If you’re like me then you probably love seeing hummingbirds buzz around your backyard.
Feeding hummingbirds properly is one of the best ways to see more of them around and to ensure that they’re healthy whether they’re visiting for living nearby to your home and outdoor areas.
It’s not at all complicated to make the food that hummingbirds eat and all you really need is a dedicated hummingbird feeder and two simple ingredients:
- Table sugar
By combining these three components you’ll be able to attract hummingbirds to your backyard and enjoy watching them fly around at a close distance.
Using the Right Food
One of the most important factors to consider when you’re feeding hummingbirds is that you’re using the proper food for them.
Like I just mentioned, you only need to use a combination of table sugar and water as food and you only need to focus on combining them in the right ratio.
The reason that I recommend using table sugar instead of honey is because honey quickly becomes full of bacteria and fungus once water is added and does not do so well in outdoor environments.
Table sugar is your best bet and it’s very affordable, readily available and hummingbirds seem to love it.
During the summer and if you’re looking for a typical mixture ratio I recommend combining:
- 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of water
During the cooler and wetter months where there is a lot of fresh water available, but the birds are in need of more energy throughout the day comma I recommend combining a mixture ratio of:
- 1/3 cup of sugar for every cup of water
This ratio is similar to what the birds will find in the wild if they were drinking natural nectars.
Many people feel the need to use distilled water or they boil it before using it, but I don’t find this to be necessary. As long as you’re only mixing together the sugar and water every day or every few days then you really don’t need to boil water every time.
However, if you want to make a large amount at one time and just keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it then I would recommend boiling water before creating your mixture.
In some commercial mixtures I’ve noticed that food coloring, specifically the red color, is added. I recommend avoiding adding any dye or coloring to your sugar water mixture.
I think the reasoning behind this is that some people believe that flower nectar might be colorful, but it’s actually clear just like water.
Hummingbirds are definitely attracted to bright colors similar to the colors of the typical flowers in your region so that’s why many feeders are red or brightly colored.
How Often to Replace the Mixture
Any time that you add sugar to water you can expect bacteria and mold to develop along with fermentation starting to occur after just a short period of time.
The problem with letting the sugar water mixture that you leave out for the hummingbirds to become moldy or to start fermenting is that this is harmful to the birds and can even kill them in some cases.
That’s why it’s a good idea to regularly change the mixture and clean out the feeder.
How often you need to do so depends on where you live and the outdoor temperatures and conditions.
In warmer climates it’s likely that you’re going to have to change the mixture every single day, but in cooler climates you can even get away with changing it once every four or five days.
Here’s a little chart that will give you a better look at how often you need to replace the sugar water mixture in your hummingbird feeder:
- 61°F to 70°F – change mixture every four to five days
- 71°F to 80°F – change mixture every three days
- 81°F to 85°F – change mixture every two days
- 86°F or warmer – change mixture every day
There are also some other things to consider when it comes to how often you want to replace the mixture.
If the feeder is positioned in direct sunlight and receive multiple hours of sun throughout the day then you’re going to want to replace the mixture more often than if it was just in the shade.
You’re also going to have to replace the mixture if you don’t properly clean the feeder or if there are a lot of bugs and insects visiting the feeder throughout the day.
Another problem is that if you add too much sugar to the mixture it’s going to go bad more quickly and you’ll have to replace it then as well.
It’s a good idea to keep your hummingbird feeder in the shade and clean it on a very regular basis.
You also want to spend time making sure that you use the proper measurements of table sugar and water and that you try to leave out enough of the mixture so that it’s consumed regularly.
Choosing the Right Hummingbird Feeder
When it comes to finding the best hummingbird feeder for your garden or backyard there are two things that you want to consider:
- How easy it is to disassemble the feeder and thoroughly clean it
- How big the feeder is
As I mentioned up above you’re going to want to replace the sugar water mixture on a regular basis and clean the feeder regularly as well.
If you leave it out too long you run the risk of bacteria and mold growing or having the sugar ferment, all of which is harmful to the hummingbirds visiting your backyard.
With a smaller, more portable feeder you’ll be more inclined to refill it more often and if it’s easy to take apart you’ll be more inclined to clean it more regularly.
If it’s too big or cumbersome you might avoid refilling it and cleaning it on a regular basis so I recommend going with one that’s comfortably sized and that you’re able to refill and clean without too much effort.
With some of the smaller feeders you’re probably going to have to use a special brush designed for bottles so that you’re able to get into all of the small, hard-to-reach places inside the feeder and clean it properly.
I’d recommend going with a feeder that needs the mixture to be replaced every one or two days.
This size means you’ll stay on top of the cleaning responsibilities and this way you can ensure that the hummingbirds visiting your backyard are going to get a fresh mixture.
Keep in mind that hummingbirds are quite territorial when it comes their feeding options so it’s a good idea to use more than just one feeder if you want to attract more hummingbirds.
The large feeders can cause the little guys to be skittish and makes them less likely to visit it, feed and makes you less likely to enjoy a nice show. It’s better to have a few different feeders positioned around your backyard or on windows rather than just one big one.
As for the type of feeders available, there are two types choose from: tube/bottle and saucer.
The tube and bottle feeders are usually made from plastic or glass and typically feature plastic screens protecting the feeding ports that help to keep bugs, bees and ants away from the mixture.
The saucer feeders are most often made of plastic and they feature a feeding port that’s positioned at the top of the feeder. This helps to keep many of the flying insects out but can be quite attractive to ants.
With the saucer type feeders there is sometimes a small little tray/moat positioned in the center. It’s a good idea to fill this with regular water as it helps to keep ants from being able to access the mixture.
If you’re planning on using a bottle or tube feeder keep in mind that they sometimes have a tendency to leak if they’re placed in direct sunlight.
This happens because there is air that gets trapped in the top of the bottle and it expands out, which pushes out the sugar mixture and causes it to leak.
To avoid this you can just use a tray feeder or keep the tube ones out of direct sunlight, which also makes the sugar mixture go bad faster.