A Simple Guide to Setting up Your Hummingbird Feeder

Updated on May 21, 2017
Alyssa Nichol profile image

Alyssa is a wife, mom, and coffee enthusiast who loves nature. She enjoys sharing her favorite tips and tricks to enhance your home garden.

Hummingbirds are remarkable and there is something magical and extraordinary about catching a glimpse of these tiny birds. Having a hummingbird feeder in a prime location is the perfect way to get an up close view of these special birds. I look forward to the end of April and beginning of May when I can put my feeder out. I keep a close eye on it, and when a hummingbird stops by, everyone in the house pauses to watch.

For the past few years, I've set the feeder just outside of our dining room window. We usually get four to five hummingbirds each season. They flutter about the feeder, alternating between getting a drink and hovering to look into the window, chirping away. It is truly a magical experience each time.

A hummingbird visiting our yard.
A hummingbird visiting our yard.

Set Up

Setting up your feeder is simple and easy.

Step 1- Wash the feeder.

In the past I have used a bit of dish soap and some elbow grease to clean it. However, upon doing some research, I found that dish soaps can leave a harmful residue. The National Audubon Society recommends using a white vinegar and water solution to clean the feeder. One part vinegar to four parts water, being sure to rinse well. They also recommend adding in dry rice if your feeder has gotten dirty. The rice acts as an abrasive to help get those hard to reach areas.

The Best Recipe

Step 2 - Food.

You don't need fancy, expensive nectar solutions from the bird store. The best hummingbird food is made using two simple ingredients from your kitchen: sugar and water. There is no need to dye the water red. It offers no nutritional value, and some of the chemicals in the red dye could, in fact, actually harm the hummingbirds. You're far better off to make your own hummingbird food and it's easier on the wallet. Win-Win. It's important to know that you should never use honey, molasses, brown sugar, or any alternative sweetener when making your hummingbird food. These sweeteners contain additional ingredients that can be harmful to the birds.

Simple ingredients to make the hummingbird food.
Simple ingredients to make the hummingbird food.


  • 5 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar


  1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour water into a large glass mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in 1 cup of granulated sugar.
  5. Continuing stirring until sugar has completely dissolved.
  6. Allow sugar water mixture to cool completely.

Keep Ants Away

Step 3 - Hang it up and combat pesky ants.

Once your sugar-water solution has cooled, pour it into the feeder. Now you can hang it up. My secret for keeping ants off of my feeder is to use a little vegetable oil. Before filling the feeder, I pour a little oil on the string and hook to create a slippery surface. Since doing this, I have not had an ant issue. The oil keeps the ants away and because the top of the feeder is completely detachable and separate from the bottle, where the sugar-water goes, it does not affect the hummingbirds.

A little vegetable oil keeps pesky ants away.
A little vegetable oil keeps pesky ants away.
First hummingbird of the season.
First hummingbird of the season.


Step 4 - Maintenance

You should empty and clean your feeder every two to three weeks, if the water has gotten cloudy, or the hummingbirds have drained it. The National Audubon Society recommends cleaning the feeder twice a week in hot weather. Replace it with fresh sugar-water solution. I also add a little more oil to the string and hook to ensure that ants stay away.

That's all it takes. Super simple and easy.

Take time to watch the hummingbirds and keep your camera handy. If you are quick enough, you can capture your experience. Enjoy!

For more information about hummingbirds please visit: www.audubon.org

A Hummingbird Visit

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