Feeding the birds this winter has been hard work! With record snowfalls across the country, just trudging out to the feeders was difficult enough—actually keeping them and the surrounding area spotlessly clean was probably almost impossible in some cases.
But finally the snow is melting and we can get out again to really enjoy our hobby of feeding the birds. What are some of the things we can do to get our feeding areas back to a clean and healthy state? Here are some guidelines.
Cleaning the feeding area: If you feed black oil seed in the shell, chances are that once the snow melted, you found loads of shells under the feeders. Not only can the phytotoxins in the shells inhibit the growth of your grass and some other plants, they’re unsightly and can mold on the ground. Try to rake up as much as you can from your feeding area. You don’t have to load up a landfill with the discarded shells, but don’t use these hulls as mulch in your garden! The best place to put the shells is where you don’t have things growing that you want to keep. Composting the shells is fine, but the shells will decompose slowly as does any woody material.
Cleaning the feeders: Next, give your feeders a real good cleaning. Feeders that are dirty with bird droppings, discarded seed shells and mold are a health hazard to birds because they harbor bacteria and can spread diseases. First check your feeders to be sure that there are no broken parts, cracked or broken plastic, or areas that can cause injury to birds. If the problem can’t be corrected properly, discard the feeder! To thoroughly clean tube feeders, it’s best to use a long feeder brush. For hopper and platform type feeders a scrub brush works well. Remove all the remaining seed in the feeders. For metal and plastic feeders, you can soak them in a sink or bucket of hot, soapy water to loosen up any remaining material. Wood feeders can also be scrubbed with hot, soapy water. Just don’t soak them because they’ll take a long time to dry and may crack. Many other feeders such as vinyl covered suet baskets and feeders made from recycled plastic can often be put in the dishwasher. Use the top rack and just in case—skip the dry cycle. Next, you’ll want to disinfect. You can use either 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water or you can use 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Scrub in the solution, let stand for several minutes, then rinse. Let your feeders air-dry thoroughly (preferably in the sun) before refilling. Don’t forget to clean and remove soil and droppings from your hanging and post baffles, too.
Cleaning bird baths and bird bath heaters: Finally, the bird bath gets cleaned. If you have been using a separate bird bath heater, it may have accumulated mineral deposits. Soaking the heater in vinegar can help remove the deposits, along with a little scrubbing. For plastic bird baths, scrub out the bird bath using a vinegar and water solution and rinse well. For concrete baths that have discolored with either minerals or algae, you can pour in a vinegar and water solution and let it sit before scrubbing and rinsing. Cover the bath with cardboard or a trash can lid while it’s soaking, just in case birds try to drink or bathe in it! Happy Birding!