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Homemade Hummingbird Food Recipe and the Best Feeder

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Get a simple homemade hummingbird food recipe and an easy to clean feeder, plus tips for safe feeding and attracting more hummers to your yard. Save time and money and keep your hummers health by avoiding the red food coloring and hard to clean feeders.

homemade hummingbird food in feeder with hummingbird

Homemade Hummingbird Food Recipe – Hummingbird Nectar

Ingredients:

Maintain a 1:4 sugar to water ratio for your homemade hummingbird food.

For instance:

  • 1/4 cup white table sugar
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

Use clean, unchlorinated tap water or filtered water. Heat water to boiling. (Boiling the water will kill any bacteria.) Stir in sugar until dissolved.

Allow the hummingbird nectar to cool to room temp before placing in feeder. Refrigerate any unused portion of the hummingbird food for up to a week.

If using RO or other filtered (bacteria-free) water, boiling is not required, but heating will help the sugar dissolve.

You can watch the video below to see me make hummingbird nectar and get feeding tips.

Safe Feeding Tips to Keep Your Hummingbirds Healthy

Change your homemade hummingbird nectar at least every three days, especially in warm weather.

Avoid artificial color, artificial sweetener and raw sugar such as turbinado. Hummingbirds need the calories from sugar, and the mineral levels of the less refined sugars may be difficult for them to digest. Artificial red dyes and sweeteners are harmful to the birds.

Watch out for mold growth or fermentation, which can make the birds sick.  Any off smell or off color or cloudiness is a bad sign. Clean the hummingbird feeder thoroughly and clean and refill more frequently – before the hummingbird food becomes cloudy. Use non-toxic dish soap or a vinegar water solution and rinse well.

Clean your feeders every time you fill your feeders. Take special care to scrub around each feeding port with a cotton swap, old toothbrush or pastry tube brush, or some combination of the three. The little nooks and crannies around the opening are the most like spots for debris buildup and mold growth. We use a pastry tube cleaning brush to clean in the holes, and clean around them with an old toothbrush.

The article “What Do Hummingbirds Eat?” by BirdWatcher's Digest also suggests that hummingbirds enjoy real maple syrup and tree sap, plus they eat many small bugs. Honey is not recommended because it may contain live bacteria.

The Best Hummingbird Feeder

One thing I've noticed about most hummingbird nectar feeders is that they are terribly hard to clean. Even a good bottle brush has a hard time getting into curves and tight corners. Many references advise using a bleach water rinse to kill any bacteria, but it's tough to guarantee the effectiveness of this and also to make sure the bleach is completely rinsed out.

After looking in vain for an easy to clean hummingbird feeder at the local hardware stores, I finally came across the Hummzinger Mini at a specialty wild bird shop.

This feeder is composed of a hanger and two pieces shaped roughly like hollow doughnut halves. The two halves clamp and unclamp like a plastic Easter egg, leaving the center of each wide open for easy cleaning. In the center of the reservoir, there's a separate reservoir that can be filled with water to deter ants.

You can see the Hummzinger hummingbird feeder in action in the awesome hummingbird video below.

While marketed as a hummingbird feeder, I have had orioles come and perch and use the feeder as well. They also have a Hummzinger Ultra, which holds 12 ounces, for those who have a larger hummingbird population. Their Humblossom holds only 4 ounces, which means less dumping old nectar if you only have a few hummingbirds to feed.

Enjoy these little beauties while you can. For those of us in the north, winter will be here again all too soon.

More Tips to Attract Hummingbirds

While this hummingbird nectar recipe is good, nothing beats natural nectar. Planting a variety of humming friendly flowers in your yard will help provide for these little beauties.

What make a flower “hummingbird friendly”? Look for tubular (trumpet shaped) flowers and abundant blossoms. Some favorites include:

  • scarlet beebalm
  • sage
  • columbine
  • lilac
  • honeysuckle
  • petunia
  • cardinal flowers
  • snapdragons
  • pea and bean blossoms

Hummingbirds also like shrubs and trees for cover and nesting, and downy plant fiber like milkweed or thistle to line their nests. If you can spare some wildflower space, do it, and don't rush to clear spent blossoms.

