How to Quickly Clean Tube Bird Feeders

American Goldfinches Using Nyjer Seed Tube Feeders
American Goldfinches Using Nyjer Seed Tube Feeders

While it would be great if you could just put up a bird feeder, fill it with seed and forget it, there actually is some maintenance involved. Wet moldy seed can collect in crevices and on damp spots and birds will eat at a dirty feeder if that is where food is found. A dirty feeder can harbor germs and spread disease among the birds that we enjoy so much.

So feeders need to be cleaned periodically. Because I have quite a few feeders, my goal is to make the process as efficient and painless as possible. I don’t want to be spending hours and hours scrubbing them. So I’ve come up with two strategies to make the process quicker and easier.

First, I’ve learned the hard way that when I am purchasing a feeder, I need to pay attention to how it is put together, how it comes apart and how easy it is to clean. I’ve learned not to just purchase a feeder randomly off the shelf without reading reviews from people who have actually used them (which is where sites like Amazon are so helpful.) If people complain about a feeder being a pain to clean, I move on.

Second, I figure out the most efficient way to clean each type of feeder. For example, I have four Aspects Nyjer Tube Feeders that I use to offer Nyjer seed to the flock of American Goldfinches (and a few Pine Siskins) that congregate in my yard every day. I reviewed these feeders a few weeks ago. These feeders are advertised to be easy to clean, and they are, but I have learned a few tricks for cleaning them quickly.

Songbird Essentials' Best Long Brush
Songbird Essentials’ Best Long Brush

Yesterday I was in my local bird store, Mother Nature’s, and saw this cool twenty-four inch “Best Long Brush” from Songbird Essentials. It has a wood handle and nylon bristles that “are strong but flexible enough to pass between perches and around seed ports.” I purchased one and gave it a whirl today. I was very pleased with it.

Seed Stuck Near Port Inside Tube Feeder
Seed Stuck Near Port Inside Tube Feeder

Sometimes a bit of moisture can creep into seed ports of tube feeders when there is a heavy rain like we had the other day. I always check my feeders for clumped up seed in this area after bad weather. When a tube feeder is long, it can be tricky to clean this stuck seed out of the inside of the tube. This long bristle brush did the trick quickly.

Cleaning Tube Feeder Using Long Brush
Cleaning Tube Feeder Using Long Brush

I simply put it in the sink with the water running through it and pushed and twirled the brush through it until it was clean. I’ve been seeing House Finch eye disease at my feeders recently and it seems to have spread to a few of the Goldfinches, so I used a sponge to wipe the outside of the feeder with a solution of one part liquid bleach to nine parts water and then rinsed the feeder under the water once more. This kills bacteria that might have been left on the feeder by a sick bird.

Drying Inside of Tube Bird Feeder
Drying Inside of Tube Bird Feeder

Trying to dry the inside of a long narrow tube feeder can be a pain because you can’t always fit your hand into it and the perches get in the way even if you can. You can let it air dry, but that takes a while. I’ve tried using a hairdryer to speed the process, but that is a bit tedious as you blow drops of water around inside the tube. Today I instead wrapped a light-weight towel around a stick and pushed that up into the feeder to quickly dry the inside. In less than a minute, it was dry.

So I’ve figured out how to do it fast: Using the brush to clean the inside, a sponge to clean the outside and the cloth wrapped stick to dry the inside, I had the whole thing clean in five minutes. The birds had barely had time to adjust to the missing feeder when it was back in service again and filled with birds!

I checked and this brush is available on Amazon: Songbird Essentials SE603 Long Brush on Amazon. Spend less time cleaning and more time bird watching!

Do you have any tips for cleaning bird feeders? Please share!


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