How To Clean A Birdfeeder: Seed Feeder Hygiene Minimizes Disease in Wild Birds

Dismantling the feeder

If a bird feeder is due for cleaning, it is best to let the birds eat the seed without topping up so that only a small residue is left. The feeder can then be taken down and any excess seed emptied. Most of the leading brands like Droll Yankees, Gardman and CJ Wildbird/RSPB make their feeders from metal castings in a polycarbonate tube. Machine screws hold the castings on either side of the tube together. The lowest port and the metal base are worth taking apart. Seed tends to cake here, and the birds never get to clear out the very bottom of the feeder, so pathogens can build up in this region. It is easy to lose the machine screws!

Cleaning the feeder

An empty 2 litre (4 pint) plastic soft drinks bottle makes a good cleaning bath, if the top shoulder is cut off. Some warm water and detergent can be added to this, and the feeder manufacturers sell large bottlebrushes for cleaning their products. After soaking the feeder in the cleaning bath for about ten minutes, a garden hose on jet spray will clear most of the mess. What remains can be removed with the bottlebrush. After this the feeder can be dipped in another bath of a disinfectant suitable for wild bird use and reassembled.

Reassembling the feeder

To reassemble the feeder the nut needs to be placed in the feeding port, which is then located in the plastic tube the right way up. The seed comes in from below, not from above. The base can then be fitted – it usually has lugs that engage with the bottom feeder pots to hold it in. A finger can be used to hold the nut in place while the feeder is turned over so that the feeder port on the other side can be dropped in from above, and the machine screw dropped in from above. Tighten this against the nut, which must be supported from below until the thread engages properly.


Feeder cleaning should be done outdoors and away from anywhere than human food is prepared. Some of the pathogens like Salmonella are not welcome around humans either. And having cleaned the feeder, it is essential to wash one’s hands afterwards.

Using this method, seed feeders can be cleaned effectively using less water and detergent/disinfectant without compromising on the welfare of the birds themselves.