If you are someone who loves feeding birds, you know how expensive it can get to keep supplies on hand, especially in the cold winter months. For that reason, buying in bulk makes a lot of sense.
A 50-pound bag of seed will last you much longer than smaller quantities, but then you have to consider how to store it so that you don’t have any waste. Improper storage can lead to spoiled seed or insect and rodent infestations.
Here are the best ways to prevent this from happening.
1. Buy The Freshest Bird Seed Possible
Always start with the freshest seed that you can find. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you will probably have some favorite sources, whether that’s a feed mill, pet store, or big-box store.
However, if you’re new to the bird-feeding game, you shouldn’t just grab the first bag of seed you can find.
Be especially wary of bargain prices. If one retailer is selling the same seed for a much lower price, it’s probably getting old and they want to offload it while they still can.
Examine the bag carefully before you buy it. If the bag is dusty, or the seed inside looks off-color or with lots of broken shells, don’t waste your money on it.
2. Buy Bird Seed In The Shell
It’s always best to buy seed that is still in the shell, such as sunflower and safflower seeds, as well as peanuts. Sealed in nature’s packaging, these will last longer than hulled seeds.
Nyjer seed is usually sold in smaller quantities because it will go bad more quickly, so don’t try to stock up too much on that. The others are fine to buy in 50-pound bags, however, as you will probably get through them before they decline in quality.
3. Use Old Stock First
When you bring home your new bags of seeds, don’t start using them until you’ve finished off what you’ve already got.
Pour them into fresh containers and set them aside until you need them. That way, you won’t leave the older seeds to go bad.
4. Don’t Mix Old And New Bird Seed
Don’t just pour the new seed on top of the old. Keep extra containers on hand and use a fresh, clean one for what you’ve just brought home.
Otherwise, if the bit of old seed at the bottom of the pail starts to mold or spoil, it can contaminate the new seed, and end up costing you a lot more money than just buying an extra pail or bin.
5. Use The Best Plastic Containers For Bird Seed
Of course, you should never just keep your bird seed supplies in the bag you brought them home in.
Whether it’s plastic or paper, any determined rodent will be able to chew a hole in it in no time to get at the feast lying within. So even if you’re not going to be using it immediately, it’s important to get it straight into a pest-proof container.
You have a couple of choices when it comes to storage containers: plastic or metal.
Plastic is probably the least expensive and most convenient choice. If you have a source for those 5-gallon plastic pails that are used for bulk items like cake frosting, wine juice, or peanut butter, they’re great for storing bird seed.
While many people use rectangular storage bins, the pails are better because there are no corners to make it easy for a mouse or rat to gnaw on.
The storage bins also will cost you a lot more than the pails, which are usually for sale for a couple of dollars at most.
You could also buy large round plastic garbage pails, but again, they will be more expensive.
6. Consider Using Metal Containers
Many people prefer to use steel or aluminum garbage pails, especially if they’re storing seeds outside the house. No animal is going to be able to get through the metal barrier.
Just make sure that you are buying galvanized pails that won’t rust and end up with holes.
7. Use Containers That Seal Tightly
Whether you’re using metal or plastic containers, you have to be able to seal them properly, or insect pests as well as small creatures might be able to get in.
Make sure that the lids fit tightly and cannot be easily removed. Remember, a determined raccoon will have no problem knocking over a pail, and if the lid falls off your precious seeds will be gone.
Every time you open up the container, take a moment to ensure that the lid is on tight before you walk away.
8. Label Your Bird Seed Containers
It’s a good idea to label your containers after you’ve filled them.
You don’t need to make them fancy, but even just a piece of masking or duct tape with the seed name and the date you bought it will help you keep track of your supplies.
That way, you don’t have to open up 3 different pails before you find the right one, and you’ll always know which to use up first.
9. Keep Bird Seed In A Cool, Dry Location
The best pails in the world won’t help you keep your bird seed in good condition if it’s exposed to heat or moisture. That’s why location really matters when deciding on the best spot to store bird seed.
Seeds will last the longest when kept in a cool, dry location. In winter, an unheated garage, shed, or basement will provide shelter from the weather and cold temperatures.
You can even keep your sealed pails on a deck or patio as long as they’re not exposed to wet conditions.
All it takes is a tiny hole in an otherwise tightly sealed lid for water to get in and spoil the whole pail. Cover the pails with a tarp or keep them under a roof or even a table.
If you’re trying to keep some seed over the summer, things can get more challenging, as the outdoor structures may become quite hot. If you have a shed that is mostly shaded from the hot sun, that location may work.
Otherwise, you may find it best to move things into an air-conditioned basement for the summer.
10. Buy Smaller Quantities Of Bird Seed In Hot Weather
However, long-term summer storage is probably not worth trying. Most experts recommend only keeping enough seed on hand for a couple of weeks in hot weather.
If you are trying to store it for any longer than that, check it regularly to make sure that it’s still fit for birds to eat.
11. Toss Out Bird Seed When It’s Moldy Or Bug-Infested
Don’t try to salvage bird seed in poor condition. Once it becomes moldy, or has animal feces or insects in it, you should not be feeding it to any birds.
Either dispose of it in the garbage, or bury it at the bottom of a compost pile where it won’t be found and consumed, but will eventually break down.
12. Use The Freezer For Long-Term Storage
The above storage methods should keep your bird seed in pretty good shape until it’s time to feed the birds.
However, if you definitely have too much for the next few weeks, and you have no other options, you can pour the seeds into gallon or pint plastic bags and pop them into a freezer.
That way, the bird seeds should stay in good condition until you need them.