It is very easy to make homemade hummingbird food at home. This DIY recipe is very inexpensive and takes just a few minutes to make. If you see the small birds flying around your garden, or you want to tempt them to your backyard, just grab some sugar from your pantry and quickly make this sweet mixture that is ready to put outside in an hour or less!
The secret to making the best hummingbird food to keep the hummers in your yard or patio is to combine granulated white sugar and water. Once you know how to mix them together properly, you will be on your way to attracting hummingbirds!
Hummingbird Food Ratio: Sugar to Water
The best hummingbird food sugar to water ratio is 1 part granulated white sugar to 4 parts water. For example, 1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 cup water.
It is easy to make larger batches of hummingbird feed to store in your refrigerator or to use in multiple feeders. Using the same ratio, those measurements would be:
- 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cups water (Pint)
- 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water (Quart)
- 2 cups sugar and 8 cups water (Half a Gallon)
- 4 cups of sugar and 16 cups water (Gallon)
A small batch of 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water is generally the best amount for a single hummingbird feeder of standard size.
This is the ratio that has been handed down to be over the generations of my family, and also the sugar to water ratio that the Audubon Society’s hummingbird food recipe uses, as well.
Best Homemade Hummingbird Food Recipe
Here is the easy recipe for how to make hummingbird food. This is a printable how-to card so that you can print it to save for later.
In this DIY, I suggest heating the water until bubbles form on the bottom of the pan and not boiling the water. That is a personal preference of mine because I don’t want to waste time heating the mixture any longer than necessary. If your water comes to boiling, that is fine, just remove it as soon as possible.
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
- Add sugar and water to a pot. Bring water to nearly boiling while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Once you see tiny bubbles forming on the bottom of the pot and all of the sugar is dissolved, remove the pot from the heat.
- Allow to come to room temperature.
- Once cooled, add to your hummingbird feeder.
- If your water come to boiling, that's fine. There's just no need to wait that long if the sugar has dissolved.
- Cool the mixture faster by putting in a heat-safe container and putting in the refrigerator.
- Increase the amount of hummingbird food you make by using the same ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. For instance, if you want to make a gallon of hummingbird food, you would use 4 cups sugar to 16 cups water.
You can also watch me make a batch of hummingbird food in my YouTube video:
How Often Should I Change Hummingbird Food?
The frequency of changing your hummingbird food depends on the time of year and your climate. During the summer time, and in hot and humid climates, you will need to change your hummingbird food every 2 days to prevent mold growth.
In cooler climates and in early Spring and early Fall, you might be able to leave your hummingbird feeder out 3 to 4 days without noticing mold growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need to Boil the Water?
You do not need to boil the water to allow the sugar and water to combine. You will want hot water to quickly dissolve the granulated sugar and save time, however it does not have to be boiling. I have found that when tiny bubbles start to form on the bottom of the pan before boiling, that is hot enough and the sugar would have dissolved already if you are stirring it.
Should I Add Red Dye to the Food?
No, you do not need to add red food coloring or red dye to hummingbird food for them to find the nectar. Many hummingbird feeders have red on them which is an alert to the tiny birds. However, even without the color red, hummingbirds can find the sweet liquid using their senses.
Red food coloring is also made from chemicals, which may be harmful to birds. If they don’t need it, there is no reason to feed the hummers artificial colorings which aren’t found in nature.
How Can I Make Hummingbird Food Without Boiling Water?
If you are unable to heat water, you can stir the granulated sugar vigorously until it dissolves into the water. Or put the sugar and water in a jar and seal the lid and shake until dissolved. This method can take longer.
Alternatively, allow the sugar to sit in the water for an hour before stirring and it will probably dissolve on its own, especially if you allow the water to sit in the hot sun.
Can I Use a Tea Kettle to Make Hummingbird Food?
Yes, you can heat the water in a tea kettle instead of in a pot. Add the sugar to a heat-safe container and then pour in the appropriate ratio of hot water and stir.
Can I Use Honey Instead of Sugar?
It is not recommended to use honey instead of cane sugar. Not only is honey more expensive to make the formula, but it can possibly create fungal growth in the food. Honey is also thicker than sugar and could cause problems for the hummingbirds.
Is There A Sugar Substitute That I Can Use?
No, there is nothing better than regular granulated white sugar to use in hummingbird food. Other ingredients might have harmful additives or not be easily digested by the hummingbirds.
Do not use raw, unprocessed sugars; corn syrup; honey; sugar substitutes such as Stevia or Sweet and Low; brown sugar or powdered sugar, which could actually contain cornstarch and be harmful to the hummers.
How Long Can I Store Hummingbird Nectar in My Refrigerator?
Hummingbird food can be stored cold in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you notice any mold growing in the food, be sure to dispose of it even if it hasn’t been refrigerated for up to 14 days.
What About Using a Hummingbird Food Concentrate?
The pre-mixed hummingbird food concentrate formulas are not necessary when it is so easy and inexpensive to make your own. A bottle of concentrate that I found at Walmart was around $3 and made only half a gallon of nectar. A 4 pound bag of sugar costs around $2 and can make more than 2 gallons of food!
Some concentrates are dyed red with colorings, which is not necessary and not recommended by the Audubon Society.
When Should I Put Out Hummingbird Food?
You want to have food in your yard for hummingbirds as they start their migration north in Spring. Generally the time frame is April to May in most parts of the country.
In North Carolina, the first hummingbirds appear in early or mid-April. When I see my first hummingbird, that is when I put out the feeder filled with nectar. Since the weather varies at this time of year, I am also aware of freezing temperatures overnight and would bring in the feeders if they could possibly freeze.
Consider bringing in bird feeders at night during warm weather months as an easy way to protect your yard from bears.
Using this homemade hummingbird food in a few feeders around your yard will offer you lots of entertainment watching the birds fly around. Check out my DIY backyard makeover on a budget for more ways to make your yard a place that you love to be!