How To Make Hummingbird Food

I have my neighbor, Linda, to thank for alerting me last week that our little friends have arrived!

Last night, I filled one of my hummingbird feeders, and hung it on a shepherd’s hook. I placed it in the same location that proved, last year, to be a great success – a sunny spot, with nearby shaded perches.

Linda makes her own hummingbird food. Here’s the recipe she found, along with some of her personal recommendations. Other than some touches/tweaks of my own, this is all from Linda’s email.


  1. Fill a pan (any pan) about half* full with water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Reduce temperature to a simmer.
  4. Pour an equal amount of table sugar into the pan, and stir until it melts.
  5. Bring the mixture to a short boil again.
  6. Turn off heat, and allow mixture to cool.
  7. Once it cools, pour into a pitcher and refrigerate.

*Allow enough room in the pan for everything to boil, without overflowing. Adjust amount as needed, but have equal amounts of water and sugar.

[A silicone pastry brush works really well for getting into the “corners”, and getting the sugar mixed up.]

We’ll refer to the end result of steps 1 – 7 as “nectar”.

As far as your nectar/water ratio:

  • Use about 50/50 in the beginning, when they don’t have any flowers.
  • Once flowers start blooming, change the ratio to 30/70 or 25/75. (The weaker the nectar, the more they have to feed to get the food energy they require. It’s a way to get them to your feeder a lot, but don’t reduce the nectar to the point of “starving” them. Normally a 25/75 ratio is recommended on the feeders, but you’ll need to experiment to see what works best in your area.)

Especially when it’s hot, dump and rinse the feeder fairly often, maybe even daily. If you see anything floating that shouldn’t be, dump it, and replace with fresh food. Feeders are a pain to clean, and I have not yet found a really good feeder brush that holds together, although I’m certain they’re out there. I just forget to look. You want to get rid of any mold that forms on the inside of the feeder. Sometimes I use a touch of bleach for cleaning. I’ve tried baking soda and lemon juice and sometimes that works pretty well.

Dad told me they had trouble with bees where they live and tried spraying “Skin So Soft” on the feeder. It worked to keep the bees away, and the birds were good with it. Now, I just need to find an Avon rep…

Thanks, Linda!

A couple tips to consider when finding that perfect spot to hang your feeder:

I’ve heard and/or read conflicting info on this. I just read this week in a hummingbird magazine that the feeders should be placed in the shade because the hummers like the shade. I’ve also heard the exact opposite. Based on what I witnessed in my own yard last year, and I think (?) my neighbor has said something like this…

  1. Place the feeder in the sun, or in an area where it is in the sun for a few hours of the day (that’s how mine was – a few hours of sun). AND
  2. Make sure that wherever you hang the feeder, there are nearby shaded perches. You’ll notice that when the birds are not feeding, they’re just sitting and hanging around, which allows you more opportunities to observe them.
  3. Keep the feeders high enough to protect the birds from predators like cats. (This is something I read in the magazine – Hummingbirds Volume 2 – from the editors of Wild Bird Magazine.)

I look forward to your comments on this post! What has been your experience? What have you learned with your feeders? Have any amazing stories to share about your hummers?

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12 comments to How To Make Hummingbird Food

  • Amber

    Do you recommend using red food coloring to attract the hummingbirds? I seem to remember your earlier post about hummingbirds saying they’re attracted to red. Thanks for the tips!! :)

    • Holly

      That’s an excellent question. However, my cursory research provided me with conflicting answers.

      My advice: Try using colorless food. If you have trouble attracting the birds, add some red dye. Once the birds arrive, go back to colorless. Or… start out with red food, and then go to colorless. (I use red food, but will probably start making my food when my store-bought food runs out).

    • Linda

      I don’t use red coloring. There’s usually enough red on the feeder to bring them in. I figure their little bodies don’t need the extra chemicals. Another note: don’t use honey instead of sugar. Sugar only.

  • Melissa

    Best 1 feeders are the best and easy to clean. And never add anything to the water but sugar, regular ole sugar.

    • Holly

      That’s good to know. Thanks. Can you find those feeders (“Best 1″) at most places?

      And yes, you’re right – plain table sugar and water (although, see my reply to Amber about red dye).
      **Sweetners and honey should NOT be used.**

      Sounds like you’ve been feeding Hummingbirds for awhile, yeah?

  • What a great post. I used to have hibiscus plants that attracted hummingbirds and I didn’t worry about feeding them. However, this year, my neighbor gave me a hummingbird feeder and I’m looking forward to using your recipe to fill it.

  • Linda

    When it comes to shade vs sun, it depends on the outdoor temps, also. Hummingbirds go into a state of torpor, or temporary hibernation, when it’s colder. In the springtime, when the evenings are still very cool and the days aren’t that hot, the feeders can be in the sunshine where it’s warmer.

    Later on, when summer temps and warm evenings kick in, keep them more toward the shade so the nectar doesn’t go bad as fast. Sugar + heat = mold.

  • [...] Be ready for the arrival of hummingbirds. As soon as the weather warms up a bit, hummingbirds will migrate from the South. I had hummingbirds in my Indiana yard late April of last year. If you’ve never encouraged hummingbirds into your yard, you’re really missing an opportunity to observe and enjoy a truly fascinating creature. Here’s an easy way to make your own hummingbird food. [...]

  • The reason i put a food coloring in my humming bird feeder is si I can tell when it’s gone down. Any color works as wall as another. Red is a myth.

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