Are Bird Feeders Messy? (5 Facts You Need To Know)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Backyard birding is one activity that many people find rewarding and hanging out food for the little critters definitely feels good.

Bird feeders can get rather crowded and messy though and it requires regular cleaning.

Birds are messy eaters, they throw seeds as they eat and this is all over the ground, they also poop near their feeders and all these can cause a big mess.

Bird feeding has been linked to several disease outbreaks in the avian population.

Today we will look into the pros and cons of bird feeders and how you can effectively feed birds without making a mess thereby avoiding infections and other problems. 

Are Bird Feeders A Bad Idea?

Are Bird Feeders Messy

Bird feeders are not a bad idea but birds are not exactly the cleanest eaters.

They tend to throw food as they eat and most of this ends up on the ground under the feeders.

If you feed unshelled seeds to the birds, they will leave remnants of the seeds all around.

The seeds can then sprout and grow into unwanted weeds beneath the feeders if you have bare soil under the feeders.

They also poop a lot, so there is a lot of mess with the seeds and shed feathers all over the feeder. 

If not cleaned regularly, this mess can attract rodents and flies, spread diseases and affect the grass beneath the feeders.

If you want to be a backyard birder you have to be ready to clean up regularly and you can also discover ways to reduce the mess at the feeders. 

Related: Here is an article I wrote on keeping bird feeders in the sun or shade

How Do You Feed Birds Without Making A Mess?

  • Buy The Right Kind of Seed

When you buy unshelled seeds for your birds, it is easy for them to make a mess as they have to de-shell it before eating.

They only eat the meat of the seed and will discard the outer part, this causes a mess all over and underneath the feeder.

To avoid this, buy already hulled seeds as this will reduce the mess and the birds get to eat faster.

  • Use Tube Feeders Instead

Using a tube feeder will reduce the amount of seed getting scattered all over the feeder.

Some bird species such as sparrows, like to dig their food and thus kick the seeds around. 

This way they are not able to do that and they can only pick what they have to eat. You can get a tube feeder from a hardware store near you.

  • Make Use of Multiple Feeders

To avoid too many birds congregating in one place and risking the easy spread of infections, you can have multiple feeding stations in your backyard. 

If your feeder is popular with the birds you can decide to hang extras across your backyard.

This will help reduce the mess and also ensure all the birds get access to food. 

  • Place Trays Under the Feeders

Another way to reduce mess at the feeders is to place trays under the bird feeders. This way, the tray is able to catch any discarded stuff from the feeder.

Round trays are best suited to tube feeders while rectangular trays are better for hopper feeders.

  • Feed The Birds No-waste Seed

You can fill your bird feeder with natural no waste foods such as tiny berries, flower nectar, dried insects, mealworms and nuts.

The birds will consume these foods completely without leaving remnants and this helps to keep the feeder area clean.

Do Birds Poop Near Bird Feeders? 

Yes, birds poop frequently near their feeders. They eat and also drop fences while feeding or taking off.

With feeders where the birdseed is spread out, it is easy for the birds to defecate right into the food.

This together with the remnants from their food alongside shed feathers can create quite the unhealthy mess if not regularly cleaned.

For feeders without this access, the birds will still poop around the feeder and this drops to the area underneath the feeder.

Apart from the smell and the attraction of rodents, bird feces is not healthy for bare patches of soil as it has to be composted before it can be used as manure.

It can also quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria

To avoid disease breakout and transfer on the birds, it is important to clean around the feeder regularly.

Also check out this article on the best bird feeders with trays

How Do You Keep The Area Under A Bird Feeder Clean?

It is natural for the area under your bird feeder to be a big mess especially if you put out unshelled seeds. Everything drops right to the ground.

To make your work easier, you can use concrete for that part of your backyard.

That way all you have to do is sweep, wash and disinfect the ground underneath your bird feeder every morning.

You can also place a tarp directly under the feeder to catch all the debris and poop coming from above.

In the morning, remove the tarp, dispose of the debris, wash and replace it to its position underneath the feeder.

If you prefer to leave the bare patch of soil underneath the feeder, then ensure you rake the ground, collect all the debris and dispose of them properly.

You should also move your feeder position from time to time so the poop can naturally decompose before they are ready for use again.

Clean up is an activity that should be taken seriously to ensure hygiene around the bird feeder. 

How Do You Keep Your Bird Feeders Clean?

Always make sure to clean your bird feeders regularly, as much as every two weeks. It helps to keep the hygiene and prevent diseases.

To clean the feeder, discard old or wet birdseed. Scrub any debris that might be stuck to the feeder then wash thoroughly with soap and water. 

You can also use bleach to clean the feeders. To do this effectively, prepare a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water then soak it for a few minutes.

Rinse off, then spread to dry. Fill the bird feeder with new bird seed and put out just what is enough for the birds to eat.

Also have multiple feeders to ensure the birds still have food to eat while you are cleaning some of them.

What Are The Problems With Bird Feeders?

Bird feeders though hung out with good intentions can become problematic if not properly taken care of. 

Bird feeders can be messy and be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Backyard birders should always ensure they clean their feeders regularly to avoid diseases breakout.

Feeders require serious maintenance. It is easy to admire the act of hanging out food for birds but it is not for lazy people or those with busy schedules.

You have to be ready to clean feeders, sweep your yard everyday, dispose of a lot of debris and spend money on buying the right seed for the birds. 

Feeders can be quite noisy. With a flock of birds trying to get to food, squabbles and a lot of chirping going on.

It can also affect the neighbors especially if the feeder is closer to their aide. 

Feeders can also quickly become a haven for unwanted wildlife and predators.

Mice and rats will definitely find the debris below the feeder a great hunting site and this could also lead to a disease breakout. 

The feeders can also attract cats, squirrels and birds of prey to which the little garden birds do not stand a chance as such the purpose of the feeders ends up being defeated.

These are some of the problems that might come up with bird feeding and a responsible feeder must take all into consideration before embarking on it. 

Are Bird Feeders Bad For The Environment

Bird feeding is an activity that has been encouraged and advocated as a way of enhancing people’s awareness to the environment and also a way of conservation. 

In recent times though, bird feeding has been linked to the spread of bird diseases, changing the structure of the ecosystem and enabling predators to easily prey on birds.

Bird feeding has caused dependency in birds as the birds now know there will always be food in a particular location, causing them to behave differently from their counterparts out in the wild.

This changes the natural cause as food sources always only exist for a short period in the wild.

Due to negligence and unhygienic bird feeding activity, bird feeding has lead to break out of avian diseases including the salmonella outbreak in the United States this year. 

A lot of individuals are clamouring for a stop to backyard bird feeding activity.

However, if bird feeders keep their feeding stations clean, there will be a reduction in the number of outbreaks.

Backyard bird feeders have also been advised to plant bird attractive vegetation and plant wildlife in their backyards which will serve as a natural source of food for the birds.

This is believed to be a better alternative to bird feeding.


Deciding to be a backyard bird feeder is a decision that comes with a lot of responsibilities.

Bird feeders can be quite messy especially with the birds popping in and around the feeding station.

Always take the proper steps to reduce mess at the feeders. Clean your bird feeder and the area surrounding it from time to time to maintain hygiene and prevent disease outbreak.

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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