Living Homemade

Feed the Hummingbirds for Pennies!

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DIY Hummingbird NectarI got a text message from my Daddy last night excitedly proclaiming that the hummingbirds were back – that’s a sure sign that Spring is near!  This makes me happy, too!  I love those adorable little birds.

So this morning, I was busy making some nectar to put out in my feeder for them when it occurred to me that there may be someone out there who doesn’t know how to make it, so I decided to write a quick tutorial for ya’ll – just in case.

The pre-made nectar that is sold in big box stores works fine, but it can get quite expensive over time, running anywhere from $1.98 for 8 oz. of ready-to-use nectar to more than $17 for 24 oz. of powdered concentrate.  That’s a lot of dough, especially considering you need to clean your feeder and put out fresh nectar as often as every other day in the mid-summer heat.

It’s so easy to make it in your own kitchen and very economical, too.  You’ll wonder why you ever bought that ready-made stuff in the first place.

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
(optional) a few drops of red food color*


Boil the water at a full rolling boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar to dissolve.  Let cool completely.  If using, stir in a few drops of red food color before pouring into feeder.  Hang your feeder outside your window and enjoy the show as the hummingbirds flock to your feeder and entertain you with their antics.

That’s it!  You’re all done.

It should be noted that you can make this recipe in larger batches as long as you keep the 4 to 1 ratio of water to sugar intact; however, unless you have a large flock of hummers emptying your feeders rapidly, I would keep most of the mixture refrigerated and only set out small quantities.  The birds prefer fresh nectar and you really should clean and refill your feeders regularly anyway.

Please do not try to make your nectar “healthy” for the hummingbirds by using honey to sweeten the water.  When mixed with water, honey ferments very quickly and becomes toxic to the birds.  It is also advised not to use turbinado or sucanat as they contain higher amounts of iron that could cause illness in the little hummingbirds.  The absolute BEST sugar for feeding your hummers (and, coincidentally, the most economical) is plain white cane sugar.  Most flower nectars are simple sugars made up of water and sugar creating sucrose so, plain white sugar water is the closest thing to nature we can create.

Additional Notes:

*There has been some controversy brewing for decades over whether or not red food coloring is harmful to hummingbirds.  Upon searching diligently, I found a multitude of articles saying that it shouldn’t be done; and another multitude stating that it does no harm.  In the end, though, ALL of the articles stated that there is no scientific evidence that supports either theory.  Additionally, even some of the commercial hummingbird nectars contain red dye so I’m sure their experts would have something to say in disagreement with the “no dye” experts.  I believe it is a personal choice and you should do for your hummingbirds what they respond to best.

It is the contention of many “experts” that coloring does not help attract the hummingbirds, but my personal experience in feeding is that the brightly colored liquid does, in fact, attract more birds.  In fact, where I live, when I set out clear liquid in my feeder, it is a rare occurrence to find a hummer feeding there, so I choose to color my water.  I use the same food dye that most bakeries use to color their icing.  It is by Wilton (aff link) and can be purchased on Amazon (aff link) or at most any local retailer.

Contrary to popular belief, it does matter what feeder you’re using too.  I have purchased some very expensive and elaborately decorated glass feeders in the past and had nary a bird come and visit, but when I hung a free plastic hummingbird feeder that I got as a promotional item, in the same place, the birds flocked to it.  They prefer feeders with bright yellow or white flowers indicating each feeding station.  It doesn’t matter if your feeder is glass or plastic, as long as the feeding station is brightly marked.  I’ve had feeders with red flowers on each feeding station that elicited absolutely no interest from the birds.  I’m not saying that no feeder will ever work without yellow or white flowers, but in MY yard, both in Colorado and in Texas, these are the feeders that attract the most birds.  If your heart is set on attracting hummingbirds, choose your feeder with their preferences in mind.  That being said, those same bright yellow or white flowers are also very attractive to bees.  It is what it is, I suppose – I guess if you want to attract bees to your garden, hang a hummingbird feeder near your garden too.  Who knows, maybe you’ll have much success.

And there you have it, a cheap and simple recipe for feeding hummingbirds in your yard or garden.

Happy bird-watching, friends!

 Hugs, Trixie




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