When the going gets chilly, the chill get crafty

hand-crocheted humingbird feeder cozy

My hand-crocheted hummingbird feeder cozy

After posting a bunch of second-hand/theoretical advice for keeping hummingbird feeders from freezing, I found myself and my clientele (several Anna’s and a Violet-crowned or two) facing a forecast low of 13º F. (-10º C.). My northern friends will smirk (and rightly so), but this is southern Arizona for peeps‘ sake.

Since temperatures this low are such a rare event here, insulating the feeder seemed like the most sensible (and cheapest) approach. Besides, my crochet hooks had been collecting dust since last fall, and this was a good excuse to get back to hooking. So to speak.

After a quick stop to shop for appropriately colored yarn and about two hours of hooking, unraveling, and rehooking, I had a crocheted feeder cozy for an 8-oz. Nature’s Best (my all-time favorite bottle feeder that’s no longer available, sadly).

Before calling it a night, I filled a clean feeder with hot 3:1 solution, slipped on the cozy, and stumbled across the starlit yard to hang it in one of the more popular spots. Another Nature’s Best that had been out all day had frozen beyond the Squishee stage already, with a band of syrup trapped between solid layers of ice.

When I finally got around to checking the feeder this morning (about an hour and a half after sunrise), there was no ice in the bottle at all, but swirls of denser syrup indicated that at least some of the solution had frozen. Interestingly, the HummZinger Mini hanging in front of the poorly insulated living room window showed no signs of having frozen, despite containing a smaller volume of solution with larger surface area and getting very little morning sun to warm it up (it’s on the north side of the house).

I was a little worried about how the hummingbirds would respond to the weird appearance of their feeder. The female Violet-crowned Hummingbird didn’t seem the least bit put off by the bright red “sweater,” but then she didn’t have to wear it.

Related posts:

Keeping hummingbird feeders from freezing

Helping hummingbirds through winter weather

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6 thoughts on “When the going gets chilly, the chill get crafty

    • Patent – LOL! If there were fewer feeder designs to accommodate, I might consider making a bunch of cozies and selling them on Etsy.

      As of 10:30 last night (forecast low 16° F./-9° C.), the uncozied feeder was already getting slushy, while the cozied one was still completely liquid. This morning, again about an hour and a half after local sunrise, there was no sign of freeze/thaw in the bottle of the cozied feeder (the uninsulated base is still a potential problem, though heat exchange between base and bottle should help keep it above freezing longer).

  1. hehehe, too much work (plus i have no crocheting skills!) i just clip a shop light with a 60W bulb to the shepherd’s hook the feeder is on.

    • Don’t feel bad, Gary. Not everyone is fiber-crafty. ;>

      It’s good to have a wide range of options for addressing this problem so that people can choose what best fits their needs and limitations. I recommended heat lamps in my original post on this topic, “Helping hummingbirds through winter weather,” but they’re not ideal in windy conditions and/or far from an electrical outlet. They’re also considerably more expensive than yarn, both to buy (the whole skein was just $2.99, and I used less than a quarter of it) and to use, which is an issue for more and more folks these days.

  2. You are a fast crocheter! Clever cozy. :-)
    In any case, I am writing b/c I just read an article in The Hummingbird Connection, Sept-Dec 2009, Dr. Donald R. Powers & H. Ross Hawkins “Help Me Make It Through The Night”.
    “We have anecdotal information, based on unsolicited reports to The Hummingbird Society over the past ten years, that feeders with perches pose an unexpected risk to Anna’s Hummingbirds. During the cold periods such feeders appear capable of causing the hummingbird to enter torpor involuntarily. No similar reports have reached us about any other species. At first feeding of the day, a perched hummingbird is known to take in 25-30% of its body weight. The problem arises, as we see it, from having feeders with perches during these cold periods. A hummingbird with a body termperature of 104-108 degree F that consumes 25% of its body weight in sugar-water with a temperature of, say, 27 degree F (where the solution is still slushy and not frozen solid), will lower its body temperature to 90 degree F, give or take a few degrees. This can, on occasion, be equivalent to a state of mild torpor.”

    I also wanted to totally agree with you on the 8oz Best-1 feeders. My favorite too. Our local garden center carries them each spring. Are you saying that they won’t be there this spring? I am disappointed. So easy to clean, beautiful bottle with sturdy hanger, measurement markings on side of glass bottle, etc. We have four of the quart sized Best-1 feeders. I give them as gifts too.
    Sincerely, Fawn Palmer

    • Don is a physiologist, so I’m confident that his calculations of the impact of cold solution on body temperature are reasonable. I’m not clear from that excerpt why perches are the specific problem, though, unless Don and Ross have been taken in by the “perch hypothermia” hypothesis that I’ve already debunked. I would be interested to know whether Don and Ross think an Anna’s would not go into a torpor-like state on a perch somewhere else or just fall out of the air when the cold solution causes their body temperature to drop, and whether they think this occurs in otherwise healthy birds. Since I don’t receive The Hummingbird Connection (even though I’m one of Ross’s go-to people for hummingbird questions), I guess I’ll have to ask Ross directly.

      The feeder in question is Nature’s Best, not Best-1. I don’t like the Best-1 as much for a couple of reasons, the main one being the flat top of the base with the indented ring that collects rainwater. My understanding is that the two were based on the same original design, and that the competing companies were founded by the heirs of the designer. I have no idea why Nature’s Best went out of business, but I’m really disappointed.

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