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For the Birds: Cleaning Feeders and Baths

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     If you are like me, there is a close connection between my garden and the birds.  Especially in the winter.  I think I spend as many hours watching, feeding, and caring for the birds as I do for my garden in the summer. 

     The best way to encourage wildlife to your garden is by growing a wide selection of trees, shrubs and flowers to provide shelter, food and water.  Birds need a place to keep warm when winter sets in so be sure you have some evergreens for them to nest in. When you keep this in mind when planning your garden, you are sure to have a wide variety of visitors flying around your garden all winter long.

     If you have little space, you can use commercial bird seed to help keep the birds fed.  Remember, once you start feeding the birds, continue through out the winter because they begin to rely on your food source and might starve if the feeding suddenly stops. Also keep in mind that many birds will visit your feeders so it is very important to keep them clean.  This will prevent infection and the spreading of diseases as the cold weather sets in and birds become more susceptible to illness.

Here are a few tips to on feeder and bath care to help keep the birds healthy from Sandra Mason University Illinois Extension Educator 

  • Keep feeders clean. Clean and disinfect feeders at least once or twice a month. Use a bristle bush to clean the feeder than immerse it for two or three minutes in a 10 percent solution of household bleach. Allow the feeder to air dry before refilling.

  • Every few days, use a shovel and broom to remove seed hulls, uneaten seed and droppings from the ground.

  • Use several feeders to avoid over crowding plus you will attract a greater variety of birds with different kinds of feeders and seed.

  • Use only fresh seed. Do not use any seed that smells or looks moldy.

  • Every day, rinse birdbaths and replace the water. Periodically scrub the bath with a detergent and rinse thoroughly before refilling. Once every two weeks, scrub bath with detergent, rinse, then let it stand with a 10 percent bleach solution for two or three minutes. Make sure birds do not try to use the bath with bleach solution. Pour bleach out and allow bath to air dry, then rinse it well and air-dry again before refilling.

  • To protect yourself, wear gloves and wash your hands after cleaning feeders and birdbaths.

  • Place the bird feeder where cats cannot hide and pounce. Although birds like some cover nearby, keep several feet of open area around feeders and baths. Do you know what cats call a bird feeder? Smorgasbord. So better yet, do not let cats roam outdoors. In some areas it is illegal. Despite popular opinion, putting a bell on a cat does not protect wildlife. Cats will usually wait silently for an opportunity to pounce. Plus wild animals do not necessarily associate the ringing of a bell with danger. Even a well-fed tabby will kill wildlife. The urge to hunt remains strong even in domesticated cats. Few birds or small mammals will survive a cat attack even if they get away before becoming lunch. Infection from the cat's teeth or claws or the stress of capture usually results in death.

Please remember if you plan on feeding birds, you must take responsibility for their safety.  They will be depending on you for healthy food and water.


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