How to Make Homemade Hummingbird Food: 4 Do’s & Don’ts for Delicious Nectar

Hummingbird flying to a flower

Attract hummingbirds to backyards is a favorite past time among those who enjoy observing these unique creatures in their habitat. Not only are hummingbirds enjoyable to watch, but they are also beneficial to your yard and garden as they help keep the insect population down and serve as a vector to pollinate flowers. One of the best ways to attract hummingbirds is to feed them. But while you can buy hummingbird food in the store, you can also easily make it at home. Let’s take a look at the do’s and don’ts of making your own homemade hummingbird food.

Easy and Quick Recipe for Homemade Hummingbird Food

Before you understand the do’s and don’ts of making hummingbird food, you first need a recipe! The recipe for making hummingbird food is really quite simple.

You will need:

  • 1  cup of sugar
  • 4 cups of water

Mix the two ingredients together, bring to a boil, and then let cool. That’s it!

Of course, you can cut the recipe in half, or double it depending on how much you want to make. The important thing to remember is that it is always 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.

Birds digestive systems are different from humans, so there are some tips to keep in mind when making homemade hummingbird food.

DO Pay Attention to Shelf Life

As with most foods, hummingbird food has a shelf life. Homemade hummingbird food in the refrigerator can be kept for up to two weeks. If you do not use it all by this time, it is advisable to discard the remaining solution. Nectar in the feeder should be discarded after 2-4 days, depending on how warm the weather is.

Hummingbird and insects around feeder

DO Keep Hummingbird Feeders Clean and Full

The feeder should then be cleaned and refilled with a fresh batch of food. If there is any doubt as to whether the solution has spoiled, err on the side of caution and discard. Just as eating spoiled food will make you feel sick, the same is true for hummingbirds.

DON’T Use Dyes

It is tempting to use dyes in your hummingbird food to give the solution a nice red appearance. This is highly discouraged. Studies have shown that red dye #40 have carcinogenic effects in rats and mice, as well as decreased fertility.

While studies have not specifically been done on hummingbirds, and there is debate as to whether or not some types of coloring are safe, it is better to be safe than sorry and avoid the use of red dyes.  A much safer alternative is to purchase a feeder with a red tint to the housing.

Sugar being poured into pot on stove

DO Boil Homemade Hummingbird Food

While it’s not absolutely necessary to boil hummingbird food, it is highly recommended for a number of reasons.

If you plan on making it in large quantities (and why not, saves time!), it will keep longer.  Compared to their size, hummingbirds consume a lot of food and its just easier to have the necessary ingredients on hand and make large batches as opposed to going to the store.

Plus, if the quality of your tap water is mediocre boiling the water is an easy step to take to make sure your solution is of the highest quality.

Hummingbird in flight toward red flower

DON’T Use Artificial Sweeteners or Honey

While humans can digest both sugar and artificial sweeteners, the same cannot be said for hummingbirds. Hummingbirds aren’t counting calories and their digestive system just isn’t set up for our diet-friendly artificial sweeteners, or even honey. It’s best to stick to pure sugar when making homemade hummingbird food.

Hummingbirds are a very fun addition to your backyard. They are beautiful to watch, relatively easy to attract and greatly beneficial to our ecosystem. Compared to their size, hummingbirds consume a lot of food. For many, it is easier to have the necessary ingredients on hand and make large batches as opposed to going to the store. Following these four simple do’s and don’ts will ensure you care for your backyard buddies by making available to them the highest quality food.


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