12 Ways To Stop The Mess Under Your Bird Feeders


Installing a few bird feeders in your yard is a great way to attract birds. It is fun to watch the variety of species that come to dine at your feeders. 

You will be providing an important year-round food source for the birds, which is particularly important in the snowy winter months.

Let’s face it, birds aren’t the tidiest eaters. When they root through your feeders searching for their favorite seeds, they scatter hulls and bird seeds on the ground below. They can make quite a mess.

Here are 12 tips to stop the mess under your birdfeeder and make cleaning up a breeze.

1. Buy Higher Quality Bird Seed

Not all bird seeds are created equal. Some have more ‘filler’ material – cheaper but less-desirable seeds. The birds will toss out the seeds they don’t want and will make more of a mess as they dig through to find the ones they do like.

Costlier bird seed mixes have higher quality seeds and more of the seeds that birds love. The birds will eat more of the mix. 

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They will scatter fewer seeds to the ground because they aren’t forced to search through all the seeds to find their favorites.

2. Buy Better Designed Bird Feeders

Do your research and read the customer reviews before you purchase your bird feeders. Look for ones with the appropriate size holes and secure lids to prevent spills. 

Some bird feeders have small trays beneath the openings and under the perches, so scattered seeds collect there instead of falling to the ground.

Poorly designed, cheaply made bird feeders may cause more messes for you. Instead, invest in a quality, well-made bird feeder that is designed to reduce spillage.

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3. Install Stone Pavers

Consider installing stone pavers beneath your bird feeders. They make it quick and easy to clean up the hulls and seeds the birds toss out of the feeders. 

You can either sweep up the mess or rinse the mess off the pavers with a garden hose.

4. Try A Seed Hoop

What is a seed hoop, you ask? 

It is a fine mesh fabric stretched across a circular frame. It is suspended by chains and hangs underneath your bird feeders.

Seed hoops are designed to catch the seeds and hulls that drop from the feeders. Look for a large one, with a diameter of between 24 inches and 30 inches, to catch the majority of the spills. 

It also acts as an additional feeding platform as birds will perch on the seed hoop and eat the fallen seeds.

5. Routine Raking And Vacuuming

Tidying up underneath the bird feeders should be part of your weekly yard care duties. The hulls and the seeds can embed in the dirt. 

You can use a rake to loosen them and bring them to the surface.

Next, use a shop vac or a leaf vacuum to sweep up the area. Don’t get too aggressive with the shop vac or you will vacuum up all the soil.

Be sure to empty the collection container properly. If you discard them in your compost pile, you may end up with sprouting seeds.

6. Add Stones Or Pea Gravel

You can make the area beneath your bird feeders look neater and cleaner by adding stone ground covers, like pea gravel or small stones. The seeds and hulls will fall between the rocks and out of sight. 

Hose the area to wash away the hulls and keep the gravel in place.

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Worried about the seeds sprouting up between the rocks? Spray the area with an organic, non-chemical herbicide to prevent this from happening.

7. Encourage Ground Feeding

Many species of birds prefer to eat from elevated bird feeders but will forage off the ground if there are no seeds in the feeder. 

You can encourage ground feeding by letting the feeder run out of seeds and keeping it empty for a few days. The birds will be forced to eat off the ground.

A word of warning: don’t keep your bird feeders empty for more than a few days. The birds might leave in search of a more reliable food source.

8. A Thick Layer Of Mulch

A deep layer of mulch, around four inches thick, will catch the seeds and hulls that fall from your bird feeders. 

Every few weeks – or sooner, if needed – turn the mulch to bury the hulls and seeds. This will allow the discarded seeds to decompose.

The mulch should be raked up and removed once or twice a year. Replace it with a fresh layer of mulch.

9. Hide The Mess With Landscape Plants

Either hang your bird feeders in your gardens or create a garden around them. Use a variety of plants, from tall ornamental grasses, bushes, flowering perennials, and ground cover. 

The landscape plants will hide the mess and will invite foraging birds to come into the garden. 

10. Try A Decomposing Spray

Your local garden center carries several varieties of decomposing sprays. These natural enzyme sprays speed up the decomposing process so the discarded seeds and seed hulls rot away quicker. 

Since the seeds decay more rapidly, the problem of sprouting seeds beneath your bird feeders is eliminated.

As with any products you spray on your lawn or garden, be sure to read the warning labels and follow the instructions for proper use.

Talk to an expert at your local garden center to find a hull decomposer spray that will be safe to use around children, pets, and other garden plants.

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11. Rotate Your Bird Feeders

Every month, move your bird feeders to a new spot in your yard. Don’t worry, the birds will be able to quickly find it and adapt to the new location. 

When you rotate your bird feeders, you allow the hull and seed debris underneath to naturally decompose before more seeds are piled on top.

12. Use A Mower Collector Bag

Are your bird feeders located in a grassy lawn area in your yard? If so, put the collector bag on your mower – the kind of bag you would use to pick up leaves in the fall.

When you mow over the feeder area, your mower will pull up the loose hulls and dropped seeds. Then just empty the collector bag when you are done, and your bird feeder area will look neat and clean.


Watching the birds that visit the bird feeders in your yard is a rewarding hobby. You don’t have to sacrifice a clean, tidy yard to keep your birdfeeder guests happy and well-fed. Just try some of these 12 tips to help you stop the mess under your bird feeders.

Get Our FREE Bird Feeder Cheat Sheet
Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
Download The FREE Cheat Sheet

James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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