The first rule of bird feeding club? Clean and hygienic feeders. We all know how important it is to keep bird feeders clean and hygienic in order to avoid the spread of parasites and disease in wild bird populations. Trichomonosis is a deadly disease, commonly found in finches but also documented in pigeons, great tits, house sparrows and siskins, which can quickly spread via unclean bird feeders.
It is easy to keep your bird feeders clean and the birds visiting your garden safe. Let’s take a look at some of the simple techniques you can use to ensure your bird feeding stations are well maintained.
ONLY PUT OUT WHAT THE BIRDS WILL EAT
As we come into the Autumn and Winter, natural food sources will become harder to find and the wild birds visiting your garden will become more reliant on the feeders you put out. It is important to keep an eye on how much food the birds are eating, throwing away any uneaten food and aiming to put out only what will get used – little and often is the way to go so that food isn’t left sitting around to spoil. When we get back around to the Summer this will become even more important, as food can quickly rot in the heat.
SET UP MORE THAN ONE FEEDING STATION
This ensures that the birds aren’t all descending on one place and keeps them spread out around the garden. Rotating food between two or three different stations in the garden will prevent the feeders from being over used – you’re aiming for less birds on any one feeder.
KEEP THE AREA BENEATH YOUR FEEDER CLEAN
Sweep beneath your feeders and clean around any feeding poles and bird tables thoroughly, ensuring there are no droppings left around.
USE BIRD FEEDERS THAT ARE EASY TO CLEAN
We all know that we are more likely to tackle jobs if they are simple and quick to do. Aim to buy feeders that are easy to take apart if needed, and go for wipe clean materials to simplify your cleaning routine. We stock a beautiful Bempton hanging bird table which is a great alternative to the tradition wooden tables, thanks to its removable second life plastic tray base, which makes it much easier to clean than wood.
EMPTY AND CLEAN BIRD BATHS DAILY
As birds sit in bird baths, they quickly become unhygienic. It is best to refill them with fresh water daily and wash them in warm, soapy water.
CLEAN YOUR BIRD FEEDERS EVERY TWO WEEKS
I thoroughly clean our bird feeders every two weeks, taking apart any with parts I can’t reach with my scrubbing brush. It’s a ten minute job and will make a huge difference to the birds in our garden.
1. Empty any uneaten food into the bin;
2. Remove any food that has stuck to the feeders with a stiff bristled brush, and clean the feeders inside and out with warm, soapy water;
3. Rinse the feeders through and hang them to air dry;
4. When dry, soak the bird feeders in a weak bleach solution (5% bleach) for around 10 minutes. If you prefer, you can soak the feeders in a white vinegar and washing up solution for around an hour.
5. Rinse the bird feeders with cold, running water and air dry. Ensure the feeders are completely dry before refilling.
KEEP YOURSELF SAFE
It’s best to clean your bird feeders outside, and to use dedicated cleaning equipment rather than the brushes and cloths you use in the house. Always wear gloves to handle, empty and clean bird feeders. It is reassuring to know that there is an extremely low risk of the current avian influenza strain passing to humans, but birds do carry other diseases we can catch, including salmonella, which is why it is so important to take precautions when handling bird feeders.
You are making a huge, fantastic difference to the birds in your garden by putting out food, and keeping your bird feeders clean is the best way to guarantee healthy and happy birds!