How Often Should I Refill My Bird Feeders?
By Ben Zlotnick, of Old Ben’s Workshop
Over the years I have been asked many times, "How often should I refill my bird feeders?" The answer might sound simple. Below are some answers that might surprise you.
Many things affect the amount of time it takes for a feeder to become empty, including.
- Feeder size and capacity, type of food offered
- Number of backyard birds feeding
- Feeder style
- Backyard safety that affects feeding birds and
- Weather patterns and feeding times
It may take just a few hours for a feeder to be emptied.
If it is a smaller feeder with a popular food like hulled sunflower chips, is accessible to many birds and is filled right when birds really need the meal, such as before a storm or during the busy breeding season.
But on the other hand, if a higher capacity feeder is a very selective style offering a more specialized food, such as a mesh sock offering Nyjer, and is refilled during a quiet time of day, it could be several days or longer before it it empty.
Refilling is also a matter of preference. You can refill your feeders frequently or sporadically. Some people refill their feeders multiple times a day (especially during the nesting season) , many do it once a week, and others refill them once a month.
If you can't decide how often you should be refilling your feeders, check out these three feeding schedules you can implement to see which fits your lifestyle best.
Refill When Food Gets Low
Probably the most popular method of refilling feeders is to wait until the seed gets low. This does require monitoring.
What refilling feeders before they get empty does, it creates a reliable food source for your birds. This means there will never be a point when birds look elsewhere for food. It also means that food will almost always be fresh. By waiting until it's almost empty, you ensure that old seed doesn't stay in the feeder too long.
Set Up A Scheduled Date
One sure fire way you will always remember to refill your feeders is to do it on a certain day. The downside of this method is that sometimes (especially during nesting and migration), your feeder will become emptier much quicker. If you have a large capacity feeder and you normally refill on the first of every month, you may have to adjust. The opposite goes for those times when birds aren't coming around very often.
Leave Feeders Empty For A Few Days
You have probably heard people say you should never let feeders go empty. Not only does this encourage birds to go elsewhere but it also takes away a valuable source of food that your backyard birds depend on. So why is leaving feeders empty for a few days before refilling them fine? First, birds will not starve. Unless it's in the dead of winter when food becomes scarce, birds typically use feeders to supplement their diet. This method is appealing to some people who can't afford to feed birds all the time. Feeding birds is fun and rewarding, but it can be very pricey. There is no shame in not refilling feeders constantly. This also makes cleaning easier because there is no seed inside.
Some Suggestions On Feeding Birds
- Choose larger feeders or put up more feeders to offer a more diverse, larger feeding station. As birds spread their efforts to different feeders, a single feeder will not be emptied as quickly.
- Opt for Old Ben's No Mess Birdseed to minimize seed tossed to the ground as birds pick their preferred tidbits. While No Mess Seed may be more expensive, the per weight, unit cost is often a better value because there are no hulls or unwanted seeds to pay for, and the birds will almost every morsel.
- Take steps to discourage squirrels and other backyard pests, such a mice and raccoons. When a feeder is emptied very quickly, it isn't always birds enjoying easy meals.
To learn more about wild birds and feeding them, join us on March 24th at 9am for Old Ben’s free class “Making bird feeding simple. Like nature does!”.