Does Feeder Fresh Prevent Moldy Seed?

Last Updated on May 11, 2024 by Nancie

Feeder Fresh Trial Size Package
(Feeder Fresh Trial Size Package)

Will Feeder Fresh Bird Seed and Feed Protector help keep seed in a tube style feeder from getting moldy? I’m currently trying this product in one of my feeders to see if it helps reduce moisture that can encourage mold.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Feeder Fresh Granules
Feeder Fresh Granules

What is Feeder Fresh?

Recently, poking around in my local bird store, Mother Natures, I saw a product called “Feeder Fresh Bird Seed and Feed Protector”. It’s interesting stuff: absorbent granules that you pour as a shallow layer in the bottom of a tube bird feeder. The idea is that the granules will absorb moisture that gets into your feeder. This can help keep the seed from molding. For feeders where a layer on the bottom won’t fit below the ports, you can mix it with the seed. (2024 Note: Mother Nature’s has just converted to a Wild Birds Unlimited Store.)

Feeder Fresh is supposed to be safe for birds. The package states that it “Contains no chemicals. Made purely from essential minerals naturally consumed by wild birds.” Maker Sapphire Labs says it is chemically similar to sand but is more absorbent; they compare it to grit. It’s not supposed to swell or clump.

Mother Natures was offering Feeder Fresh’s 4 oz trial size for $1.99, which is enough to try in a feeder or two. (For more routine use, it also comes in larger 22 oz and 32 oz bags.) I was curious about Feeder Fresh and the trial size seemed like a good way to give it a try.

How Much Feeder Fresh Do You Use in a Tube Feeder?

Tube feeders are one of those places where seed can get damp, particularly at the bottom. To use, pour a shallow layer of Feeder Fresh granules into a clean feeder. Then top it off with seed. (Note: The package directions suggest a 1” layer, while their website suggests a 1/2” or 1/4” layer. For feeders with ports very low on the tube, the shallower layer seems more reasonable. But if your feeder has more space below the lowest ports, 1” might work better for you.) Whether you can add this layer at all will depend on the design of your feeder.

Sapphire Labs explains, “The general guideline is ¼ to ½ inch at the bottom of your feeder each time you clean it, and for best performance, a generous sprinkle on top of the seed every time you fill the feeder. Adjust the amount of product you use to your climate and the season. The actual amount depends upon a number of factors:

  1. The size and style of the feeder
  2. How exposed your feeder is to rain and the size of the feeder hole
  3. The amount of rain and humidity
  4. How often you plan to completely empty and clean your feeder.”

Where a Feeder Fresh Layer Will or Won’t Work

Removing the Bottom of the Aspects Nyjer Tube Feeder for Cleaning
Removing the Bottom of the Aspects Nyjer Tube Feeder for Cleaning

Tube Feeders With Steep Diverter Bottom

The Aspects Quick Clean Nyjer Feeders I use have a steep triangular diverter piece at the inside bottom. (See photo above.) This is designed to reduce moisture and seed clumping in the bottom of the feeder. This type of design doesn’t really allow for a layer of Feeder Fresh at the bottom.

But to be honest, I don’t typically have problems with moisture in these particular feeders anyway. If I did, the directions say I could instead mix it 50/50 with the seed in a layer at the bottom. I suspect that you would use more Feeder Fresh if used this way. I’m thinking birds might either eat some of it as grit or toss it out . . . although maybe they would just ignore it and it would just sift down through the seed. I’d have to try it to be sure.

Squirrel Buster Classic Feeder
Squirrel Buster Classic Feeder

Tube Feeders With Ventilation Holes at Bottom

I had thought to try Feeder Fresh in the bottom of my Squirrel Buster Classic Feeder (above.) This feeder is designed to let air flow through it to reduce moisture. While it might get a tiny bit of sunflower chips caked into the very bottom, it mostly does well and I haven’t actually gotten mold in it.

