Best Recipe for Hummingbird Food – Backyard Food Growing


One of my missions is to teach people how to make their own hummingbird food. It’s so easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before.

I don’t recommend feeding the hummingbirds that red liquid the stores sell as “hummingbird food”. The red dye is not part of their natural diet and may cause health issues, including birth defects in baby hummingbirds. The red dye is unnecessary so just buy a feeder that is generally red and the birds will like it just the same. 

When it’s so easy to make your own sugar syrup for them, there really is no reason to buy the red stuff. If you can measure two ingredients and boil water, then you can do this. It’s worth the effort, the birds will appreciate it greatly.

Don’t use:

  • Honey
  • Red food colouring
  • Any artificial sweetener, like Splenda, Sweet & Low or Equal
  • Jell-O
  • Brown sugar

Just use plain white granulated sugar, that’s it. Measure the sugar and water for the appropriate time of year and don’t add anything else. 

Ensure that no sugar crystals have splashed up the sides and then put it on the stove, you won’t even have to stir it. It will mix and boil on its own but don’t leave it unattended! Stick around, it’s interesting to watch.

Spring and Summer Recipe

4 cups water
1 cup white sugar 

  • Mix these two ingredients in a medium size pot
  • Bring these to a boil on high heat
  • Boil for about 10 seconds
  • Remove from heat at this point
  • Cover, but let steam escape
  • Let the mixture cool completely to room temperature

Do not put hot sugar syrup out for them, room temperature is ideal.  Store in a sealed and labelled bottle in the fridge. Use it up within two weeks and then make a fresh batch. 

Feeder Maintenance

Once the feeder has been set outside, it’s important to keep an eye on how long it hangs out there before it gets empty. It’s not good to just leave it until it’s empty, this will likely be too long and the syrup will have gone bad. The warmer the weather, the fewer days it takes for the syrup to go moldy. If it’s above 25°C (77°F) then the food needs to be changed every 3 days or so. If it’s cooler than that, then it can stay out there for up to 7 days before it needs changing. 

It will go moldy quickly so don’t keep the extra food for more than a week. It’s better to pour it out than to risk it being unhealthy for the birds.

Feed them in the Winter too

Most people think of feeding the birds in the spring and summer when it’s nice out and we’re sitting outside and watching them fly about. This is great of course but it’s also important to feed them in the winter too. 

It’s cold for a long time and it takes extra energy for the birds to stay warm. Food sources are limited and it’s nearly impossible for them to find food when they rely on primarily flower blooms and their nectar for food. It’s not easy for them to survive, so any help we give them is most certainly appreciated.

Since it takes more energy to survive the winter it’s important to provide the hummingbirds with a thicker syrup than you would give them in the summer. The boiling procedure is the same, it’s just with a higher sugar content.

At one time it was believed that if we fed birds in the winter that it would cause them (as a species) to become dependent on an artificial source of food and therefore cause them to be less able or willing to find their own food and survive naturally.

It has since been shown that feeding birds in the winter assists them to survive and become stronger by us helping them when they need it the most. If you are going to choose a season not to feed the birds, make it summer.

Winter Recipe

4 cups water 2 cups white sugar

Important sugar secret: Put the sugar in the pot first and then gently pour in the water so no sugar crystals splash up the sides. Then put it on the stove and you won’t even have to stir it. It will mix and boil on its own. Do not leave the stove unattended! 

  • Mix these two ingredients in a medium size pot
  • Bring to a boil on high heat, it takes about 3 minutes
  • Boil for about 10 seconds
  • Remove from heat
  • Cover but let steam escape and let the mixture cool completely

Do not put out hot liquid sugar for them, room temperature is ideal. Store in a sealed and labelled container or bottle in the fridge.

Use these recipes for hummingbird food and hang up a nice feeder in a spot that you can see. Grab your camera and enjoy the show.

Smaller Recipe

Sometimes it’s better to make a smaller amount of sugar syrup. This way you won’t have any left over to sit in the fridge after you fill the feeder and risk it going moldy. This is especially important if you have only a few birds visiting each day.

½ cup White Sugar
2 cups Water

1 cup White Sugar
2 cups Water 

Best Type of Feeder

First, look for a feeder that has red colour with prominent, attractive flowers. Plastic feeders are fine, sometimes the fancy decorative glass ones are too fancy and can be unappealing to the birds. Remember that you’re buying the feeder for the birds, not for yourself. 

Choose one with a little perch by each flower. The little perches allow the bird to stop and rest a little while. Then once they are comfortable they’ll land and stay longer when feeding.

The feeder in the picture is the one I have and it works wonderfully. It’s good quality and made of hard plastic. It’s comprised of 5 main parts and then the flowers come out and in to two pieces.

The most important quality to the bird feeder you choose is how easy it is to disassemble and clean.

Take a moment to look at it before you buy it, unscrew it and see how easily it comes apart, you’ll need to be able to wash and scrub all parts of it, including the bee guards and the tubes that the flowers stick on to.

Only choose one that can completely disassemble and there is access the entire feeder for cleaning. It’s extremely important that the feeder stays clean and completely free of mold. Mold is harmful to the birds as well. 

No hummingbirds around?

Even if you don’t think there are any hummingbirds around your place, put the feeder up anyway. You’ll be surprised, the birds will come out of nowhere within a few days to get the food once they see it. Soon after you’ll have a loyal following of hummingbirds on your feeders for most of the year.

If it’s near or below freezing, you may need to watch and make sure that the syrup doesn’t freeze. I recommend bringing in the feeder each night and then putting it out again in the early morning hours. They will appreciate the warmer food in the winter. 

Please leave a comment and share your hummingbird experiences.