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Keeping birdfeeders clean

Reading this month's GW, it recommends cleaning bird feeders weekly. Now, I'm very keen not to be doing anything that will harm our birds, but I'm struggling with how on erth to manage such a regular cleaning cycle! I clean them a couple of times each year or if seed gets damp & mouldy - which I'm aware may not be enough. 
Problem is, not only are squirrel proof feeders a bit of a pain to clean, there's no way they'd dry during the winter in anything like reasonable time. Am i missing some tricks?


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,555
    I just dunk mine in a bowl of hot, soapy water then give them a scrub when the water's cooled enough and a good rinse.  Drain on the draining board or dry with an old towel although, as they go out in all weathers, the only ones that need drying are those that take loose seed.  Sometimes, I just put them in the dishwasher when OH isn't looking.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,196
    It helps if you have a utility room.

    Dismantling the feeders, soaking in Milton fluid while you go off and do other things, brushing with a bottlebrush, rinsing and drying on the top of a radiator  take very little time.

    We clean ours regularly because sometimes the food gets half eaten and left for the next bird to pick up. Chaffinches round here suffer from two horrible diseases - one is a sort of pox that both blinds them and clogs up they mouths with lesions - they can’t swallow the food and spit it out leaving it for other birds to eat and catch the disease. The other disease attacks their feet, initially making them look as if they are encased in cement. The feet then drop off and they hop around on stumps until caught and eaten by a predator. They catch this disease by walking in dirty feeding areas where affected birds congregate.

    So even though we keep our feeders scrupulously clean, we still have the sad sight of dying and diseased birds in our garden.

    A little time is all it takes to keep the feeders clean. After all, you would wash a pet’s bowl on a daily basis, wouldn’t you?
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Fran IOMFran IOM Posts: 2,224
    I have four bird feeders in the allotment. For peanuts, nyjer seed, sunflower hearts and fatballs. I have two of each so that when I take them home to clean I have the duplicates to replace them. (Not what you would call expensive ones). This gives you plenty of time to dry them. I usually put them on top of the boiler or maybe near a radiator. If I didn't have the extra ones the birds would probably have to go a day without feeding as there wouldn't be the time to wash and dry them to refill as they are emptied daily. I dread to think what mine would look like after 6 months! As they are not so keen on the peanuts I usually have to throw half of them away as they very quickly go off. Hope that this might help in some way.  :)
    @pansyface Didn't know that about Chaffinches. Sounds horrendous. 
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,196
    Fringilla papillomavirus and Trichomoniasis.

    Both very ugly and slow to kill.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 8,855
    You can help a lot by just cleaning the parts of the feeder that the birds come in contact with. All metal feeders can be cleaned pretty well by just pouring boiling water over them, plastic parts can distort in the heat though so be careful.

    Move feeders around the garden regularly if you can to let the ground underneath clean itself up a bit. Or feed them over a patio area that can be swept clean.

    My feeders are nice and easy to clean luckily with mostly metal parts that can be boiled. We get the finch diseases here too so I try to be careful.
    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
  • Rose121Rose121 Posts: 132
    Thanks all, this is really useful. Might even replace the one that's hardest to clean (a seed feeder with a huge squirrel cage and lots of perches you need to unscrew to get to the central tube). Like the idea of getting duplicates - particularly for seed feeders which just don't dry at this time of year. 
  • Fran IOMFran IOM Posts: 2,224
  • Valley GardenerValley Gardener Rhondda ValleyPosts: 2,691
    edited January 2019
    Yes some of the feeders are a bit technical,one of mine has various screws to undo to get right to the bottom for cleaning,needless to say they were rusted,so I now put Vaseline on all screwy bits. It gets more and more involved,needing a large and a small Phillips screwdriver.
    So sad about the chaffinches.

    The whole truth is an instrument that can only be played by an expert.
  • We love watching the birds and have eleven bird feeders but when we read the GW article we went on a serious guilt trip.  Have to say on close inspection I thought the
    feeders  were quite disgusting but my husband is working his way through them, giving them a good clean and finishing with disinfectant.  The feeders which remained in the best condition were those attached to a huge laurel which are protected from the worst of the weather and which enabled the birds to slip into hiding quickly also the ones very close to a privet where again the birds slip easily and quickly in and out.  The cleaning is turning into a big job but going forward we will probably just do two a week.  Either way the article was a wake up call.
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