But regardless, its bottom ventilation holes would let the Feeder Fresh granules fall out, so it’s not a good fit for this product either. My Squirrel Buster Plus feeders also have ventilation holes at the bottom so also can’t accommodate a layer of Feeder Fresh. I do sometimes get a little caked sunflower chips in the bottom of those feeders (but again, not mold.)

Woodlink Caged Seed Feeder
Woodlink Feeder

Tube Feeder With Low Ports

Feeder Fresh is probably most effective in an enclosed tube feeder with a flat bottom inside. None of my tube feeders are like this. My Woodlink Caged Tube Feeders have a bit of a hump at the inside bottom to divert seed but it is not as steep as in the Aspects feeders. When filled with sunflower chips, there is sometimes a little bit of damp seed clumping up at the bottom. I have caught a tiny bit of mold once. (Note: Because sunflower chips no longer have the shell to protect it, it is more likely than other seed to absorb moisture.)

Sometimes seed will slip down between the tube’s plastic and the bottom metal piece of this feeder. The trapped seed can then get wet and potentially mold. This is the tube feeder I use where I thought Feeder Fresh would be most interesting to try.

Clean Feeders in Pieces Drying in the Sun
Clean Feeders in Pieces Drying in the Sun

Testing Feeder Fresh in My Tube Feeder

So for my test, I took down two Woodlink feeders that hang side by side. Both feeders hang from a shepherd’s hook pole and both have weather domes over them to keep some (but not all) rain off the feeders. Trying it in one and not in the other seems like a good way to test it.

Start With a Clean Feeder

For Feeder Fresh to work, you need to start with a clean feeder. So I took the two feeders apart and used water, an extra long bird feeder brush and a scrubby sponge to get any lingering dirt and seed off the feeders. I then gave each feeder a ten minute soak in a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water. After the soak, I rinsed the bleach off really well and let them dry in the sun. A few last lingering water drops were wiped off with a microfiber cloth.

Feeder Fresh in Feeder
Feeder Fresh in Feeder

Adding Feeder Fresh

Then, to test it, I filled one feeder as usual, but poured some Feeder Fresh into the bottom of the other feeder before filling it with seed (above). Like many tube feeders, the lowest ports are close to the bottom of the tube. This is actually a GOOD thing because it is the seed that lingers BENEATH the bottom port of a feeder that tends to be left uneaten to go bad. But it does mean that you have to add your layer of Feeder Fresh conservatively.

When I first filled the feeder with the Feeder Fresh and seed, I realized that I’d made the Feeder Fresh layer just a little too deep, so all a bird would see on the bottom ports was the white Feeder Fresh granules, with no seed to eat. I used a stick to push out a little bit of the Feeder Fresh, allowing seed to be exposed and all was well.

Feeder Fresh Granules Between Plastic Tube and Metal Base
Feeder Fresh Granules Between Plastic Tube and Metal Base

One interesting development was that in this particular feeder sometimes seed will get trapped between the plastic wall and the metal bottom piece (see above). But this time, it was instead the Feeder Fresh that worked its way into that slim gap and not the seed. So I think this should eliminate having trapped seed go bad in the feeder. I suspect this alone might be worth using it for these feeders.

So now I’ve got two caged tube feeders hanging side by side, one with a Feeder Fresh layer and another without it. As the seed in the feeders gets eaten, I can top them off with more seed. I’ll keep an eye on what happens and will update this post when I can compare the results between the two feeders.

How Often to Change Feeder Fresh Granules

Feeder Fresh won’t last forever in a feeder. At some point the granules will have absorbed so much moisture that it just won’t work anymore. Sapphire Labs suggests changing it each time you clean the feed. Their website says, “Change the Feeder Fresh in the bottom of your feeder if it has been in the feeder for over a month, or if it has been in the feeder for over a week and it has rained heavily. Immediately change it if the Feeder Fresh has been looking darker or translucent from absorbing moisture.”

