A Simple Guide to Setting up Your Hummingbird Feeder

Updated on May 1, 2019
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.

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar

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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • where is the best place to hang the red ribbon on a hummingbird feeder?

    I have mine hanging up on a hook outside of a window. I love having it there so I can see the hummingbirds as they visit. I think an area like that is best.

  • I use a suction cup to hold the feeder up on the window, but it keeps falling down. Do you have any suggestions?

    I would clean the suction cup and the window with rubbing alcohol. If that still doesn't help, maybe try to hang it up on a hook.

© 2017 Alyssa


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    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Oh how awesome! I'm glad this article helped. :) Enjoy watching your hummingbirds! I know it's one of my favorite pastimes.

    • profile image

      P M. 

      3 weeks ago

      I have a humming bird feeder from amazon!I used your recipe and it was great !I have an ant problem so your article about the “How to keep the ants away”was helpful!

    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      2 months ago from Ohio

      Oh I bet your yard is beautiful and teeming with bees and butterflies! I actually just put out my feeders yesterday. I was amazed to learn that they are already migrating up my way! :)

    • Lora Hollings profile image

      Lora Hollings 

      2 months ago

      I just love hummingbirds! Since I live in the Southwest, we see hummingbirds starting in February. We have wild penstemon growing all over our yard so this really attracts them. I also planted hummingbird vine and bottlebrush bushes that they love as well. But, I would like to attract even more of these amazing little birds as I enjoy watching them so much! This is an excellent article on setting up a hummingbird feeder, Alyssa. Your instructions are very easy to follow. And what a great idea to use a little vegetable oil to keep the ants away! Bringing more nature into our lives is always rewarding and uplifting too.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      2 months ago from Ohio

      Great tip! Thank you Jaime!

    • profile image

      Jaime Wallace 

      2 months ago

      If you put a little dish liquid on the back of the suction cups the glycerin will hold it in place longer


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