Hummingbird Feeders and Aquarium Gravel

‘Been an interesting week so far. Among other things, I’ve discovered that skunks appear to hear low frequency noises much better than higher pitched ones, and that our Lab Gracie can hear a medium ‘Hav-a-Hart’ trap snap shut from inside the house! But those’ll have to wait for another post. 

With Hummingbird season in full swing here, I thought you might find this method of cleaning your feeders as handy as I do. I used to use a bleach solution to clean our glass feeder jars (buy only glass feeders, not plastic), but worried about safety for the little guys if even a tiny amount of bleach residue was left in a feeder. 

I’ve recently found it’s better to just use ordinary aquarium gravel to quickly clean them out. Just dump a tablespoon or two into the feeder jar, add a little hot water, and shake it for a minute. Gets them squeaky clean, with no worry about chemicals, and it’s fast.  

I then dump the gravel and water, either into the next feeder I’m cleaning or onto our fine screen sink strainer, and rinse the feeder(s) out. Then flip the strainer over and pour the gravel onto a folded paper towel to dry. It goes back into its storage jar after drying, to be reused. 

When I mentioned chemicals, my Lyme-brain clicked over onto the subject of red food coloring in hummer food. I’ve never seen any studies on it, but I don’t recommend using prepackaged powder with red food coloring in it. There’s just no advantage when it comes to attracting the birds (I’m pretty sure they know every feeder by brand and model!) so why introduce another chemical into their system that might be harmful long-term? 

I prefer to err on the side of keeping it as pure as we can (even though I do use refined, white sugar), because we just don’t know what effects food coloring may have on a Hummer’s tiny system. 

It’s a lot cheaper – and probably safer for the birds – to just make your own plain 1:4 sugar water solution. Mix it, boil it for a few minutes, let cool, then store it in the refrigerator. By late summer, when the young birds are out of the nest and have joined their Ma and Pa at our feeders, we’re usually mixing up about 2 gallons/week of this syrup and filling 7 or 8 feeders. (And bringing them in every night, using an old broom handle with a row of hooks on it, to keep them away from the bears)

[Btw, never use artificial sweeteners when making Hummer solution, but only real sugar. The artificial stuff will kill the little guys]  

It’s tremendous fun sitting on our back porch late on an August evening; like being inside a hive of giant, friendly bees! Getting an accurate count is impossible at that point, but as near as I can tell, we’ve been running around 40-50 birds the last few years. Way better than TV – and with no commercials! 

Until next time,  

God bless,

Prov 9:10


About Dave Harnish

I've been an appliance repair tech since 1972, with interests in most everything, including Bible study (I'm one of those KJV-only geezers), old Sunbeam Mixmasters, Maytag wringer washers, the outdoors, birds, hunting, metalworking, firewood cutting, and most anything going on outside on our mountain here in N. PA's 'Endless Mountains'.
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