Mourning Doves on Two Platform Feeders
Mourning Doves on Two Platform Feeders

Feeder Fresh is Designed For Closed Tube Feeders Not Open Feeders

I do wish this product worked in platform feeders, as of the various feeders I use, it is the corners and edges of my open platform feeders is where seed is most likely to get damp. But Feeder Fresh absorbs moisture from both the seed and the air. So it is meant to work in closed feeders like tube feeders. In an open platform feeder, the Feeder Fresh would be absorbing moisture from the air and would rapidly get used up. So for that reason, I suspect that an open mesh type tube feeder probably isn’t a good fit either (and the small granules would probably fall out through the mesh anyway.)

Sapphire Labs explains, “In hopper feeders, Feeder Fresh can be used to eliminate the moisture problems that occur on the low-flow sidewall areas of the seed dispensing enclosure. In open tray feeders or the tray of a hopper feeder the Feeder Fresh is less helpful, since it will absorb moisture from the open air until it is used up. But adding a layer of Feeder Fresh to a hopper tray can provide a physical barrier to keep the seed from caking and sticking to the tray.”

Two Woodlink Caged Tube Feeders
Two Woodlink Caged Tube Feeders

Testing Out Feeder Fresh

After only about a week, it is too early to say whether Feeder Fresh will keep my tube feeder seed a little drier and fresher. I’ll keep an eye on it and will update this post (probably in a few weeks).

Note: My test is during a hot humid Maryland summer where we frequently get strong afternoon thunderstorms. This may impact how often I need to change it out. How it works could potentially vary by season as well. And obviously, your particular location and climate could influence how it works for you and/or how often you would need to change it.

In the meantime, if you want to try Feeder Fresh yourself, I would see if your local bird store carries the sample size. If not, Amazon does carry Feeder Fresh in larger bags.

Have You Tried Feeder Fresh?

If you have already tried Feeder Fresh yourself, what did you think of it? What type and brand of feeder did you try it in? Did it work for you? Please feel welcome to comment below.


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4 thoughts on “Does Feeder Fresh Prevent Moldy Seed?

  1. No bird feeders here. The Connecticut Audubon Society has advised people to take down feeders. There’s a “mysterious” illness that’s killing songbirds. Began in mid-Atlantic states and is spreading. Google it. Hasn’t been identified. They’re concerned that it might be spread by close contact. No feeders encourages social distancing. There’s plenty of natural food around. They won’t starve. We can feed them another time

    1. Hi Steve,
      Yes, it’s a scary thing. I’ve been following it closely. Scientists have been testing the birds but so far have ruled out every viral or bacterial cause they’ve tested for. It appears to have started here in the Mid-Atlantic right as the Brood X cicadas were coming out and my understanding is that geographically it’s centered in the same areas as these cicadas. The numbers of sick birds are estimates of course since they can only count those reported, but I’ve been hearing that the bird illnesses peaked at about the same time the cicadas peaked and has been declining in the weeks since. Might be a coincidence but there seems to be a correlation. Hopefully it was caused by birds eating cicadas that were exposed to pesticides or fungus or heavy metals during their years underground rather something more lasting.

      1. Thanks for your reply. According to the Audubon Society official here in Connecticut, it’s in Connecticut, Ohio and some other states and we have had no cicadas here. They don’t think there’s any association with that, just a coincidence. They’ve examined some of the dead birds and they have crusty eyes but that’s the only consistent abnormality they can find
        In the meantime, we miss seeing our bird friends in the backyard. Even the squirrels I haven’t been around, obviously because there isn’t anything for them to eat.

        1. Hi Steve,
          Interesting. Connecticut Audubon’s website has a 7/6/21 post about the issue that says it hasn’t reached Connecticut as of that date. Of course, maybe that has changed in the past few days. My understanding from their post is that their recommendations to take down feeders is an abundance of caution kind of thing because they simply don’t know what is causing the problem and can’t rule out whether it might be contagious at this time and so might spread to there. Taking feeders down just in case is not unreasonable. I really do hope that it isn’t in Connecticut and doesn’t spread there!

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