An ounce of homemade bird seed mix is, on average, cheaper than a store-bought mix. Commercially sold mixes also often use filler seeds that don’t have any nutritional value, just to fill their bags and sell them to customers.
To avoid serving unhealthy, plain food to the birds in your yards, try making your own seed mix with the seeds your birds really need. Here’s how!
Which Seeds To Use & Which Ones To Avoid (Nutritional Breakdown)
There are at least half a dozen types of seeds you can mix, while some seeds can only be served individually because of their intricate shape.
Here’s the nutritional breakdown of different types of seeds and their purpose in bird diet.
Sunflower Seeds (Use)
Starting off with the most popular type of seeds, sunflower seeds are very nutritious. They yield about 160 calories per 1 ounce of dry-roasted seeds.
The fat, which is the most important food component for birds as it’s the best type of nutrient for staying warm during the winter, makes up almost half of all nutrients in sunflower seeds.
An ounce of sunflower seeds yields almost half an ounce of fat.
Protein and carbohydrate content, which isn’t as important for birds, is balanced, with one-fifth of an ounce of each per 1 ounce of sunflower seeds.
This makes sunflower seeds the best seed type overall, and you should use it as a basis for your homemade bird feeder seed mix.
Milo Seeds (Avoid)
Also known as sorghum seeds, as they’re a product of a grass in the Sorghum genus, milo seeds aren’t as useful as sunflower seeds.
Per 1 ounce, milo seeds yield only 94 calories, most of which come in the form of carbohydrates. Carbs aren’t bad for birds in any way, but they’re not as useful as fat in the long term.
In fact, 1 ounce of milo seeds yields only 1/30th of an ounce of fat (less than 1 gram), so a bird would have to eat great amounts of milo seeds to build up a healthy amount of fat for the winter.
Milo seeds don’t offer much to the birds in your garden, and the only purpose they serve is to keep your birds satiated for a while.
This, however, isn’t important, as birds need to build fat deposits, which they can later burn to keep themselves warm throughout the colder months.
Commercial producers of seed mixes often add large amounts of milo seeds to their mixes just as a filler ingredient.
It’s best not to waste your money on them, but if you do add milo seeds to the mix, only add them in small amounts!
Millet Seeds (Use If You Want, But It Isn’t Necessary)
Often mistaken for milo seeds because of a similar name, millet seeds come in with 108 calories per 1 ounce of seeds, most of which are carbs.
Fat is barely more present in millet seeds than in milo seeds, with 1/24th of an ounce per 1 ounce of seeds.
This doesn’t make them much better, and they’re almost as useless as milo seeds.
Millet seeds are full of antioxidants, though, which gives them some redeemable qualities. If you include them in your mix, they won’t be there just to fill the stomach.
Hemp Seeds (Use)
An often overlooked type of seed, hemp seeds are a great addition to any seed mix because of their fat and protein content.
A single ounce of hulled hemp seeds yields almost half an ounce of fat and 1/3rd of an ounce of protein, while carbohydrates are barely noticeable when compared to these numbers.
To top it all off, hemp seeds are absolutely bursting with vitamins B1, B6, and B9, as well as copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
Although they’re a byproduct of Cannabis sativa, the seeds themselves have a very low concentration of THC (less than 0.5%), making them safe to eat.
Shelled Peanuts (Use)
Peanuts are not seeds (technically, they’re legumes), but they fit into this mix very well.
Regarding their nutritional value, peanuts are very similar to sunflowers. There’s almost half an ounce of fat per 1 ounce of peanuts, with carbs and proteins balanced at about 1/5th of an ounce each.
This makes peanuts a great ingredient in your bird mix, especially during the winter.
Cracked Corn (Avoid)
Cracked corn is often mentioned as a healthy ingredient for a bird-feeding mix, but truth be told, that isn’t true. Cracked corn doesn’t offer much and you shouldn’t waste your money on it.
An ounce of cracked corn has no fat, and it’s 77% carbs! There also isn’t much protein or fiber to balance that out, so I honestly see no reason to add this to your bird mix.
Birds need food rich in fats during the winter, and protein-rich foods in the spring. Carbs, which are essentially quick-to-use energy packets, aren’t useful for the long term.
The only birds that actually need carbs in great amounts are hummingbirds, but that’s because they exert themselves to an incredible degree with their wings beating at a rate of 10-15 times per second, spending more than 5 calories a day on flying.
To power this kind of movement, hummingbirds need calories they can immediately turn into energy. This is why hummingbirds almost exclusively feed on nectar.
5 calories a day may not sound like much, but a bird weighing 3.5 grams (1/10th of an ounce) spending more than 5 calories a day is the equivalent of an adult, 150-pound man, spending more than 120 000 calories a day.
No other bird species even comes close to the caloric expenditure rate of the hummingbird, which is why they only need carbs in moderate amounts.
Homemade Bird Seed Mix Recipe
The ideal mix is a 1:1:1 ratio of shelled sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts, and hemp seeds. The combination of fat and protein will keep them warm during the winter, while you’re also avoiding unnecessary nutrients, such as carbs.
If you notice that the birds are avoiding one of the ingredients, switch to a two-ingredient mix.
You can also buy the avoided ingredient from a different producer and serve it alone, just to see if there was an issue with that specific variety.
In the spring, however, you should add mealworms to your mix, as the chicks need protein to strengthen their muscles! Make a 1:1:1 mix, with mealworms substituting one of the three crucial ingredients in seed mixes.
Some people like to add raisins to their mixes in small amounts.
While this won’t harm the birds, raisins don’t offer much in terms of nutritious value – an ounce of raisins yields almost no fat, but it’s rich in sugar, which isn’t useful to birds during the winter.
Fruits are a different story – although they too offer carbs to birds, they’re filled to the brim with vitamins and minerals. It’d be good if you chopped an apple in small pieces and served it with your seed mix!
Watch the video below to learn another way of making your own homemade bird seed mix: