseed again . Don’t make the mistake of refilling it when it’s wet as moisture is a breeding ground for mildew and mold, which can cause unhealthy and rotten seed which can then lead to disease.

An easy way to dry your feeder is to place it in direct sunlight to ensure that all parts, including the small ones, are dried out and free of chemicals or soap residue.

Cleaning Nearby Areas

Cleaning your bird feeder is a good practice, but your effort will be rendered useless if the surrounding area is unsanitary. So, make sure that nearby areas where birds congregate and perch are clean too, as hungry birds often spill seed on the ground a few feet away from the feeder. You should anticipate that they will feed anywhere they can spot birdseed, so it’s important to check the surroundings too.

To keep the surroundings clean, here’s what you should do:

  • Trim tall grasses below the feeder
  • Make sure perches, fences, and bird baths are clean
  • To cover droppings, refill gravel or mulch beneath the feeder
  • Clean up any fallen fruit, especially rotten ones, around the area
  • Remove wet seed hulls and damp seeds near the feeders

Care for Wooden Feeders

Wooden feeders are tough to clean, but if you have already bought one, it’s essential you know the most appropriate way to maintain it. What you should remember is that wooden feeders will naturally fade over time, and you shouldn’t use any commercial cleaning agents on them to maintain their appearance.

To ensure your wooden feeder remains usable for a long time, here are some tips.

Pine feeders: Pine feeders are lovely to look at and they weather quite beautifully. However, they fade in the long run. To maintain their appearance and usability, use a water-soluble stain or linseed oil every few years as needed.

Cedar or Redwood feeders: Cedar and redwood are good choices when it comes to feeders due to their excellent weathering properties. These types of wood remain usable even without proper maintenance but expect the color to fade the longer you use it. To maintain its attractive appearance, apply a coat of linseed oil or a wood sealer once every few years. Apply the coat outside the feeder and never inside the area where birds eat.

Healthy Feeders, Happier Birds

Birds will forage in any area they wish, but if they come to your property to feed, make sure they get the best. Not only should you ensure the bird feeder is full — you should also see to it that it’s clean as well.

Birds can easily become ill and their risk of getting wiped out because of a disease is greater compared to other animals. Therefore, as a birder and animal lover, you should make sure you provide them with a space where they can feed freely in a sanitary setting. So, if you want to keep your feathered friends snacking happily and healthy on your property, make sure you do your part.