Last Updated on March 17, 2022 by Nancie
How should you store birdseed for backyard birds? You want to keep it clean and dry but also secure so other wildlife doesn’t get into the seed. And you want it to be convenient and easy to access. Here is how I store my birdseed.
Note: Because I recently changed how I store my birdseed, I updated my original post to add a third way to store seed. This replaces the previous post.
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Buying Birdseed in Bulk
I have a lot of bird feeders and fill them with a lot of birdseed year round, but especially during winter months. Typically it is cheapest to purchase birdseed locally in the largest bags available. So I buy sunflower hearts, safflower and nyjer seed in fifty-pound bags and peanuts in the shell in twenty-five pound bags from my local bird store. In winter, I also buy white proso millet in twenty-pound bags. (For more on purchasing birdseed, see my Where To Buy Birdseed post.)
I’ve found that most birdseed bought fresh will easily last at least a few months when properly stored. I am more conservative about nyjer seed though because American Goldfinches will shun stale nyjer and it dries out relatively quickly. Because I can usually go through fifty pounds of nyjer in a month, I buy it in the big bags from a local bird store that has very fresh high quality seed. If I didn’t use that much, I’d choose a smaller size. (Paying less per pound for a bigger bag of birdseed that will dry out before you can use it all is a false economy.)
Storing Birdseed Inside
I store my birdseed inside my house. If for some reason I couldn’t do that, my second choice would be inside our dry garage which is closed up to keep out wildlife.
- Storing birdseed inside is the most convenient option for me, with the seed easy to access.
- Because I store my birdseed inside, it reduces the chance of outdoor critters getting into it.
- I also don’t have to worry about seed getting excessively hot or it getting wet and then rotting before I can use it.
- Even on wet, snowy days, I have a dry place to get all the seed ready to go outside. This keeps both the stored birdseed and me drier. And during snow storms, I don’t have to dig a path to an outdoor storage location just to get birdseed.
- I don’t have room to store all my bulk birdseed on the first floor, so some is stored in the kitchen and the rest downstairs in the basement. (But stairs are good exercise right? So maybe this is really a pro.)
- Sometimes moths hang out in seed bags, so storing them inside can bring moths inside. (A secure lid keeps them inside the storage container . . . until you open the lid.)
- If you have mice around and they find a way inside, you may develop a mouse problem. (Note: Mice did recently find their way into our house. We used a Smart Mouse Trap baited with peanut butter to trap and release the mice and did a full check of the house, sealing gaps so they can’t get back in. This particular trap, when put in the right place worked really well for us.)
Metal Or Plastic Containers?
What type of storage containers should you use to store birdseed? My suggestion is either a metal or heavy plastic storage container. While you might be tempted to just keep seed in the paper or plastic bags they came in, there can be problems with that, even if you are storing it inside away from damp and critters. First, it can be harder to neatly extract birdseed stored in bags, especially big deep bulk bags. And a floppy bag can more easily spill.
Metal storage containers are a good choice if you worry about wildlife chewing holes in a container to get to the seed. If you are storing it outside, look for galvanized metal that won’t rust. You may alternatively be able to find decorative metal tins that look nice for storing seed inside.
But heavy plastic storage bins like those sold in home improvement stores can also work well if chewing isn’t an issue. (Mice can chew through even thick plastic.) When storing birdseed inside, you could go with either metal or heavy plastic storage bins. (I have used both.)
Birdseed Stored Three Ways
Option 1: Metal Tins For Smaller Seed Amounts
First, I have several large tightly lidded metal tins in my kitchen that sit on sturdy bottom shelves or on the floor. Each holds at least a week’s worth of birdseed, more or less, depending on what is in them, the time of year and the size of the tin. (One tin holds dried mealworms instead of seed.)
These large tins were found around my house. Two started life as big holiday gift tins of popcorn and candy. Another large decorative tin was a gift. And one more metal container originally held a bulk order of desiccant packets (used when I produced a monthly paper magazine.) The point is, if you have a suitable storage container already, clean it out well and use it. With tight-fitting lids, these tins have a second life as storage for seed.
Don’t have a well-sized decorative tin that will work for seed storage? Check with your local bird store. Mine carries small galvanized metal pails with lids that can securely store small amounts of seed.
If you only buy ten or twenty pounds or less of birdseed at a time, this type of storage may be enough. For myself, I don’t have enough space in my kitchen to store fifty-pounds of each type of seed, so I store what I have space for here in metal tins. The bulk of my birdseed purchases go into larger storage containers in the basement.
Option 2: Plastic Storage Bins For Larger Seed Amounts
For years I stored the bulk of the seed down in our basement storage area in five very large 18-gallon “Rugged Tote” lidded plastic storage bins, purchased from a home improvement store (Lowes). Birdseed bulk can vary a bit, but I could fit at least fifty pounds of any of the types of seed I use in one of these containers and in some cases quite a bit more. I lined the bins up in a row and it was quick and easy to lift a lid and scoop out seed.
Option 3: Galvanized Metal Cans For Larger Seed Amounts
Unfortunately, my lovely plastic bin storage hit a snag this past year: mice. We are still not sure how they got into the house to begin with but they found the basement seed storage irresistible. Even though the bins were very heavy plastic, they chewed through the side of the sunflower heart bin. It’s a bit startling to open a seed bin to have little mouse eyes staring up at you. The mice started caching seed and peanuts here and there in the house. Sigh. Our cats were quite thrilled with these entertaining (to them) newcomers but my husband and I were much less thrilled.
