|My shame: the filthy feeder|
I took some photos of birds in our yard the other day, and when I was looking through them to pick the ones I wanted to post to Facebook, I realized how gross and dirty our bird feeders had gotten. I will admit now that before I posted it, I cropped one of the photos to hide the mildew that I was too embarrassed to show. My excuse was that the winter has been cold, and also there had been a lot of rain in the last couple of weeks and the bird seed had turned soggy and nasty. But in truth, it has also been a very long time since the last cleaning. After looking at the grime on the feeder, I felt very guilty. But no more! Today I rolled up my sleeves and tore into those filthy feeders.
|Lots of opportunity to swap germs|
Feeding birds is a great hobby. I love seeing what birds we can attract to the yard throughout the year. But it is important to keep the feeders clean, as well as filled. All those birds moving in and out can bring and share germs and disease. And wet or spoiled seed creates a breeding ground for bacteria that can make the birds sick. So, ideally, it is recommended that you give your feeders a good cleaning once every month. Or quarterly. Or at the very least, twice a year. I'd like to aspire to cleaning monthly, but I doubt I can be that diligent. But I know I need to step up my routine, because I don't want to attract birds just to make them sick or even kill them.
|The Big Bucket and other tools|
My personal feeder cleaning set up is not complicated. I use a large utility bucket, biodegradable dish soap, some bleach (to kill germs and viruses), a scrub brush, a plastic putty knife, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and the hose. It's a bit of a chore, because we have quite a few different kinds of feeders and several feeding stations. And some of the feeders are rather large. I think in the future I may pick up a small kiddie pool in order to soak the larger pieces.
|Stripped down and scrubbed clean|
First I strip the feeding stations down to the pole, removing attachable "branches". Then I take down and empty the feeders, using the putty knife to scrape out wet or caked on seed, and put the old food in the trash. I will spare you photos of the nasty wet seed today, but it was putrid. It can go bad in a fairly short time in rainy and warm conditions. Sometimes it even sprouts in the feeder trays. Today I was glad I had the rubber gloves.
|A plastic putty knife is a wonderful tool for scraping out caked on bird seed|
Next, I take apart all the tube feeders and clean out the inevitably clogged feeder ports. Good quality feeders will come apart to allow access to these places where water gets in and wet bird seed builds up and spoils.
|Tube feeder taken apart|
Then I scrub all the feeder surfaces with soapy water mixed with some bleach. I add about 1/4 cup of bleach to my big bucket. I scrub the tube feeders, suet feeders and remove and clean all the trays. Then, I scrub the poles, baffles and attachments, because the birds leave seed and waste residue on everything. After everything is scrubbed clean, then I rinse well and let the parts sit in the sun to dry. You do not want to put dry seed into wet feeders or you'll get mildew and caked food inside.
|All clean and drying in the sun|
While I'm waiting for the feeders to dry it is a good time to clean out the bird bath, scrubbing out algae and any old seed and bird poop.
|Birdbath is clean, too|
Then, everything goes back together again. The birds were annoyed with me while I was cleaning and then seemed confused by the missing and empty feeders while everything dried. But 5 minutes after I had set it all up again and refilled the feeders, they had forgiven me.
|"Wait, where is everything?"|
So now our yard has clean, sparkling feeders and I can rest assured that I am providing a wholesome and helpful environment for the birds I love. This will be especially nice for the Great Backyard Bird Count that starts this weekend. And I'll be able to post my photos with a clear conscience and no cropping.
|Sparkling Clean and Ready for Visitors!|