Backyard Chirper

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How Often Should I Refill My Bird Feeders?

With fall migration finally here, it’s a great time to prepare yourself for an influx of visitors. We’ve written extensively about the things you can do to get ready, including cleaning your feeders, but we haven’t touched on how often to refill your feeders.

Many things affect the amount of time it takes for a feeder to become empty, including the feeder’s capacity, the frequency of visitors, the type of seed you offer, and weather.

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 busy 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 the food gets low

file000993137703Probably the most popular method of refilling feeders is to wait until the seed gets low and spring into action. This does require monitoring and vigilance.

What refilling feeders before they get empty does is create 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 the food will almost always be fresh. By waiting until it’s almost empty, you ensure that old seed doesn’t stay in there 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. If you’re very vigilant, you can set an alarm for every Sunday to top off the feeder. The downside of this method is that sometimes (especially during migration), your feeder will become emptier much quicker than you’re normally used to. So 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.

Another possible downside to this method is that there’s no logical place to clean the feeder if you refill too often. Normally, you would clean a feeder when the seed is finished. You would have to schedule a cleaning date as well.

Leave feeders empty for a few days

You’ve probably heard people say you should never ever 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.

"empty" by nosha is licensed under CC BY 2.0
empty” by nosha is licensed under CC BY 2.0

So why is leaving feeders empty for a few days before refilling them fine? A few things. 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. (Even during winter, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to leave feeders unfilled for a few days.)

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’s no shame in not refilling feeders constantly. This also makes cleaning easier because there’s no seed inside.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.