Apartment bird feeding & clean up

Hello and good day to all.

I'm hoping someone might have some advice to offer on a dilemma I'm facing.

We've just moved house into a 3rd floor apartment that only has a roof terrace garden (large planters, lots of sun and wind and weather) and a narrow-ish balcony (one level down from the roof, still somewhat windy but  made of brick and concrete and somewhat protected). The area is home to quite a lot of birds, including feral parakeets, tits, blackbirds, robins, jays, magpies,  wood pigeons, gulls, crows and jackdaws.  The windows let me  see the balcony quite well. 

I love feeding birds, but the larger ones with larger appetites that make huge messes and lots of noise are going to be a problem--for us and our near neighbors. I do have some caged feeders that will likely work for the little ones and I've found I can hang them from the balcony railing. And I think I can rig up something to feed apples tied to a small trellis from the roof garden. 

My dilemma is that I don't really have a good way to clean up and I'm a bit worried about tracking in through the apartment if I encourage more birds that are already present.  There are no outdoor hoses or water spigots. And I can't simply toss buckets of cleaning solutions onto the roof or balcony, as the only drainage is eaves and gutters, so dirt and contaminates would just stick around, even though it rains rather frequently most of the year here. I also cannot use bleach or strong vinegar products because of the effect on the building materials (roofing, concrete etc.)  I would have to bring the feeders into my small kitchen or the shower area to scrub and clean them. I have to be careful how I clean the balcony area because of what could drip through the drains to the people below.

I know it's recommended not to bring feeders inside to clean, but what can I do if that's my only alternative? Is it possible to be extra careful and disinfect your work area afterward?

It would be a huge disappointment, as I have some lovely expensive feeders collected, but should I give this up as a lost cause while I live in these circumstances? 

If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions or advice, I would appreciate it greatly. 

Kind regards,

Mongrel Muppet 



  • In reply to doggie:

    I sometimes clean mine inside too (especially when it's cold).

    I think it probably depends how neurotic you are about the kitchen!


  • In reply to Badgerbread:

    Hi and welcome to the forum. I always clean my feeders indoors and it hasn't killed me yet. I just use spray bleach in the sink afterwards. Cleaning your outside area will be a lot more difficult and I don't really know what to suggest other than using only a tiny bit of water and a stiff yard brush to remove deposits.



  • In reply to cjbeady:

    Welcome to the forum Mongrel Muppet:-)

    I agree with CJ that bleach kills practically anything. Perhaps if you keep a bowl or bucket especially for the purpose of cleaning feeders. The roof and the balcony are more tricky if you daren't even use a bit of bleach and a stiff broom or brush. What about that stuff used by aviary keepers? Or spray disinfectant then rinsed with water afterwards, you don't have to slosh it about. Wait for a dry period, brush all the dried stuff up with a stiff broom or dustpan and brush, dump that in a carrier bag, then when it's been 'dry cleaned' to the best of your ability, some disinfectant and modest amounts of water to rinse the disinfectant away? Don't know how any of this will work - but worth a try. Dirty feeder cleaning water down the loo will save you having to use your kitchen sink if you think that's too iffy.

    Hope it works for you, Kezsmum

  • In reply to Kezsmum:

    Hi Mongrel Muppet and welcome!

    Is it possible to see a photo of the balcony at all so we can all see what we have to deal with!

    Is your roof garden separate from the balcony?....and could some birds be encouraged there and the balcony kept for smaller birds and presumably not quite so much mess?

    I also clean my feeders in the kitchen if it is cold,just have a good clean round afterwards.


    It's not always easy to hug a hedgehog.

    But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

  • Thank you for all the suggestions and the welcome to the forum. Most kind of all of you. 

    It's very good to know others do successfully clean their feeders indoors. And why I didn't think of using the toilet for disposal, I'm still trying to work out. I'm farm born and raised, so I'm used to tolerating a certain level of "crud", but I think it also makes me aware of the need for sanitation and avoidance of contamination. I've also never had to deal with these issues under these circumstances--a small apartment built in a way that results in needing to track through main living and eating areas to access the outdoor areas. I'm probably more concerned about not spreading a disease amongst the birds via the feeders than I am worried about any other issues. But human nature tells me if it's too difficult to clean it won't be cleaned as often as it should. I'll have to look into the special bird/aviary cleaners and see what I can find locally. Mail order is very difficult here. I did find a bucket at my local charity shop yesterday that is an unusual shape and perfect for soaking my feeders with less liquid. 

