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Keeping Bird Feeders & Baths Clean

A matter of health and kindness

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Keep it clean. Keep them healthy. iStockphoto.com

It’s simple—but vital—to keep disease-causing bacteria out of birdfeeders. The effort is a small price to pay for the pleasures of watching and hearing birds at your feeders. Follow these easy guidelines to keep your avian neighbors safe.

Cleaning birdfeeders

  • Clean hanging feeders once every two weeks or more often when heavily used.
  • Clean feeders designed for ground-feeding birds every two days. Immerse feeders in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts warm water for two or three minute.
  • Scrub with a stiff brush or a scouring pad, rinse thoroughly with clean water, and dry completely before refilling.
  • Rake up spilled seeds, hulls, and feces around the feeders at least once a week. Move heavily used feeders to new locations periodically, so the ground has a chance to dry out.

Storing seed

  • Keep extra seed dry, free of mold, and safe from squirrels by storing it in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid, such as a clean garbage can. 
  • Discard damp seed.
  • In wet weather, put out only enough seed to last several hours.

If you see sick or dead birds near feeders

  • If you notice sick birds (they're less active and less alert) or dead birds near your feeders, stop feeding immediately. 
  • Discard all seed.
  • Clean and disinfect all feeders and remove any spilled seed from the ground below them. 
  • Wait a week before resuming feeding.

How important is water?

Extremely important! Birds need water year-round for both drinking and bathing. Bathing is essential to keeping their feathers in good shape for flight and insulation.

  • Choose a birdbath with an easy-to-clean surface and gently sloping sides or a shallow end.
  • Place the birdbath away from your birdfeeders to keep the water from becoming contaminated.
  • To reduce the chance of collisions with windows, place the birdbath either farther than 30 feet from windows (preventing confusing reflections from being a problem) or closer than 3 feet (preventing birds from building up enough flight speed to be injured by any collisions).
  • Keep the birdbath clean to avoid the spread of disease. 
  • Provide fresh, open water in winter by installing a heated bath (or adding a heating element to the bath), and follow all instructions for safe installation.

With your thoughtful planning and care, the birds will benefit greatly, and you will have excellent backyard bird watching opportunities in all seasons.

Create a Humane Backyard

A place that offers food, shelter, water, refuge from toxic sprays, and safety from mowers—it’s what every creature wants, right? They want a Humane Backyard. By making simple changes, you can create that haven of comfort and security for local wildlife. And you can do it anywhere: in the city, suburbs, or country. So look around--at your backyard, balcony, or the park down the street—then let us teach you how to make your own Humane Backyard. Once you’ve learned how, take our Humane Backyard pledge.

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