Safe to Put Bird Feeders Back Up

Keep feeders clean to keep birds healthy

Female house finch at one of my feeders

For months, Idaho Fish and Game has advised taking down bird feeders because of an outbreak of salmonellosis. Now, it’s safe to feed the birds again, with some health and hygiene guidelines.

From Idaho Fish and Game:

  • Before putting up your feeders, clean them with warm soapy water and then dunk/rinse them with a 10% bleach solution. Rinse and dry them well before adding food. This process will disinfect your feeders and reduce the spread of salmonellosis, respiratory infections, eye ailments, and other diseases among birds. To avoid spreading salmonella bacteria to humans, wear rubber gloves while cleaning/handling bird feeders, and immediately afterward wash hands with soap and water, hand sanitizer, or alcohol wipes.
  • Use this sanitization method to clean your feeders (and even bird baths) at least once every two weeks. While the design of hummingbird feeders makes them a much lower risk for salmonella transmission, these feeders also require regular cleaning.
  • Remove old, uneaten feed and seed casings regularly—even every few days depending on the feeder and condition of the food. Food that is old or wet can become spoiled or moldy which can make birds sick.
  • Distribute food among multiple feeders to discourage crowding, which reduces the opportunity for sick birds to touch and contaminate each other.
  • Tidy below the feeder routinely. Rake or shovel up feces and seed casings; rinse off decks and porches. On snow-covered areas, scraping off a few layers of snow should do the trick. Accumulated food and feces can contaminate feeding areas for bird. It can also attract unwanted rodents.
  • Avoid placing feeders and bird baths near bushes or structures that can hide lurking predators like housecats, dogs, and even wild animals.
  • Bird feeders and bird food kept on decks and porches may attract nocturnal critters like raccoons and skunks. If this is an issue, store the feed (and possibly the feeders themselves) indoors at night when these animals are the most active. If you have bears in your area, you may even consider leaving feeders down as they can attract hungry bears coming out of hibernation.
  • If you suspect you have sick birds visiting your feeder, remove the feeder for at least two weeks and clean the feeder thoroughly using the soapy water/bleaching process described above before putting it back out.


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