Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In which we discover that we're supposed to clean our birdfeeders

I don't just mean knock out the old crud, or even hose the feeder out periodically.

I mean, really clean them. With a 1/9 bleach-to-water ratio : one part bleach, to 9 parts water.
Every month.

Is this one of those things that everybody knows about except me?  I expect not.  So here's what we learned today, and if my readers decide to clean their feeders, even at somewhat less frequent intervals, it's bound to be beneficial.

Today we stopped at our storage unit and a little finch was standing there in the drive.  The car driving by didn't inspire him to fly away, so as Larry went to check the unit, I said I'd walk back down the alley and check on the bird.

I made Bird a little nervous but no matter how close I got, he didn't bolt, which worried me.  Then I noticed his eye.  I carefully picked him up and he stood calmly on my palm, then transferred himself to my index finger and perched.  Now I could see both eyes, badly infected.  He couldn't see at all, and had gotten trapped here in this tunnel of steel buildings and concrete.

I walked back down to the car  -- most of the way down that concrete drive you see behind me -- with the bird perched tamely on my finger.  And we tried to decide what to do.  The bird got tired of all this and flew away, but in blind random spirals, and landed on the other side of the building where he hopped in desperate circles until we picked him up again, and drove him a couple miles down to the local vet that specializes in wild rescues.  As Downy's friend Mojo would say, they are Sooperheroes.

It is utterly cool to have no Boss docking us for getting back late from break time.  Tourist season is on in full and Larry had a tedious driving job while I sat with my fingers forming a little cage to keep the little guy from taking off inside the car.

Back home, Larry did the research.  This bird had conjunctivitis.

There are undoubtedly many places they can contract this disease, but one source of it is unclean bird feeders, which can harbor the bacteria.  As we'd just seen, an otherwise healthy bird can die without the use of its sight.

It had never occurred to us to actually bleach-out the feeders, ever, much less every month.

What we're thinking about doing is getting a second feeder for each station, so we can switch them out without leaving the station unsupplied for a couple days.

We've even found that they take awhile to accept a new feeder placed in the same spot as one it replaced, and, though I'm guessing, I figured the new store smell had to weather off.   So even at one-tenth strength, wild birds might reject the bleach smell and it probably needs to be thoroughly soaked away after the germs have been soaked away.


Dann said...

A couple of my pet bird resources would suggest a lower concentration of bleach. All of them remind me to let all of the bleach/water evaporate before returning it for use by the birds.

Our Chilly Willy always looks askance at his demesne after a thorough cleaning. But he gets right back in it!

ronnie said...

I think you missed a couple of Sooperheroes in your accounting.

You two, taking the time to rescue this poor little scrap of life from a miserable end, you are true SOOPERHEROES, and reading this made my day.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Amen, sister ronniecat. Amen.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Sheesh, everything i EVER do, I do in order to feel good! The animal hospital is awesome. Drop off your wild find and that's it. They just give you a brief form to fill out about where and how you found the animal, and ask nothing more!

Dann - i would surely like to use less bleach. One site recommended the 1/9 ratio, and that might be for outdoor feeders for wild birds, and keyed to the particular bacterium involved, but it's good to know that less bleach might be OK. Different sources sometimes vary the formulas. I'll look into it.

Dann said...

Another good type of product is an enzyme based cleaner. You can duckduckgo for that sort of thing. It works really good at loosening up the hard, crusty poop and reducing the elbow grease required to clean things up. Then you can hit it with the bleach solution to kill any residual nasty bugs.

Mike said...

I think the real answer is to have the birds sign a release. That means you don't have to spend money on bleach or other disinfectants, and yet you are released from any legal or moral repercussions from you actions.

It's all the fashion.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Of course we should start with a form letter informing them that we are deeply sorry but costs have gone up and we must either raise prices or cut coverage. After we implement the cutbacks they'll willingly sign!