A bird table is a great way to attract lots of different birds to your garden. However, unless it is looked after properly it may do more harm than good.
Birds can be messy eaters, throwing food all over the place, and leaving droppings behind, all of which can harbour germs and bacteria. Dirty bird tables can also attract rats and other vermin that carry diseases which can be harmful to both birds and humans.
Apart from being a potential health hazard, a well-maintained bird table will look better and will last longer outdoors.
How often you need to clean your bird table will depend on a number of factors including how many birds visit your table, the weather, and whether you have attracted any unwanted visitors.
At the end of each day remove any leftover food.
Sweep under the table and pick up anything that could attract rodents.
If you have a very busy bird table, or it has been very hot or wet, you may need to do a deep clean more regularly.
Remove any uneaten food and debris from the bird table. Use a stiff brush to clear away droppings or food and seeds that have hardened and stuck to the table.
If you have any bird table accessories such as feeders, seed trays, or hooks, remove these and wash them separately. You should be able to put plastic and metal bird feeders in the dishwasher but check the manufacturer’s instructions first.
In a bucket or washing-up bowl mix a weak solution of one part bleach to ten parts warm water. Alternatively, you can use washing-up liquid or a specially-formulated cleaner that’s safe for birds.
Using the brush, apply the bleach solution all over the bird table. Pay extra attention to the feeding platform and roof giving them a good scrub, and make sure the bleach gets into any crevices or grooves which may harbour bacteria.
Once the table is clean, rinse it thoroughly to remove any traces of bleach.
Spray the table with a pet-friendly antibacterial spray to get rid of anything you might have missed.
Leave the table somewhere to dry to prevent mould or mildew from forming.
Clean the area around the table. Use the bleach solution to clean decks and patios, and rake lawns to dislodge any buried food or seeds that could germinate and sprout.
When the bird table is dry, replace the accessories and restock it with food.
It is best to carry out an annual once-over of your bird table in late summer or early autumn while the weather is still relatively dry and before peak feeding season gets going.
Before you begin, clean your bird table and leave it somewhere to dry.
Sand down any rough areas and check for sharp edges, loose joints, or splinters that could injure birds. Tighten and replace screws if necessary.
If you have a bird table with a thatched roof, birds may have taken some of the straw for their nests so you may need to replace it or patch it up.
For bird tables with slate roofs apply some slate oil using a clean paintbrush. This will help retain the slate’s natural beauty and provide resistance to water, spillages, and staining. If water is collecting under the slate seal any gaps with silicone to prevent long-term damage.
If your bird table has left a bare patch on your lawn now is the time to sow some quick-growing grass seed.
Although bird tables can be left untreated, they will last longer if you treat them. Choose a non-toxic water-based preservative or paint, and leave it to dry before restocking with food.
Your bird table won’t last forever so if it’s starting to show signs of rot or damage that’s beyond repair, you’ll need to replace it. However, with regular cleaning and routine maintenance, you can prolong its life, and your birds will be happier feeding in a healthy environment.