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How Often Should You Change a Hummingbird Feeder? Factors, Steps & FAQs

bird feeders

Clean food and water are a necessity for the survival of any living thing. For instance, if you have hummingbird feeders, you must change them regularly to meet this condition. While indigenous flowering plants may be the best source of food for hummingbirds, supplementing their diet with a sugar-water solution served in a feeder can provide extra energy, especially during the nesting or migration season. On average, you should clean your hummingbird feeder every 3-5 days.

Keeping the hummingbird feeders in your yard, garden, or balcony clean and hygienic is a vital aspect of attracting these birds and keeping them healthy. Ensure to clear their contents regularly and keep clean water and food.

In this article, we explore the question of changing hummingbird feeders, how to keep them clean, and other related questions. Keep reading for deeper insight.

divider 7 Why You Should Change Hummingbird Feeders

The diet of hummingbirds consists of a nectar solution made from sugar and water. The nectar solution may ferment and spoil over time, especially during the hot weather, causing the birds to revert to their natural food source.

Additionally, unclean hummingbird feeders may promote mold and bacterial growth, exposing your beloved birds to illnesses that may even cause death. By maintaining a clean feeder, you not only keep your hummingbirds healthy and happy, but it also helps keep unpleasant bugs that the birds don’t like at bay.

Note that hummingbirds are very territorial and aggressive despite their small size. These bad-tempered birds tend to invade other birds’ nests in search of sustenance if their feeders are not sufficiently stocked with food.

This behavior can prove problematic for other hummingbirds in the area because an overly aggressive bird could end up chasing off other birds trying to make a home in your yard. If you have multiple feeders, ensure that they are not visible to each other to avoid one bird dominating all feeders.

birds surrounding the bird feeder
Image By: Bonnie Kittle, Unsplash

When to Change a Hummingbird Feeder

Installing a feeding station for hummingbirds is not only a fun and rewarding experience, but it also helps preserve wild birds and nature in general. Moreover,  it is one of the most effective ways to attract these beautiful birds to your property.

However, there is a caveat. Whether you make your nectar or use the natural solution, over time, debris like bird waste and dirt will accumulate in the feeder, which means that you have to clean this feeder at some point.

So, now that you know why it is important to clean the feeder, how often should one clean the hummingbird feeder? Just as it is important to clean our dishes after having a meal, we must also clean our hummingbird feeders.

Though many people believe that hummingbirds need to eat constantly, they can survive for long periods without food. This is common when their natural environment does not provide easily accessible nectar.

But, when we provide them with a nutritious sugar solution, it needs to be constantly replaced. The frequency in which we clean the feeders and replace the nectar solution varies with different situations and conditions, such as the season, place of residence, type of feeder, and the feeder’s location in your yard. Below are how these factors influence the changing of hummingbird feeders.

The 4 Factors That Determine How Often To Change Hummingbird Feeders

1. Season

Image Credit: Pixabay

During the hot and humid summer season, with temperatures soaring above 75°F, you may have to change the feeder solution more often, ideally 2–3 days a week.

Hot temperatures promote faster growth of bacteria and microorganisms that promote fermentation of the sugar solution in your feeder. Microorganisms tend to turn the sugar solution into alcohol, which is often too strong for a hummingbird’s liver to handle.

During the colder winter season, when the outside temperatures are cooler and around 60°F and below, your hummingbird feeders can be cleaned once every week if the feeder contains a sugar solution. However, if you are using normal water, you can clean and replace the feeder once every 2 weeks. Hummingbirds hardly consume any water from the feeder when it is cold.

2. Weather Conditions

Sometimes a feeder may get dirty due to factors like strong winds. If you reside in an area that experiences frequent winds, you may have to change your hummingbird feeder daily. Winds may blow tiny dirt particles, which may settle on the nectar solution and contaminate it.

3. Type of Feeder

You may have a standard feeder with a narrow port or a DIY feeder with a wider port. A narrower port feeder may need cleaning every 3–5 days when the outside temperatures are colder. However, with a wide port feeder, you have to change and clean it daily, as it is more prone to contamination by outside elements.

4. Position of the Feeder in Your Yard

The placement of your feeder is also a factor in determining how often you clean it. For instance, if you position the feeder on a tree branch, you may have to clean and change it daily. The chances are high that the feeder would be contaminated by dried leaves and dead insects, having adverse effects on the hummingbird’s health.

You may also have to clean the feeder more frequently if it is positioned at an angle that allows direct sunlight. On the other hand, if you position the feeder in the window or balcony, you can change it once a week. There are fewer chances of debris falling inside the feeder at this position.

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How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder

The internet is replete with conflicting information on the best practices for cleaning a hummingbird feeder. Some people claim that soap is the best detergent for cleaning a feeder, while some insist on avoiding soap and opting for other products, such as vinegar.

While choosing a cleaning agent for your feeder is a judgment call that you have to make, consistency in cleaning is vital. We recommend giving your feeder a thorough wash each time you change it. You can use soap for routine cleaning, which removes nectar residue and other residues.

Alternatively, soak the feeder in vinegar or bleach for that extra deep cleaning if you notice problems with fungus and mold. Vinegar is a great cleaning agent for bird feeders because it can physically get rid of debris, dirt, and even pesky germs located on various surfaces. In addition, it can also kill certain types of pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella, which can have adverse effects on a bird’s health.

Image Credit: Pixabay

The 6 Steps for Cleaning Your Hummingbird Feeder Clean

1. Empty the Feeder

Start by pouring out any unconsumed nectar solution, then rinse out the empty bottle with hot water. Hummingbird experts warn against reusing nectar because it can ferment and spoil, especially in warm weather. If the birds rarely empty your feeder, consider reducing the amount used to refill the feeder to avoid waste.

2. Disassemble the Feeder

For easier and more efficient cleaning, you have to take apart the feeder. Unfortunately, most old model feeders do not disassemble. Luckily, modern feeders can be taken apart completely to allow you to reach the small nooks and crannies for thorough cleaning.

3. Soak the Feeder

You can create a mild cleaning solution by mixing hot water and dish soap or vinegar in a container. Then, put all the dissembled feeder parts into the solution and soak for approximately 1–2 hours. This helps loosen the nectar residue and mold buildup, allowing for easier scrubbing of the surfaces.

4. Scrub the Feeder

In this step, you can use either a bottlebrush or a cleaning mop to scrub away the residue on the interior surface of the feeder. Thoroughly clean the inside of the bottle and the base while paying close attention to the spots that contain mold.

If you have the standard commercial feeder that features a small neck whose interior cannot be accessed with a brush or mop, fill the feeder up with a dab of dish soap and water, then give it a good shake. Also, remember to scrub the other small parts of the feeder, including the bee guards, caps, and feeding ports.

5. Rinse the Feeder

After scrubbing all the feeder components, rinse them with cold water to remove any traces of residual soap and dirt. If not thoroughly rinsed, the nectar replaced would taste like soap, which would consequently discourage the hummingbirds from using your feeder.

6. Dry the Feeder

Finally, you can arrange the feeder parts on a dish rack or a dry towel and allow them to air dry. Air drying helps remove the smell of soap from the feeder. Once dry, you can proceed to reassemble your feeder and refill it with the nectar solution.

divider 7 Conclusion

If you want to enjoy the serenity and beauty that hummingbirds bring to a backyard, installing a feeder is the best way to attract these birds to your balcony or yard. However, you also have to ensure that cleaning and refilling the feeder becomes an essential part of your routine. This will ensure that the native and migrating hummingbirds have a clean and constant supply of fresh and clean sources of nourishment.

Featured Image Credit: nickfish03, Pixabay


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