Make your own hummingbird nectar as a way to attract the tiny, zippy creatures to your yard. Mixing the sugary liquid yourself ensures that what you put in the hummingbird feeder is fresh and healthy for the birds. Avoid adding red coloring to the mixture, as this may not be good for the hummingbirds. Don't worry: They'll be able to find their food without the color.
Sugar and Water Solution
For a simple hummingbird nectar, boil 1 cup tap water over low to medium heat. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the hot burner. Stir in 1/4 cup granulated sugar, mixing until the sugar dissolves completely. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature; then add it to a clean hummingbird feeder. Make a larger quantity by keeping the same proportions: 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. If you make too much to put into the feeder at one time, store the excess in the refrigerator in a clean bottle or container with a lid, where it will keep for up to two weeks. This recipe without variation is recommended by the Audubon Society and businesses that sell hummingbird feeders because it is a tried-and-true formula. Adding extra sugar may be harmful to the birds.
Sweets to Avoid
While it may be tempting to make your own custom hummingbird mix using other sweeteners, don't: Use only white granulated cane sugar and avoid using raw sugar, agave nectar, brown sugar, molasses, sweetened gelatin mix, honey or artificial sweeteners, as these sweeteners may harm the birds.
Feeder Selection and Placement
Select a hummingbird feeder that comes apart for easy cleaning -- this allows you to wash the nectar tube and other parts separately to remove all traces of leftover nectar or dirt and debris before refilling the feeder each time. Set the feeder within view of a window so you may enjoy the birds feasting at the nectar, but hang it high enough so that cats and young children won't be able to reach it. Wipe up any nectar that spills near the feeder to avoid attracting ants and bees.
Hummingbird nectar may ferment, or the feeder may grow mold or mildew on the inside, which can be unsafe for the birds. Keep the nectar fresh to keep it safe -- the hotter the weather gets, the more often you should change the nectar. If temperatures are very hot, change the nectar daily; otherwise, swap it out every two to three days, as suggested in an article published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. If the feeder is in full sun most of the day, this may increase the temperature of the nectar, so it's best to replace the nectar more frequently. Anytime the nectar looks cloudy or appears to contain mold or mildew, replace the liquid. Clean the feeder with hot water before refilling it each time -- the heat from the water also helps to remove hardened sugar and debris clinging to the feeder.