Bird Feeder Maintenance

Keeping a bird feeder full is not crucial to the survival of backyard birds. Birds do not become dependent on feeders and will find other sources of food. But neglecting to clean and check bird feeders for safety can cause illness and death in the birds that visit them. Taking some easy, occasional steps will ensure the safety of the birds that visit feeders.

Check to Make Sure Bird Feeders are Safe

When filling feeders, check for sharp bits of wire sticking out, broken pieces of wire, splintering wood, cracked plastic, and other potential hazards. Also make sure feeders are secure in their hanging locations.

Injured birds are likely to fly away from the feeding site so it may not be obvious that there is a problem with the feeder. It is important to check rather than relying on the birds to point out the damage by behaving differently.

Clean Bird Feeders Regularly

Bird waste, saliva, and dirt can accumulate on feeders. These can transmit diseases such as salmonella and conjunctivitis, which can sicken and kill birds. Again, sick birds will fly away from the feeding area so it may not be apparent that anything is wrong.

Mold can also grow on spoiled seed or empty hulls. Mold can make birds sick. In summer months, mold grows much more quickly and bird feeders should be checked frequently for spoiled seed. If there is any doubt about the state of the seed, replace it.


Clean feeders every two weeks in warm, humid weather, or once a month in cold weather. If local news sources or birdwatching clubs report a disease outbreak in the area, clean feeders immediately. Wash plastic and metal feeders with a nine-to-one water/bleach mix, rinse, and let dry before rehanging. Wood feeders are harder to wash, but should be thoroughly brushed out.

It is also good to rake up waste and hulls on the ground below the feeders. Some birds may search for good seed on the ground and the area should be kept clean for them.

Bird Baths

A bird bath is another good way to keep backyard birds healthy. Birds use baths to clean themselves, drink, and keep cool on warm days. All birds need water, so many birds that shun bird feeders will still visit bird baths.

A few easy steps will go a long way toward maintaining the safety and cleanliness of bird feeders. Provide a bird bath and wash and examine bird feeders regularly.