How to Easily Clean The Mess Under Your Bird Feeders & KEEP It Clean

Author: Tammy Poppie

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bird seed sprouts under the feeder

Cleaning the mess under bird feeders is probably not at the top of your fun list. I used to hate it until I figured out the easiest way to clean it and KEEP it clean. Now, my area under the bird feeder is tidy all the time.

After 20 years of hosting birds in my backyard, I tried every trick in the book to clean up under my bird feeders. The truth is, cleaning up under your bird feeder is easy, but it does require some effort.

Before we get to the good stuff, I’d like to explain why it’s so important to keep the area under your bird feeder clean. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip right to the cleaning part now.

Why Clean The Mess under Your Bird feeders

You’re probably interested in cleaning up under your bird feeder because it’s unsightly. Tons of seed sprouts all over and in some cases globs of wet, moldy seed. It ain’t pretty. That’s a great reason to clean under your bird feeders but here’s the #1 reason of all – to prevent wild birds from getting sick.

Below are the reasons to clean up under your bird feeder – in order of importance.

  1. Prevent wild birds from getting sick. The seed that’s fallen to the ground will get wet and/or get exposed to extreme heat and mold. When birds consume moldy food they can become very ill or even die. For this reason alone, your goal as a responsible backyard birder should be to regularly clean up under the feeder and dispose of it.
  2. Avoid attracting unwanted wildlife. Birds aren’t the only animals that would love to gobble up bird feed. Raccoons, rodents, and even bears would love to do the cleanup job for you – and bring their germs and disease along with them!
  3. Unwanted birdseed “weed” sprouts. You know what I’m talking about. The seeds you put in your bird feeders fall to the ground and magically grow into that plant. Sure, sunflowers are lovely but do you want 150 of them growing beneath your feeder?
  4. The landscape gets ugly. If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time and money planting and maintaining your yard. Chunks of clumped, moldy birdseed and ugly seed weeds cancel out some of that hard work.

How to Clean the Mess Under Your Bird Feeders

There are two different methods for cleaning the mess under the bird feeder. Follow method 1 if it’s been more than a month since you’ve cleaned under the feeders. Follow method 2 if it’s been less than a month. I call this “maintenance”.

bird seed sprouts under the feeder
Does this look like the mess under your bird feeder?

Method 1: More Than 1 Month Since Last Cleaning

If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned under the feeder, or you’ve never done it, get yourself a rake, shovel, trash bag, and shop vac.

  1. Pull the sprouts out as you would any weed and toss them in the trash bag.
  2. Rake the seed debris into a pile, shovel it up, and toss it in the trash bag.
  3. Vacuum the remaining seed stragglers and empty the contents into the trash bag.
  4. Dispose of the trash bag.

You may have mulch, dirt, and other elements mixed in with the debris and that’s ok. In the trash, it goes.

Method 2: Maintenance – Less Than A Month since Last Cleaning

So you’ve cleaned under your bird feeder within the last month. Congrats, that’s awesome. You’re among the elite and I commend you. Subsequent clean-ups will be a lot easier. You only need a trash bag and a shop vac.

  1. If there are any sprouts, pull them and toss them in the bag. (There should be very few, if any sprouts).
  2. Vacuum the seed and empty the contents into the trash bag.
  3. Dispose of the trash bag.

You should now be left with a debris-free area. Wondering how to keep the area under your bird feeders clean? We’ll chat about that next.

Pro Tip: The area under the bird feeder is inherently dirty and wild birds can carry germs and diseases. For that reason, I recommend using a shop vac that is used only for this job. I like the Craftsman 2.5 Gallon Shop-Vac.

Craftsman 2.5 Gallon Shop Vacuum
View on Amazon
shop vac beside the newly landscaped under the bird feeder
To keep the area under the bird feeder clean vacuum up the birdseed debris using a dedicated shop vac.

How to KEEP The Area Under Your Bird Feeders Clean

The keys to keeping the area under the bird feeder clean are to clean it regularly, have landscaping under the bird feeder that can’t get sucked up into the vacuum, and prevents birdseed from sprouting. Some people have had luck installing birdseed catchers as well.

clean under Your bird feeders Regularly

Time for some hard truth. There is no silver bullet to keeping the area under your bird feeders clean. You just have to clean it regularly – weekly or bi-weekly should do. After the initial cleaning, it becomes way easier and faster. Just follow the steps under cleaning method 2 above.

Landscaping Under Your Bird Feeders

Wondering what to put under your bird feeder?

Vacuuming up the birdseed debris under the bird feeder is the “secret sauce” to maintaining the area so avoid putting anything under it that can get sucked up in the vacuum. For example, don’t put sand, tiny gravel, pebbles, dirt, lava rocks, or mulch under the feeders.

Another benefit of omitting sand, dirt, and mulch under the bird feeder is birdseed won’t sprout. Hate those nasty sprouts!

landscape rocks inside the tree guard under the bird feeder area
Landscape rocks inside the tree guard under the bird feeder area.

Here are a few landscape ideas to put under your bird feeder area:

  1. Install a tree ring under the feeder area and fill it with landscape rocks. (See the photo above. If you want to learn how to make this landscape design under your birdfeeder check out my article Landscape Under Your Bird Feeder In Under 1 Hour & Say Good-Bye to the Mess!).
  2. Lay down landscape blocks, bricks, or pavers under the bird feeder area.
  3. Pour a mini concrete patio. This is a permanent solution so be careful choosing this one.

Install Seed Catchers

You can prevent some of the birdseed from falling to the ground if you install a seed catcher. There are seed catchers that can be installed to the pole of a bird feeding pole system and others that attach to the bottom of the feeder.

Seed catchers will allow birds a 2nd chance at eating the seed since many birds will not eat from the ground.

Seed catchers are also helpful in reducing the amount of debris on the ground. Keep in mind they are still not the golden ticket. Wind and overly-excited birds will always cause some of the seeds to deviate from the seed catchers and fall to the ground.

What about no-Waste Birdseed?

Many birdseed manufacturers package a product referred to as “no waste” or “no mess” birdseed. Some people like to use this seed because it results in less mess beneath the feeder. Since the hallmark of no-waste or no-mess birdseed is the removal of the husk or outer housing of the seed, you will indeed have less mess.

However, keep in mind you will still have some mess under the feeder. Sprouts will also grow from hulled birdseed. And, birds will still kick some of the seed to the ground. That’s what they do 🙂


Leaving the bird seed on the ground is not an option. Your goal as a responsible backyard birder should be to clean up and dispose of the fallen birdseed so it doesn’t mold over and pose a health risk to the birds.

Planting wildflowers or shrubs under and around the feeder sounds loverly but cannot be the solution to cleaning up the mess under the feeder. And forget about enzyme sprays intended to speed up decomposition. None of the “solutions” are legit as the health risk to wild birds still remains.

Do yourself and the wild birds a favor, do a one-time big cleanup under the feeder, implement a simple landscaping approach, and regular maintenance is a breeze! And you’ll never have to feel guilty that you may be harming wildlife.

Happy Birding!