    I tried to take a few pictures, but I just can't seem to find an access point or angle that results in a usable photo. I can tell you that the balcony is approx. a meter wide and 10 meters long and is separate from the roof terrace. It faces the back courtyards of other buildings rather than the street. The only access to both is via the apartment interior. For the roof, it's a wooden spiral staircase to a skylight hatch in the dining room. To the balcony, it's via three different glass doors with windows in between from the bedroom, kitchen and dining room. The roof area has large gravel stones covering the outer edges and an interior area cordoned off with a short white slatted wood fence. All the roof tops in this immediate area are about the same height as our building, so no wind-breaks or shade from others being taller. The tops of the local trees are right at our living area's window height. It's all full of flitting and roosting birds and it's great fun to look out the windows and see them flying by. After further research, I think I'll be safe hanging up apples on the roof. There's one corner with a sturdy wire trellis attached to the fence. I'm told the parakeets love the apples and can become fairly tame. I can't put out any other food scraps (really don't want the gulls!) or things that would blow off the roof or fall down in the cracks of the paving stones and rot. The huge planter boxes were in terrible condition, so I've pulled everything out and re-planted with butterfly bushes, Russian sage and tickseed, under planted with alyssum, plus some containers of patio sunflowers and some morning glory vines. It will take a few months to get growing well, but I'm hoping I might get a few hummingbirds to stop by. There were so many vine weevil grubs in the planter soil that I collected them in a bowl (and then treated with nematodes). I was lucky enough to watch half a dozen robins gorge themselves to the point of needing to rest before flying. The only time I've seen the robins this year. The balcony has a sturdy steel tube railing set into the top of the outer brick wall. I've been able to set out some pots of woody herbs and attach my hanging flower boxes and the feeders (on hooks) as well. One tube-seed feeder, one wire mesh peanut feeder and one fat ball/fruit spiral feeder. All of them inside mesh cages. They do swing in the wind some, but they don't bash the wall. Now I just have to see if they are too accessible either from the top or the bottom for the larger, more clever birds. I'll just have to see what they try and what I need to adjust. Or if they make too much mess picking up the scatterings. I'm a little concerned that they'll try to swing the seed feeder on purpose to make the seed fall out. Or that the outer mesh won't be far enough away from the interior food holder and they will still be able to hang/sit on it and try to push their heads through.  

    Over all, I think I'll give it a go, get to know some of my neighbors a bit by asking for their input and maybe indulgence (I could always warn them when I'm about to clean at least), try some of the suggestions made here, take reasonable precautions and see what happens. At least it's a good time of year to experiment and I won't be risking too much if I have to make the decision to take the feeders down. I'll hope for the best. 

    Any further suggestions are still most welcome. I do appreciate the time everyone's taken to respond. This has been quite helpful and a good resource. Internet research is all well and good, but chatting about personal experience and gaining an alternate perspective is wonderful.

    Best regards to all.



  • Hello Mongrel Muppet and welcome to the forum 

    I too have only a tiny balcony no roof garden unfortunately doggie suggested that i contact you reference your dilemma .....I have placed a small table on my balcony and i do actually have blue tits nesting in my box ....I dont use my balcony as its so small so all i do is place various bird foods on top of the plant pots and i have one feeder hanging from the rails .......then i just sit back and watch I dont know if this will be useful or not really but i'm afraid i'm neither technical or clinical sorry 


    Without seeing your balcony its difficult  as you can tell mine wasn't exactly structured more of a we'll see what happens lol

    Regards Kimbo

    Feeling More Positive :-)

  • In reply to cjbeady:

    Hi and welcome to the forum,

    I'm also one of those who always cleans my feeders in the kitchen (apart from my very long 20 port flocker), and we are all still alive to tell the tale. I just spray round afterwards with a disinfectant spray that kills 99% of all germs - although the other 1% might just be the one to get us in the end!

    As for cleaning your balcony or roof terrace, I can't add anything to the above. A dry clean with a stiff brush or scraper, then a spray with something or other is my suggestion, and leave the rest to the rain.. You can buy special cleaning agents for bird tables and so on - that might just work on your balcony.

    Cheers, Linda.

    See my photos on Flickr

  • In reply to Sparrow:

    Hi again Mongrel Muppet,

    I've remembered what the aviary disinfectant is called it's Ark Cleanse although I think it's got a silly spelling, something like ark klense you can get it from mail order bird food suppliers like Ark Wildbird Food - you'll find them on line. Happy birding, Kezsmum

  • Jayes Fluid was recommended to me. There is a certain one that is safe for birds.

    We used to use it for our dog's area outside. Whatever you use should be animal and bird friendly.


    I love birding so much I wrote my own blog. It's a great way to learn and share.