So one day while picking up seed at my local bird store, I also purchased a medium-sized 20-gallon galvanized metal storage can with a tight-fitting lid (left in photo above.) Larger than the small galvanized metal pails the store also carries, these size can should be able to store fifty-pounds of seed or a twenty-five pound bag of bulky peanuts in the shell. (I later purchased another of these for millet and one of the small pails for peanut hearts.(
This metal can worked well as I tested it out, but I tend to buy extra seed in the heart of winter and also whenever the bird store has a 20% off sale. I wanted to be sure I could fit it all inside the cans. So I decided to get three more galvanized metal cans, this time from the local home improvement store (Home Depot.) These larger cans hold thirty-one gallons and I think should be able to hold (or almost hold) two fifty pound bags of seed. (These are the three cans on the right in the photo above.) So now I use the medium-sized can for peanuts in the shell and the larger cans for sunflower hearts/chips, safflower and nyjer seed.
Labeling Seed Storage Containers
If you are the only one filling the feeders, you may not need to label them. I like labeling mine for a few reasons. First, I learned the hard way that if other people don’t know what I’m storing in the low flat-topped plastic bins, they might think it’s ok to stack other things on top of them. Labels make it clear that what is inside is something you need free access to. And second, if we go out of town, someone else might need to find the right type of seed.
Kitchen Seed Storage Tin Labels
To make my labels, I printed out a picture of each seed labeled with the name of the seed on regular paper. To attach them to my kitchen tins, I used clear packing tape to attach it to the side of the tins. Because these tins are on shelves, the side labels are easiest to see. (Note: In the comments below, Laura requested copies of my labels that can be downloaded and printed. You can now find them in the Birdseed Storage Labels to Print post.) You could of course also use adhesive labels, either printed using a computer or hand written.
Basement Seed Storage Bin Labels
Because the big bins in the basement were lined up with the tops easiest to see, it made the most sense to put the labels on the lids. But I needed to temporarily put the jars I use as scoops on the tops of the bins, which could damage or dirty the labels.
So, for the big storage bins downstairs, I taped a clear vinyl job ticket holder to the lid of each bin using clear packing tape on the three closed sides. Then I slid my printed seed picture/name sheets into each pocket via its open top. (You could do something very something similar with sheet protector pages if you have some of those around the house.)
Doing it this way kept my label sheets clean. And if I swapped out seed, it was easy to change the label. I could also create special labels for someone else filling the feeders for me while I was away if they needed more instructions.
I have not yet labeled the newer galvanized cans. Right now I’m the only one filling the feeders so it isn’t necessary. But if I need to make labels in the future, I’ll do it the same way I labeled the plastic bins, although I would probably put the labels on their sides.
Scoops For Seed Storage Containers
To fill the feeders, you obviously need to get the birdseed from the storage containers to the feeders. (See photo below.) I use a bunch of 30-ounce plastic jars that originally held Archer Farms trail mix (from Target.) Without the lids, I find these are a nice size to scoop out a decent amount of seed, usually enough to top off or fill one or more feeders. I can carry three of these filled jars in each hand outside without spilling seed.
Seed pours out of these jars into most feeders easily enough. The exception is my thinner nyjer tube feeders. For those, I use the jar to instead fill an old plastic pitcher with nyjer seed. The pitcher spout helps me fill the tubes outside with less spilling.
Birdseed Home From the Store
When I come home from the bird store, I carry the fifty-pound bag to just inside my kitchen door and set it down on the floor. If fifty pounds is beyond your strength, you might need to consider either getting someone else to carry the bag in for you or use a dolly or wagon to wheel it into your house. (Also see Gwen’s comment below.) Or you could instead purchase smaller weight bags that you can manage.
Once inside, I open up the bag and bring one of my kitchen tins over near the bag. Using one of my trail mix jars to scoop seed into my kitchen storage tin, I fill the tin with as much seed as it will hold. I also fill any feeders that need that type of seed. Then whatever is left of the bag, I carry (or drag if it is still heavy) downstairs to the basement where I pour the rest of the seed into its bin. Then I recycle the paper seed bag. Done!
Filling Feeders Each Day
I check my feeders each day, either by looking out my windows or doing a quick walk through the feeder area. Once I know how much of each seed I need, I go inside and gather up my empty jars from their shelf in the kitchen and fill them with whatever seed I need.
If I’m stocked up, I can just fill them from the kitchen storage and bring them outside. But once the kitchen stock is depleted, I go downstairs to fill up the jars.
Once I have everything filled, I take it all outside and fill the feeders. The whole process typically takes about ten minutes each day, maybe a little more if I need to clean and re-fill a birdbath too.
Store Birdseed Well So It Lasts!
Birdseed costs money and if you want it to last and not get moldy or be eaten by mice or other creatures, you need to store it properly. If you give a little thought to setting up a convenient and easy to use birdseed storage system, you’ll find that filling up the feeders doesn’t have to be a chore. You can do it in a few minutes and then get back to watching the birds coming to eat at your feeders!
This is how I store birdseed at my house. How do you store your birdseed?
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