RSPB
Skip navigation
Print page

Hygiene - vital precautions

Ceramic hanging birdbath available from RSPB online shop

Taking care of your feeders, bird table and birdbath will reduce the chances of spreading diseases

Image: RSPB online shop

When a large number of birds are attracted into an area to feed, the danger of disease increases. Prevention is always better than a cure, and is the best thing you can do to help the birds.

Most diseases are transmitted by droppings. If contaminated droppings mix with food, the birds run a risk of picking up the infection. Since the contamination can originate either from other birds or from animals (such as rats), it's important to guard against infection from both sources in your garden.

Top tips for keeping your garden birds healthy

Good hygiene is particularly important during the summer months. The warmer weather can make food go off quicker, and can provide ideal conditions for harmful bacteria.

  • Monitor your food supply carefully. If the food takes days to clear, reduce the amount of food you're offering.
  • Use a birdtable or hanging feeders. A ground feeding tray is preferable to putting food directly on the ground because it 's easier to keep clean. Food on the ground should all be eaten before nightfall. Rats are attracted to leftover food and often carry diseases, which can affect birds or humans.
  • Keep your bird tables and surrounding areas clean and free from droppings or mouldy food, which can provide breeding grounds for parasites and bacteria. If large amounts of droppings have accumulated, they should be cleared and burnt and the ground cleansed with a disinfectant.
  • Clean and wash your bird table and hanging feeders regularly (ideally, using a 5% disinfectant solution), and move feeding stations to a new area every month to prevent droppings accumulating underneath.
  • Water containers should be rinsed out daily, especially during the warmer months, and allowed to dry out before fresh water is added. Droppings can accumulate in bird baths.
  • Personal hygiene is also important. Don't bring your feeders into your house to clean them - do it outside, using separate utensils. Wear gloves when cleaning feeders and bird tables, and particularly if you need to handle a sick or a dead bird in your garden. Always wash your hands when you've finished.

Looking after your bird feeders

Our wildlife adviser Ian Hayward tells you how to safely feed and care for the birds in your garden. Published: 15 October 2008

Video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download it for free.