UK Gardeners Urged To Do This 1 Task Before Feeding Birds

It's easy, cheap, and can help prevent the spread of disease.
sandra standbridge via Getty Images

If you love feeding birds, now’s the perfect time to get going ― the weather’s taken a chilly turn, and the autumn harvest has more or less faded.

We’ve written before about how important it is to suspend your suet balls in a cage rather than hanging them from plain netting ― but now, it seems that how you handle all feeders can have an outsize impact on the health of your garden’s birds.

Greenfinches, a native species to the UK, are olive-green birds with yellow patches on their wings and tails. And they’ve faced a stark 63% population decline since 1993, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says.

“One of the reasons for the decline is because of a severe outbreak of the disease trichomonosis, which can be spread by contaminated food and drinking water,” the RSPB shared.

Thankfully, easing the number of cases can be as simple as cleaning your birdfeeder and water baths. So, we thought we’d share how to do it and how often to clean.

You don’t need expensive materials

The first step is to chuck on some rubber gloves to protect your hands. Then, you should empty the contents of your birdfeeder into an outside bin (not inside).

Remember, birds are eating here ― you should probably put the extra-strength sprays away. Instead, The Wildlife Trusts recommends chucking warm weather and soap or disinfectant into a bucket and letting the empty feeder sit in that for a while.

Then, wash them with a specially designated bottle brush (keep this out of your kitchen after use and don’t share it with other containers), thoroughly rinse them afterwards, and leave them to dry outside.

You should only clean your bird feeders outside; don’t bring them into your kitchen or home.

Then, wash your hands thoroughly after removing your gloves.

You can also use more or less the same process for your bird table too ― just sponge the surface instead of soaking it.

How often should I do it?

The RSPB recommends doing this sort of deep clean every couple of weeks, but ideally weekly.

Further advice includes adding multiple feeding stations to lower the risk of infection, keeping feeders away from birds’ roosting sites (where droppings can land on the food), clearing food that’s dropped from your feeder, and pausing feeding birds at all for two weeks if you spot a sick one on your feeders.

“Treatment for wild birds is rarely an appropriate action and often it may be in the bird’s interests to be left in the wild,” the RSPB adds.

In other words, you and I should keep our bird-saving urges to our feeders, thanks very much.