Hey Bird Guy! Do I really have to clean my bird feeders? Doesn’t the rain do that?
-S.C. of Twin Lakes
Keeping your feeders clean is very important, S.C. Diseases and parasites like feather mites can be in a dirty feeder and they will spread around quickly. Rain does rinse them off but it would be like taking a shower without soap, better than nothing but not good enough. Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you see a bird that looks sick, bloated, lethargic, or one that appears to have one eye closed; that bird may be ill. It’s safest to clean all your feeders at that time. Take them apart and clean them with hot water and a mild bleach solution or a mild dish soap solution. Use a scrub brush and really do a number on them. Rinse them well and let them dry before refilling them.
When you clean them you also need to rake and clean the ground underneath as well. All the empty shells, spilled seed and bird poop (pardon the ornithologically technical term) can rot and bacteria will grow. Let’s face facts; birds poop a lot. It’s just not healthy to eat and poop in the same place but birds don’t know that so it’s up to us to help.
You should do a proper cleaning every spring. May is the perfect month here because most of our winter birds have headed north. Clean them again in the fall. October is ideal, right before most of the migrants feeder birds arrive. Cleaning them four times per year is even better but I know how busy you are so twice should do the trick.
Don’t forget to clean your bird baths too. Birds drink and bathe from the same water but remember, they have bird brains so they don’t keep the water clean. A quick rinse and fill every other day should do the trick between your twice a year scrubs and it will greatly reduce the algae build up. Also since mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water and they will hatch in 72 hours if the water remains stagnant, the quick rinse prevents eggs from hatching. This is something we should all be cognizant of with the recent Zika virus scare. Every little bit helps.