There are too many variables for me to confidently recommend a regular schedule for cleaning your bird feeders, so I won’t even try.
In the fall and winter, when the weather helps to maintain bird feeders in good condition, cleaning them once a month is sufficient. It’s especially important to keep up with cleaning the feeders at least twice a week during the warmer months during summer, when the bird food might go bad from being exposed to the sun.
What’s confusing at first is that most of you will encounter a wide range of temperatures, from very hot summers in some states to more typical summers in others.
For this reason, when I say “summer months,” I mean typical summer months, which might include frigid winters.
Since bird feeders’ exteriors can get dirty quickly, we should pay more attention to the inside of the feeder as time goes on.
It is important to keep a bird feeder clean so that rotting bird food doesn’t leak into the interior, where it can cause damage and leave stains that are difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
If you want to keep your bird feeders in good condition, you should clean them as often as possible outside of the winter and the extremely cold months by giving them a bath in strong dish soap, but only after disassembling them first.
Bird feeders can be disinfected with a homemade cleaning solution consisting of part bleach or white vinegar, which can be applied when cleaning the feeders in the method you find most effective.
Though my recommendation is to clean your ordinary bird feeders as often as possible, you can learn more about how often to clean your hummingbird feeder by reading my dedicated guide.
It’s not enough to just wipe out the inside of bird feeders to get rid of the moldy bird food that can leave stains.
Because of the possibility of spilled food and bird droppings or stuck feathers on the exterior and interior of the feeder, you may need to add an extra day of cleaning to your weekly routine.
It’s impossible to prevent bees and even ants from swarming a nectar-covered hummingbird feeder unless you routinely clean the sugary water on the outside of the feeder.
Once monthly in colder times
The length of time it takes for the food in a typical bird feeder to decay is a good indicator of how often the feeder should be cleaned.
An average of once a month is when most people clean their feeder, but it’s not uncommon to see folks wait until all the bird seed has been consumed before they even consider about cleaning the feeder.
In warm to colder months, cleaning your bird feeder once a month should be plenty because that gives wild birds enough time to eat it all up.
Leaving bird food out for too long might poison the birds, so it’s important to check the expiration date and storage directions on the container before doing so.
The regularity with which you need to clean your bird feeder will vary depending on its location in your yard, but as a general rule, feeders need less cleaning throughout the winter because birds can eat their food for longer.
Therefore, cleaning bird feeders on a regular basis is suggested all year round to ensure that the wild bird food remains in good condition and does not rot and leak into the interior of the feeder.
A good bird feeder will have a method for determining whether the bird food has gone bad, allowing you to discard it before cleaning the feeders.
Twice weekly in summer
Now that spring has here and the really hot days of summer are on the horizon, it’s time to give some serious thought to how often you should clean bird feeders.
Let me add that, although I recommend changing the bird food anywhere from twice to thrice a week, you may need to do it more frequently during this time of year, when many young birds arrive at feeders.
As the weather warms up in the spring and summer, your bird feeders will quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria and other harmful germs, so you will need to clean them more frequently.
Because warmth promotes the growth of bacteria, it is essential to disinfect bird feeders regularly by washing them in a solution of vinegar and water.
This is true for most types of bird feeders, including those used to hold seed mixtures, suet, and peanuts, but hummingbird feeders require a special cleaning process that begins with soap and ends with a fast dip in a vinegar solution.
When the weather is warm, clean your bird feeders at least once a week to prevent the buildup of stale bird food that can lead to a messy feeder.
If you have a small, compact bird feeder, you probably don’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out how to reach the interior to remove the bird feed.
Maximize twice weekly routine
Let’s attempt to stick to the schedule we established, cleaning the bird feeders at least once a month throughout the winter and as often as twice or three times during the summer.
Cleaning bird feeders at least twice a week is recommended, but more often is better because a lack of regular cleaning and maintenance will eventually lead to permanent staining.
It would be necessary to get new bird feeders if decay or discoloration set in.
To illustrate, the high oil content of Nyjer seed can cause the oil to solidify, making it difficult to remove the oil from the interior of the feeder and trapping seeds inside.
Similarly, if you keep suet in a cage bird feeder, you might expect a greasy mess or white suet streaks on the inner base or cage wire.
If you make your own nectar and it turns out to be harmful for the hummers, you’re not the one who will suffer. But hummingbird feeder food is a little different in that it won’t really stain or produce residue.
In this case, more frequent cleaning of the feeder is required than once every two weeks, as any leftover nectar would eventually spoil the fresh nectar.
Replace bird food sooner
If we’re talking about how regularly you should clean bird feeders versus how often you should change the food in them, I’d think the latter is much more important.
Depending on the time of year, suet or seed mixes of all common wild bird meals can last in a feeder for up to a month.
Instead of stuffing bird feeders to the gills with expensive wild bird food, why not use far less and save the money?
The number of birds that visit your feeders will determine how much bird food you should use.
As a general rule, bird food should be changed every two weeks during the summer, but it can stay out for up to a month in the winter.
But it gets more complicated than that since the material from which your bird feeder is constructed can either increase or decrease the shelf life of bird food.
Even though it’s a condensation-prone sort of feeder, a plastic tube bird feeder isn’t too much of a hassle to maintain because it can be quickly wiped off.
To the same extent, a wire mesh bird feeder protects peanuts and suet from moisture, allowing them to last for much longer.
In the meantime, a wooden bird feeder, which would primarily hold bird seeds, would demand more of your time and effort.
Any type of bird food poses the risk of seeping into the grain, thus a wooden bird feeder, whether untreated or painted, will require frequent cleaning.
Season, location, and time of year all have a role in how often you should clean a bird feeder.
What I mean is that the frequency with which you must clean your bird feeders will vary depending on your specific situation.
Your goal in the cooler months, from fall into winter, should be to clean the feeders once a week. Even while it may not seem like enough, remember that bird food can remain fresh for longer periods of time in colder temperatures.
But things change dramatically when summer rolls around. Even though it may eat into your personal time on a regular basis, cleaning bird feeders at least twice a week throughout the summer is essential.
Do it now and you won’t regret it later on summer days when a dirty bird feeder is more of a nuisance than a help.
Keep a feeder clean once every week, or preferably three times a week in the summer or in warmer states, to prevent the buildup of any tenacious residue that will be extremely difficult to remove later.
Clean your bird feeders as often as you can, preferably twice or three times a week, but be prepared to clean them more frequently if necessary.
If you’re already planning on cleaning the feeders twice a week, summer is the most important time to do so because that’s when the food in the feeders will spoil the quickest.
To prevent wastage, only use a small amount of bird food at a time and swap out the dish once or twice on the same day. If the bird seed only goes up a short distance within the feeder, you’ll have less of it to clean.