Don't spray for mosquitoes! In addition to nectar, hummers feed on small insect such as mosquitoes. Killing all the bugs eliminates a food source – or leaves the birds eating poison. It's still safe to remove mosquito breeding grounds and use landscape plants that deter mosquitoes.

hummingbird on feeder

You may also find useful:

Originally posted in 2013, updated in 2019.

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21 Comments

  1. So enjoy your articles. I make the 4:1 ratio using only cane sugar. I have found my little guys love the classic glass feeders (the hard to clean ones). So I clean each time and use dried beans in the feeder shaking and rotating the entire feeder and find this cleans away any residual mold etc. Also will try your grease on hanger idea for ants. Thanks!

    1. Please do NOT grease the wire of the hanger to deter the ants! It will quite possibly get on the wings of the hummers flying by or on the feet of those birds looking to perch. Remember, birds perch on ‘branches’ going any direction.

      As to those having trouble with hornets, hang an ‘eradicator’ for them. There are some pretty good homemade ones shown on the internet eg.: cut top 1/3 off 16oz. to 2 liter drink bottle- Turn top into bottom and attach together with tape or such – put water and sugar/’sweetner’ in. I use a mix of water and sugar-free drink mix as it has an overly sweet smell. DO NOT use any sugar-free mix for other animals!

    2. I too had a huge ant and bee problem. Last year I bought a new feeder like the one you have and NO MORE ants or bees. GREAT product!!!!

  2. Perfect timing! We just hung our hummingbird feeder yesterday, but I could not find my recipe from last year. Thanks for posting. (do you have a good ant repellant recipe to go along with it!?!) lol

    1. I’d fill the moat with water and grease the access pathways. I hate to put anything toxic near where I’m feeding the birds. If you’ve got an ant infestation inside, you can mix some borax with the sugar water and put it in a shallow dish near the infestation. They will carry it back to the nest and soon be gone.

  3. I had to stop feeding because of the bees taking over. I don’t see anyone else with this problem, help. Thanks

    1. Some feeders have little bee guards that go over the ports to keep the bees and yellowjackets out, but I haven’t tried them. If/when I start seeing too many yellowjackets in the area, I rig up a simple bottle trap with sugar water in the bottom. You can see an example in the post “Non-toxic Home Pest Control“.

  4. Great ideas here, thanks. I would put a just a little Peppermint or Eucalyptus essential oil in the water in the center used to deter ants. Don’t use floral essential oils, as these can attract bees and flying insects.

  5. The finch shown in your humming bird feeder photo is a female English sparrow (Passer domesticus). I can only add that wherever you live, I envy the idea that your query infers the possibility of it being some place relatively, blessedly free of this invasive & notoriously impactful species !

    1. We have an assortment of finches around here, but there are invasive species such as starlings, too. I try to create a diverse habitat, and avoid putting out too much of the starlings’ favorite foods.

    1. Hummingbirds do eat trees sap, and will follow the migration of the sapsuckers so they are able to harvest from the sapsucker holes.

      I did find a comment on Bird Watchers Digest that noted that researchers have offered maple syrup to the hummers, and the hummers “readily take to the sweet drink”. That said, there is some concern about increased risk of fungal growth in maple syrup versus plan sugar water. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you clean your feeders frequently, and always use fresh food.

      The Audubon Society also notes that, “Organic, natural, and raw sugars contain levels of iron that could be harmful.” This is talking about cane sugar, not maple syrup, but I figure if you’re thinking about feeding maple syrup, I figure you probably also have organic sugars on hand.

  6. I use this same feeder and use it in full sun in the Southwest. I change the sugar water every two to three days. To clean, I use hot, soapy water and let it soak for 15-30 minutes. I then use my water jet (used on teeth) to clean all the feeding holes so that any bacteria is definitely washed away. I use the hot, soapy water again then rinse thoroughly. A newly planted tree will eventually allow me to hopefully hang the feeder in the shade. I fill the water reservoir several times throughout the day to keep it full so other creatures can’t get into the feeder. I frequently find finches and wasps drinking from the reservoir.

  7. This style hummingbird feeder is the best I’ve ever tried. Here in Chicago suburbs, bees and ants were impossible with all the others I tried. This one has red on red flowers so there are no yellow painted flowers to attract (as many) bees. My hummingbirds love the little perch! The moat takes care of most of the ant problem as well.

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