Whether you feed your birds year round, or just in the winter, like I do, the feeders themselves need regular maintenance in order to keep your feathered friends healthy. The wind and rain blew the roof off my feeder yesterday, so I saw that as a perfect chance to clean it while it is empty, getting it ready for use again this fall. I don’t leave the feeder up here year round simply because of the mess it makes on the balcony, between the birdie poo and the scattered seeds.
Every time you fill your feeder, any old and/or wet seed should be cleaned out and disposed of and any droppings should be removed. At least once a month — and especially if putting your feeder away for the summer — it should be washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water and then be allowed to soak in a solution of chlorine bleach and water — one part bleach to 9 parts water is a strong enough mix. Let soak for 5 minutes or so and then allow to air dry.
Check your feeder regularly for sharp edges, broken plastic/glass, or any sharp points that might scratch or cut the birds — such wounds provide an entrance for bacteria and viruses.
A dirty feeder can make birds very sick:
Salmonellosis: The most commonly spread disease at feeders is caused by the Salmonella group of bacteria. Birds can die quickly from this disease. Symptoms include abscesses in the lining of the upper digestive tract of the birds. Infected birds spread the bacteria in their droppings. Other birds get sick when infected droppings land on food.
Trichomoniasis: It is caused by a one-celled protozoan parasite. Mourning doves are particularly susceptible. Trichomoniasis cause sores in birds’ mouths and throats, making it difficult for birds to swallow or drink. The disease spreads when sick birds drop contaminated food or water at a feeder or watering area.
Aspergillosis: A mold that grows on damp feed and in the debris beneath feeders. Birds inhale the mold spores and infection spreads in the lungs, causing bronchitis and pneumonia.
Avian Pox: A virus that causes wart-like growths on featherless surfaces of a bird’s face, feet legs or wings. The virus spreads by direct contact, by insects or by viruses shed on food by infected birds.
Remember to clean the ground below your feeder, too, to prevent a build-up of seed hulls and other waste. Moldy or spoiled food is unhealthy not only for birds, but for your outside pets and other animals. Bird food scattered on the ground can also entice unwanted rodents.
Following these few simple guidelines should keep your feathered guests happy and healthy year round.