Bird feeders are made from a variety of materials. You can buy
disposable plastic bag feeders; feeders made of cloth, nylon, vinyl and
metal netting; clear, lexan, colored and PVC plastic tubes; ceramic and
terra cotta; redwood, western cedar, birch, pine and plywood; sheet
metal and aluminized steel; glass tubes and bottles.
How long a feeder lasts depends on how well you maintain it, the
effects of weather, and whether squirrels can get to it. Water can get
into any feeder regardless of how carefully you protect it. Cloth,
vinyl, nylon and metal netting feeders are inexpensive, but they do not
protect your seed from spoiling in damp or wet weather. Improve them by
adding a plastic dome.
Most wood, plastic, ceramic and solid metal feeders keep seed dry, but
water can get into the feeding portals. Look for feeders with drainage
holes in the bottoms of both the feeder hopper and the seed tray.
Even bowl-type feeders and trays with drainage holes will clog with
seed and bird droppings that can mix with rainwater and be unhealthy
for any animal. Look for shallow plate-like seed trays to catch dropped
seeds while allowing spent seed shells to blow away.
When you feed birds, expect bird droppings and a leftover food mess.
While you do not have to wash the feeder daily, you should clean it at
least every few weeks. Diseases like salmonella can grow in moldy, wet
seed and bird droppings in your feeder tray and on the ground below.
Move your feeder a few feet each season to give the ground underneath
time to assimilate the seed debris and bird droppings.
The maintenance required to keep your feeder clean varies according to
the type of feeder. A thistle feeder for goldfinches should be cleaned
about once a month depending on how often it rains. Feeding
hummingbirds requires cleaning at the very least weekly, but preferably
two or three times a week. Sunflower and suet feeders need to be
cleaned only once a month.
Plastic, ceramic and glass feeders are easy to clean. Wash them in a
bucket of hot, soapy water fortified with a capful or two of chlorine
bleach. Use the same regimen with wood feeders, but substitute another
disinfectant for the bleach so your wood won't fade.