Tuesday, August 1, 2023

What do you put under a bird feeder to keep it clean?

Bird feeding is an enjoyable pastime. 

But it has some challenges. 

One thing that can be a problem is the mess of seed husks and bird droppings that can accumulate under the feeder. It can be unsightly or even unhealthy.

Sunflower seed husks can kill the grass under a bird feeder, leaving behind muddy bare ground and some scraggly, weedy-looking sprouts.

What do you put under bird feeders to keep them from being messy?

To keep the ground under a bird feeder clean, you can put a seed catcher under your bird feeder. You can also landscape under a bird feeder with flowers, pavers, mulch, or a tree ring.

This article gives you some ideas and tells you how.

Photo of Rose-breasted Grosbeak at bird feeder
Carl & Tracy Gossett. Flickr. CC BY-ND-2.0

Spilled bird seed and shells from sunflower and other seeds can create a mess under the bird feeder. These spilled seeds can pile up and become a mess. Spilled seeds may attract unwanted creatures at your bird feeder. Some seeds may sprout under the feeder. In wet winter conditions the fallen seeds may be covered with mold and mildew.

Here are some ideas for you to consider. Be sure to view the video at the end of the article. It's not my video, but it shows how one person tried several ideas and finally created landscaping to put under her bird feeder to keep it clean.

Seed catchers to prevent messy bird feeders

Seed catcher example

Seed catchers are large trays you place under your bird feeder. These seed catchers do what they say. They catch spilled seed from your bird feeder. This can be a quick and easy way to keep the ground under your bird feeder clean. 

Seedcatchers can also save you money by retrieving fallen seed and placing it back in the feeder.

Here is a link to Amazon to a wide selection of seed catchers (affiliate link).

There are several kinds or styles of seed catchers.

You will find seed catchers that hang from hooks under a bird feeder.

Other types of seed catchers attach to the bird feeder pole.

Still other seed catchers sit on the ground under the feeder.

I tried a small hanging seed catcher once. Did it work? Somewhat, I guess. It might be just the solution you are looking for.

In my brief experience using one, it caught some seeds, but not all. If the wind blew, the seeds would blow out. If I didn't clean it out every day--or twice a day, the seeds would be on the ground.

Additionally, I worried that with strong winds, the seed catcher would act like a sail and the bird feeder would blow over. The bigger the seed catcher, the better they work, but the more likely it is that wind could be a problem. The only way to know is to try it!

Planting a wildflower garden under your bird feeder

Planting a wildflower garden under your bird feeder can be a great way to attract birds with their many seeds. It can also hide fallen seeds from the feeder and aid in naturally decomposing them.

Wildflowers like geraniums, daylilies, clematis, lupines, dahlias, cotoneasters, lemon balms, and even coneflowers are great for under a bird feeder. 

Overwintering birds will pick up these seeds and eat them once the spring hits, making for an even better afternoon snack. Furthermore, the birds in your yard can also spread wildflower seeds, ultimately helping you grow more.

You can also try other low-growing plants beneath a bird feeder like sunflowers or holly. The key here is to have landscaping that is inviting, not overpowering. Remember that the plants growing underneath your feeder can’t be too tall. 

Having your plant take over the bird feeder can deter birds and even uproot your feeder from the ground. 

Here are some tips for planting a wildflower garden under your bird feeder: Choose native plants that are adapted to your area. Plant in the fall or early spring. Choose plants that bloom at different times of the year.

Placing landscaping pavers under your bird feeder

Pavers are flat stones or bricks that you can lay on the ground to create a hard surface under your bird feeder. Pavers are easy to install and maintain, and they come in various shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. You can arrange them in any way you like to create a unique design. Pavers also prevent weeds from growing and make it easy to sweep or hose off any spilled seeds or droppings.

Landscaping with mulch under your bird feeder

Mulch is a layer of organic or inorganic material that you can spread on the ground to cover the soil and suppress weed growth. Mulch also helps retain moisture, regulate temperature, and improve soil quality. You can use different types of mulch under your bird feeder, such as wood chips, bark, straw, gravel, rubber, or plastic. Mulch is inexpensive and widely available at garden centers or home improvement stores.

Landscaping with a tree-ring under your bird feeder

A tree ring is a circular landscaping feature that surrounds a tree trunk and creates a border between the tree and the lawn. A tree ring can also be used under a bird feeder to create a neat and tidy area that prevents spilled seeds from growing and prevents mess. You can buy a tree ring made of plastic or rubber online or at a local garden center, or make one yourself with some landscape fabric and edging.

Don't put anything under your bird feeder--move it seasonally!

This is the simplest and most common way to landscape under a bird feeder--don't.

Perhaps you are already doing this. In this case you are looking for a more attractive idea. But consider....

At the end of the winter or spring bird feeding season, take your feeders down. Remove all feeders and poles. Clean and rake the ground under the bird feeder. Reseed the small patch of damaged lawn.

Then, in the fall, put your feeders up again at a new location.

Will this work for you? If so, problem solved!

During the winter, don't put off cleaning under your bird feeder. I know it's not high on your to-do list. But don't put it off. It's only a 10-minute job if done regularly. Clean up spilled seed and rake at least monthly. The more often you perform this task, the easier it is, and the less damage your lawn will suffer.

Brief instructions for how to landscape under a bird feeder

1. Clean under the bird feeder: Before you start landscaping, you need to clean up any old seeds, hulls, droppings, or debris that may have accumulated under your bird feeder. This will prevent mold, disease, and pests from harming your birds and plants. You can use a rake, a broom, a shovel, or a vacuum cleaner to remove the mess.

2. Level the ground: Next, you need to level the ground under your bird feeder to make sure it is flat and even. This will make it easier to lay down your landscaping material and prevent it from shifting or sinking over time. You can use a hoe, a spade, or a trowel to dig up any bumps or holes and smooth out the surface.

3. Lay down your landscaping material: Finally, you need to lay down your landscaping material on top of the leveled ground. Depending on what material you chose, you may need to cut it to fit the size and shape of your bird feeding area. You may also need to secure it with some stakes, nails, glue, or sand to keep it in place. 

Video from Yukaish. Synopsis: DIY project to put easy-to clean tarp under bird feeder. At first she moved the feeders elsewhere within her yard to help the lawn recover. Then she shows two attempts at creating an easy-to-clean surface using ground cloths and tarps. She also showed how to install and use a seed catcher on her bird feeder pole.


Why do birds throw seed out of the feeder?

End the Mess of Feeding Wild Birds!

No Mess and Waste Free Bird Seed: What do they mean? Comparison

How to keep bird seed from sprouting in your lawn

Feed birds without making a mess!

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January 2023: Thank you so much for visiting! I am working on a YouTube channel on birds and bird watching. Check it out here:



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